How long-range weather forecasts can boost the economy

MET Office

British scientists crack formula to develop world's best long-term weather forecast model

LAST UPDATED AT 10:25 ON Wed 2 Apr 2014

WEATHER forecasters have cracked the formula to predict long-range weather, which is expected to have a substantial impact on the economy.

The new long-term weather forecast model, described as the best in the world, will make it easier to predict extreme winters, reports The Times.

It does not give a precise forecast, but offers a risk-based prediction, giving the odds that a particular year will have colder or milder conditions than average.

British scientists say that the breakthrough is due to an increase in computing power, which allows them to simulate the climate on a more detailed scale. They can zoom in more closely to analyse the sea and atmosphere, meaning they can take into account much smaller changes in the Gulf Stream and Arctic sea ice coverage that can have powerful impacts on the British climate.

The model was found to be 62 per cent accurate at giving broad predictions of weather conditions when it was tested on 20 years of retrospective data. Met Office scientists estimate that this will increase to 80 per cent accuracy.

The Met Office has faced embarrassment over its seasonal forecasts in the past, says The Times, most notably the forecast of a "barbecue summer" in 2009, which turned out to be a washout.

Here is how organisations in the UK could benefit from a more accurate long-range forecast:

  • Airports and councils would be able to estimate more precisely how much grit and anti-freeze is likely to be required
  • Insurers would be able to estimate the potential risks of winter storms.
  • Power companies and wind farms would be able to anticipate energy demands.
  • Hospitals could better prepare for increases in winter-related illnesses and accidents, such as respiratory illness and broken bones from slipping on snow and ice.
  • Retailers would be able to postpone purchases or stock up on appropriate items, such as warm clothes.

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