Do you check the weather forecast when you’re making weekend plans? Have you ever been surprised by rain on a day that was supposed to be warm and sunny? Why aren’t weather forecasts more accurate? The accuracy of forecasts lies somewhere at the intersection of polynomials and chaos.
Red Sky in Morning
People have tried to predict the weather throughout history. Most of their predictions were either too vague to matter or just plain wrong. That began to change in the late 20th century, as scientists learned more about the physics of weather and the math that describes it. In the United States, the National Weather Service (NWS) handles most weather predictions. As recently as the 1970s, the NWS could only guarantee a forecast 24 hours in advance. Today, its 3- and 4-day forecasts are very accurate. The NWS can even predict big events, such as blizzards, nearly a week in advance. What changed? Improvements in computing power have meant that we can use complicated polynomials to model these chaotic weather systems, providing scientists with a better idea of how they’re likely to act next.
While the predictions aren’t always perfect, they’ve gotten pretty accurate. Weather forecasters can warn their audiences about severe weather days in advance, giving people time to prepare for power outages, stock up on supplies, or even evacuate neighborhoods. The power of polynomials helps the NWS prevent injuries and save lives.
See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcnJEjMKm5o
Watch the videos below to learn about the cutting edge of weather forecasting.