24 July, 2020
Predicting the unintended consequences of Covid-19 has been on our minds since the beginning. We guessed there would be a rise in fatbergs and demand for puppies would increase in lockdown. But we didn’t see this one coming…
This year, scientists have identified a considerable drop in the accuracy of weather forecasts during the pandemic, leading some to hypothesise that travel bans restricting aeroplane movements globally may be to blame. According to this article, aeroplanes carry sensitive equipment that feed data to scientists about air and ocean temperatures, wind speeds and humidity, which in turn informs our weather forecasts and climate projections. If you locked down in the UK, you might not have noticed any difference as Western Europe has a large network of stationary weather observatories, but the effects were most evident across the rest of the Northern Hemisphere.
And the impacts of this are so much more than not knowing if you need to grab an umbrella for the day. Accurate weather forecasts are essential in helping farmers protect their crops from bad weather, utility companies use them to predict energy surges as a result of air conditioning units and prevent power shortages, and construction companies use weather to plan safe lifting loads to name a few. In short, our economy relies on accurate weather.
But fear not, using your air conditioning is unlikely to cause a power-outage as the Met Office turns to a new supercomputer to increase weather forecast accuracy. This upgraded system will cost approximately £1.2bn, but estimates suggest the ROI of providing more accurate weather forecasts across multiple industries will be almost 20-fold.
But a word of warning, this is the UK: always take your umbrella.
By Jennie Mitchell