While the US and most other countries in the world are still struggling with the coronavirus outbreak, it has forced commercial airlines to reduce their operations. In turn, accuracy of weather forecasts is affected.
This significant decrease in the number of airline flying out and about is interfering with the weather forecast accuracy, according to a study authored by Dr. Ying Chen. He is a senior research associate at the Environment Centre of Lancaster University.
The study found that errors are occurring among forecasts due to reduced number of flights and associated aircraft observation. According to the paper titled “COVID-19 Pandemic Imperils Weather Forecast,” the accuracy of weather forecasts depend on the number of “meteorological observations that are assimilated in forecasts.”
Findings for the forecasts
The study compared weather forecasts from March with actual weather observed. It was about the same time that lockdowns across the country, as well as the rest of the world, were being implemented. Meteorologists require data from various tools from different sources in order to picture the weather with more accuracy.
It was discovered that predicting the temperature was inaccurate. This could lead to difficulty in identifying hotspots. Hurricane forecasts, furthermore, are reliant on data coming from various sources, like aircraft and cruise ships, with which operations of such are significantly reduced due to the pandemic. Also severely impacted are those data that are above water. Flight data over land can be compensated by additional ground stations or weather balloons, but that is harder to implement beyond the shores.
According to Kyle Theim of National Weather Service in Atlanta, when the organization has anticipated “high impact weather events such as a possible tornado outbreak or a potential landfalling hurricane,” they usually launch special weather balloons to aid in gathering more data. Theim also said, “The accuracy and precision of our weather models are paramount, and these additional observations can then help weather models and forecasters predict how extreme weather events will unfold.”