How accurate is the weather forecast and do the experts always get it right?

While parts of southern Europe may be roasting in 45°C temperatures, the UK has escaped the record-breaking heatwave, with a wet and windy July which has seen the mercury struggle to get above the low 20s.

We still have a fair bit of summer to go, though, and the Met Office is predicting in its long-range forecast that things may settle down towards the middle of August.

That’s according to the long-range forecast, although anything can change on that front – we could end up with more rain and thunderstorms or another heatwave to rival the one we had in June could also be on the cards.

While the forecast – be it short-term or long-range – might give you some indication of whether it’s time to slap on the suncream or get out your snowboots, just how accurate are they, really?

Here’s what you need to know…

How accurate are weather forecasts?

If you rely on the weather forecast to help you decide to pack an umbrella or wear a coat, then the good news is that they get it right the vast majority of times.

According to the Met Office, their four-day forecast is now as accurate as their one-day outlook was 30 years ago – and their success rate in predicting the weather is very high.

‘A measure of our progress is that 92.5% of the Met Office’s temperature forecasts are accurate within 2 degree C and 92% of the Met Office’s next day wind speed forecasts are correct within 5 knots,’ they have said on their website.

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‘We use our accurate forecasting skill to warn the Government, public, emergency responders and businesses of severe or hazardous weather which has the potential to cause danger to life or widespread disruption to property and key infrastructure.’

How accurate are long-range weather forecasts?

Things may be a little different when it comes to predicting a more long-range forecast.

According to the weather experts at Scijinks a seven-day forecast is accurate around 80 per cent of the time, and a five-day forecast 90 per cent of the time.

However, they have said 10-day forecast will only be right around half the time.

These forecasts are made by meteorologists using special computer programs known as weather models – which rely on estimates to predict what the forecast might be 10 days down the line.

Obviously this relies on estimates since there is no completely foolproof way of predicting the future – which means it won’t always be correct, as Scijinks explains: ‘Those estimates are less reliable the further you get into the future.’

The Met Office, however, has incorporated a supercomputer to accurately look at the long-range picture, one which allows them to increase the resolution of their weather models to 1500m in the UK and 10km globally.

It also gives them the capacity to run many more forecasts, allowing them to’assess the risks and uncertainties in every weather forecast, thus providing high resolution forecasts even further in advance’.

Our expert physicists and mathematicians use their combined skills in developing our weather models,’ they have said on their website.

‘Highly trained operational meteorologists analyse our weather data to deliver the most up-to-date accurate forecasts.’

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