How Accurate Are Long-Term Weather Forecasts?

28 October 2016, 15:03

If you read the papers, you may well remember reading the usual array of dire weather predictions that are normally published towards the end of October each year. This year has been no different, with warnings of ‘superstorms’, freakishly-cold weather and ‘blasts of snow’ to bring Arctic conditions to the UK.

But will we ever actually see any of this?

To be fair to the papers, they are only picking up on long-range forecasts offered up by experts in the industry. The only problem is the weather seems to have a much better idea of what it’s going to do than anyone else does.

The fact is the longer we look into the future, the harder it is to predict how the weather is going to shape up in any part of the world, much less a particular country or area. This applies to temperatures and overall conditions too.

For most of us, memories of the heavy snow a few years ago will still be quite fresh in our minds. However, that sort of weather is unusual, with the excessive amounts of snow we saw even in the south leading us to endure sub-zero temperatures for part of the time. So will we see more of the same this year, or will it actually turn out to be quite mild?

In reality, you can’t really look further ahead than a few days to get an idea of what the weather might be like. You can get an accurate idea of the temperature and conditions for today, and perhaps for tomorrow, but beyond that you would be hard-pushed to know what to expect. Furthermore, while it is possible that temperatures will indeed plunge this year, bringing snow and disruption with them, there is by no means any degree of certainty over this.

Of course, the early warning is nice, but we must treat it as that. We should be keeping an eye on the weather to see what might be on the way, so we can turn up the heating if required and make sure we are ready. But we should equally be sure we are prepared for a mild winter, and possibly a damp one too. After all, that’s what we’ve ended up with for the past few years, even though the odd cold day has crept in every now and then.

So for the time being, let’s focus on the days ahead and not worry too much about the chance of snow. If a bad winter does happen, we’ll report on the super-low temperatures we’re all struggling with, and laugh about how wrong we were in doubting the long-range forecasts… You never know, we could end up in that position after all, couldn’t we?