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Long Range Forecasting - The Good, The Bad And The Ugly



Long range forecasts are always a hot topic, and with good reason - the ability to predict weather patterns a long way in advance is extremely useful!

From a commercial perspective it can be hugely important, a retailer with a reasonable understanding of the upcoming weather can plan stock purchasing, promotion and staffing levels more effectively, energy companies can plan for demand, event organisers can put contingencies in place and plan around likely conditions, and so on.

From the public perspective, weather is a popular conversation topic and an important part of our daily lives, so, for instance knowing if it's going to be a hot summer or cold winter can help us plan how we're going to live, plus of course it give us a decent subject for discussion both offline and online.

The problem is though, that some 'weather companies/forecasters' know that long range forecasts are important to people and a popular topic of conversation, so they use them to get publicity for themselves. For instance forecasts telling of severe storms and snow in winter will get coverage for their business or website, so often they may get issued with that in mind. In my opinion, these sorts of forecasts give long range forecasting a bad name, and responsible forecasters a difficult time as people become wary of trusting forecasts having been burnt by one or more spurious forecasts.

If you're one of those people who has been burnt believing some of the crazier predictions in recent years, just bear in mind that outrageous predictions of specific events months in advance, or of the coldest winter since records began are likely not to have been designed as a source of information, they're more likely to have been written with creating publicity in mind. So take them with a huge pinch of salt and instead listen to likes of the Met-Office or Netweather and other forecasters who use respected modelling data and/or up front lrf techniques who always present what that data shows whether or not it's hugely newsworthy.

For me, long range forecasting is still an unproven science with no-one nailing the perfect way to do it yet (and maybe no-one ever will), but the way forward is certainly not to use them as publicity stunts, it's to present things as you see them in a realistic way, whether that means getting on the front page of the papers or not...


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