Filomena marked a before and after in the meteorological information of recent years. Worse, in fact. And there are many reasons for this: the business world or the press are good examples. But (as we have been denouncing ourselves since the famous storm) a central element in this change has been the irruption in the public debate of something that we thought had been forgotten: the cabañuelas.
Today, the AEMET Has exploded against all this and has raised his voice against the use of pseudoscience in weather forecasting. A practice that can pose a considerable risk to the population.
“The only way to study the atmosphere correctly is through science”. To challenge not only the cabañuelas, but also the media reports that go so far as to “say that these pseudo-predictions coincide with those of AEMET”, the Agency has reviewed how meteorological science works. It never hurts to remember that practically all the problems related to the weather come from the fact that we work with systems that are governed by equations with no solution.
“The Navier Stokes Equations”, reminds us of the AEMET, are in fact “one of the mathematical problems of the millennium, awarded with 1 million euros for the person who manages to solve them”. To this we must add that “the atmosphere is a chaotic system, which means that small variations in the initial conditions make the expected evolution very different, which is why the equations are not linear.”
What does this all mean? That to make reliable and valid predictions we need to “know the current state of the atmosphere on a scale of hundreds of km and at different points”. To give us an idea of the complexity of the problem, it is estimated that “to predict the weather worldwide, we would need 64,000 people doing calculations.” And no, we don’t have them.
As if that were not enough, it is not just a matter of having a lot of information (which also), it is that “the atmosphere has a temporal scale that ranges from seconds to weeks or even months and spatial scales from cm to km”. In other words, covering all scales is a daunting task for which we are not yet well prepared.
It’s time to say enough to pseudoscience. “Pseudoscientific methods such as Cabañuelas make use of correlations of the type ‘if it is sunny on August 6, January will be sunny’, something that goes against everything we” know about climate and meteorological science. In fact, “these pseudoscientific methods give very vague predictions of the type “in November it will rain a lot” or “in January there will be a lot of snowfall”, something that the weather in each region already tells us. After all, it is normal for it to be cold in winter and in summer heat”.
“Bad weather information can cost lives when there are extreme weather events if the population mistrusts warnings and alerts,” the agency explains. And, in this sense, the meteorological pseudosciences do not provide any relevant information, but they manage to muddy the public debate on the weather.
And it is that, as they point out from AEMET“the idea of the type ‘the cabañuelas can fail, just like the meteorological models’ is as serious as saying ‘I don’t take a medicine because it doesn’t always cure’. Meteorological models and science allow us to know what is wrong and in what what can be improved.
What can we do to better understand the predictions? That in recommends the AEMET in order to better understand the predictions? Three things: be attentive to updates, be very careful with long-term predictions, and get used to thinking of time as something full of uncertainties. The opposite can generate a “Wolf is coming” effect and that, as we have seen, is a problem that we should address critically (and self-critically).
Image | Jose Miguel Fernandez de Velasco/GTRES
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