LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Dozens of tornadoes ripped through portions of Mississippi and Alabama and that was just the beginning of the United States’ severe weather season.
Forecasters rely on several tools to keep people safe from storms, the Coronavirus could make accurate weather forecasting harder.
The Coronavirus has shutdown businesses, halted the way we live our lives, and created problems for meteorologists around the world. Your local meteorologist and National Weather Service rely on temperature and wind data gathered by thousands of planes flying overhead. The problem, many of those flights have been cancelled, people aren’t traveling as much to help stop the virus’ spread.
Jonathan Guseman is a Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Jackson Kentucky and explains why airplanes are so important in the data collection process, “as they ascend and descend throughout the sky and the atmosphere we get upper air data from those so it’s really nice to be able to get that in terms of what’s not only happening surface of the atmosphere but what’s happening aloft.”
Meteorologist use computer models to assist them forecasting, you may have heard of the GFS, or NAM from your local broadcaster. One popular computer model used for forecasting is the European model or the EURO; this particular model showed an 81% decrease in data collection from airplanes due to the Coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the amount of aircraft observations available to weather prediction models. Daily totals over Europe have decreased by around 80% (from around 50 000 per day down to 10 000) since flight restrictions came into force. @WMO pic.twitter.com/7uxxr02W6j
— ECMWF (@ECMWF) April 2, 2020
That all important data from the airplanes goes into models, Guseman explains, “so that data really goes into a lot are models that go into we use to predict the weather and also as we are looking at severe weather as we gauge the atmosphere get look at what’s going on aloft and off the ground.”
So while the Coronavirus is changing the way meteorologist forecast, National Weather Service’s Jackson, Kentucky office says he hasn’t noticed any major problems yet, “fortunately, we haven’t seen a huge drop-off in that data in the upper atmosphere a lot of that is being supplemented by satellites.”
The National Weather Service is considered an essential service to the government and will continue to operate so that the public can receive daily forecasts. Guseman adds they will stay focused during the pandemic, adding reports from storm spotters help keep people safe from storms.