WASHINGTON — Make fun of the weatherman if you want but modern forecasts have quietly, by degrees, become much better.
Meteorologists are now as good with their five-day forecasts as they were with their three-day forecasts in 2005. Both government and private weather forecasting companies are approaching the point where they get tomorrow’s high temperature right nearly 80 percent of the time. It was 66 percent 11 years ago, according to ForecastWatch, a private firm that rates accuracy of weather forecasts.
That may not always be appreciated, especially if your livelihood depends on getting rain and snow amounts, and timing, just right, all the time. “They don’t know what’s going to happen,” complained Washington taxi driver Antenhe Lashitew. He makes more money when it rains or snows, so he wants them to be more precise.
He may yet be satisfied, though, because forecasts are continuing to improve. They are already good enough for Major League Baseball, which is now able to move game times around based on forecasts so you have a much smaller chance of getting soaked in the stands.
The forecast for Washington was afternoon thunderstorms on May 23 so the Washington Nationals moved their game from 4:05 p.m. to 12:05 p.m. The game got in — the Nats won — and the storms arrived on schedule not too long after the regularly scheduled start time.
“That would have been unheard of 20 years ago,” said retired Washington television meteorologist Bob Ryan, the first national on-air weatherman on NBC’s “Today” show. “If we did in the 1500s what we do now, we would have been burned at the stake as witches and warlocks.” Read more