How does a weather man or woman start predicting the weather?
We use powerful computers that map the weather for the coming days. They rely on models that each make their own predictions. As a meteorologist, you put those predictions together to interpret and choose the most likely ones. If 20 percent of the models predict rain and the other 80 percent don’t, we know it’s likely to still be dry. After we’ve estimated weather in general terms, we look at details, such as temperature and cloud cover.
What are weather computers based on?
We first plot the current situation using data from satellites or weather balloons. Based on this impulse, the model can predict how the weather will develop and how it will move in the coming days.
How well can you predict the weather?
We can predict the weather one to five days in advance with a high degree of reliability. Looking three days ahead, we’re at a confidence level of about 95 percent. After that, the security level drops sharply. Weather is a chaotic system. Science and data collection are making great strides, which means our short-term predictions are getting better and better. But even with better weather computers, it would still be impossible to look beyond a couple of weeks.
What is the difference between traditional weather forecasts and apps like Buienradar?
Most applications work with raw data that comes directly from weather models. Meteorologists collect similar data, but also interpret them.
Is climate change making it more difficult for a meteorologist to work?
The forecast remains equally reliable, but we often see severe weather. In the days before the torrential rains in Wallonia last summer, we were shown maps that made us frown. We wondered if the calculations were correct. This was also the case when we predicted a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius in the summer of 2019. Such extremes are unprecedented.
As a meteorologist, you also have to keep the past history in more consideration. The heat records for the summer of 2019 were the result of a spring drought. As a result, there was little moisture in the soil, which in turn increases the chance of hot days. In 2021, we learned that a wet spring will increase the likelihood of cooler summers. Climate change will also affect our weather: the same weather will last longer.
What is your favorite weather?
“Of course I can enjoy a summer’s day, or a nice layer of snow in the winter. But most of all I enjoy precarious situations, where beautiful cumulus and rain gather in the sky. I think the variety of a clear blue sky with thick clouds, maybe a rainbow too, Wonderful thing.
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