The less-than-predicted amount of oil reaching coastlines after the Deepwater Horizon spill illuminates the difference between a projection and an actual forecast and
the challenges of making short-term projections of natural processes that can act chaotically.
In December 2010, media dutifully reported the heavy snow that battered the northeast U.S. and the United Kingdom’s coldest December in at least 100 years. Meanwhile, the sparsely populated Canadian Arctic basked in near-unprecedented mildness.
Strong jet streams often plow into the West Coast in wintertime, but the heaviest rains and snows occur when the flow dips far south over the Pacific, allowing it to bring an atmospheric river of warm, moist air from the subtropics to California.
Issuing a five-day weather forecast was once a daring enterprise. Today, we’re not only accustomed to long-range weather forecasts but also to seasonal-scale outlooks. Hurricanes and sea ice show how far we've come.
The wildfire that erupted in the foothills west of Boulder in September 2010 sent a thick plume of smoke right over NCAR’s chemistry labs. Even as their offices smelled of smoke, scientists took measurements from the roof.
In 1988, it was the spectre of Yellowstone National Park on fire. In 2003, it was the horror of thousands dying from heat in prosperous western Europe. The planet’s standout heat wave in 2010 plagued much of European Russia, including Moscow.
In Kansas City and Tulsa, overnight lows have seldom dipped much below 80°F, with consistently oppressive humidity. Pulses of tropical air flowing north and east from the Gulf of Mexico are largely to blame.
The custom forecasting systems are designed to increase the reliability of solar and wind energy.
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