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Identifying & Describing Weather Forecasting Methods & Types

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  • 0:01 Weather Forecasting
  • 1:08 Persistence Forecasting
  • 2:08 Synoptic Forecasting
  • 3:19 Statistical Forecasting
  • 4:43 Computer Forecasting
  • 5:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Humans have been trying to predict the weather for a very, very long time. So, what methods have we come up with? In this lesson, we'll look at four different methods of weather forecasting and see how each is used to predict the future.

Weather Forecasting

What will the weather be like tomorrow? If you could answer that with absolute certainty, not only would you have eliminated 90% of small talk in this country, but you would also be extraordinarily rich. Whether in anticipation of a vacation or hopeful day off of school, or to gauge the success of crops for a season, people are always trying to predict the weather. Being able to do so with absolute certainty would be paramount to telling the future, so it's impossible, but we do have some good ways to at least make an educated guess.

Weather forecasting is the scientific prediction of the state of atmospheric conditions, or a hypothesis about the weather based on reliable data. It seems that people have always wondered about the weather, and in fact, we have found attempted weather forecasts for as long as we have a written record of human history. So, let's check out some of the techniques we've come up with, and just maybe we'll be able to predict the weather.

Persistence Forecasting

Let's start with the basics. If today is 72 degrees and mostly sunny with slight rain showers in the afternoon, I'm assuming that it's not going to be 10 degrees and snowing tomorrow. That's the general idea behind our first method, called persistence forecasting, or the prediction of future weather based on the assumption that current weather trends will not change. In short, the weather trends will persist. This is the simplest method of forecasting and can be applied to short-term forecasting, as in tomorrow will probably look like today, or long-term forecasting - for example predicting that a hot, dry month of summer will be followed by another hot and dry month. Persistence forecasting works well in places like southern California where weather is very consistent. Where I live in Colorado, weather is much more erratic, so this method is not as successful.

Synoptic Forecasting

Sometimes you do want a slightly more sophisticated method of forecasting, so how about synoptic forecasting, predicting weather based on large-scale meteorological patterns? You see, if something is synoptic, it is a general summary, a view of several parts at a common point. In this case, that means a common point in time. Basically, when you make your forecast, you look at weather patterns on a large scale, observing various pressure systems, weather fronts, and other events. Now, when I say a large scale, I mean 1,000 kilometers or roughly 620 miles. That's the synoptic scale. If you've ever seen these sorts of maps on the nightly news, that's synoptic forecasting in action. The idea is that weather patterns affect each other in predictable ways, so by looking at the larger system we can predict changes in the near future. For example, this cyclone in the Pacific is generating various weather patterns that we can predict will change the pressure over us, leading to heavier than usual rain.

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