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Coronavirus leads to unreliable weather forecasts

Weather predictions are already being affected by the new coronavirus. Credit: Pixabay

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) fears that the new coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic will impact the accuracy of weather predictions around the world.

“Entire parts of the observing system, such as satellite components and many terrestrial networks, are partially or fully automated,” the organisation said in a press release on Wednesday. “They should therefore continue to operate without significant degradation for several weeks, or even longer in some cases. However, if the pandemic lasts longer than a few weeks, the lack of repair, maintenance and supply work, as well as the lack of redeployments, will become an increasing concern.”

They pointed out that the reduction in air traffic is affecting measurements, as “in-flight measurements of ambient temperature and wind speed and direction are a very important source of information for both weather prediction and climate monitoring.”

Although the quality of forecasts has not yet suffered significantly, “the decline in the availability of aircraft weather observations continues and is spreading, so we can expect a gradual decline in forecast reliability,” said Lars Peter Riishojgaard, WMO Measurement Infrastructure Specialist.

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“The same is true if the decrease in surface-based weather observations continues, in particular if the COVID-19 outbreak starts to more widely impact the ability of observers to do their job in large parts of the developing world,” Riishjgaard said. In these countries, “the transition to automated observations is still in progress, and the meteorological community still relies on observations taken manually by weather observers and transmitted into the international networks for use in global weather and climate models,” the WMO pointed out.

“WMO will continue to monitor the situation, and the organization is working with its Members to mitigate the impact as much as possible,” Riishojgaard said.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times