World Meteorology Day, or weather forecast for all

Światowy Dzień Meteorologii

Every year, on March 23, we celebrate World Meteorology Day. It is the anniversary of the founding of the World Meteorological Organization(WMO) more than 70 years ago. This UN initiative combines a passion for weather science with a mission of global cooperation. The WMO, being the epicenter of meteorological knowledge, aims to democratize access to key weather forecasts and data, ensuring that every country – regardless of its level of development – can benefit from the results of advanced research and technology. From the U.K. Met Office to the U.S. National Weather Service, from Germany’s Deutscher Wetterdienst to Poland’s Institute of Meteorology and Water Management-PIB, the WMO supports a global network of experts who work every day to keep us all safe. Celebrating this day underscores the great importance of meteorology in everyday life and the work of professionals who monitor the weather.

History and modern times

The history of weather forecasting began well before the establishment of the WMO, as early as the second half of the 17th century. It was then that the Florentine network for weather measurements and observations began its activities in Europe and on Polish soil. Nevertheless, forecasts had not yet been developed at the time. It was not until two centuries later that Robert FitzRoy, a British sailor and pioneer of meteorology and hydrography, published the first weather forecast in The Times newspaper. This included basic information on cloud cover, wind and temperature. In addition, he invented and popularized the barometer, which allowed ship captains to forecast an approaching storm. It was thanks to FitzRoy that weather forecasting ceased to be a luxury available to the chosen few.

Today, everyone has access to weather forecasts for anywhere in the world on their phone. We hear them on the radio with our morning coffee or display them in the online press. It is hard to imagine life without them. We don’t like it when the aura surprises us. Most of the weather forecasts available on websites are based only on numerical models that emotionlessly spit out stamps of clouds, sunshine or forecast temperature values. In an age of increasingly widespread automation, this is hardly surprising. We expect a visually simple message, updating every few hours or even minutes.

Weather people

However, even numerical weather forecast models, in addition to being based on, among other things. on data from satellite systems, radar and automatic weather stations, draw on the effects of ground-based meteorological observers. Thanks to them, we receive information about the occurrence of phenomena that cannot be identified by automatic measuring stations. We can find out, among other things. about the type of precipitation, the occurrence of blizzards, dew or rainbows. Such information, in the form of specially coded dispatches, flows down every hour to national meteorological centers and, thanks to the WMO’s activities, is sent further around the world. In addition, many airports and research vessels have observers who send information about prevailing meteorological conditions by coded messages at specific times.

Access to data from ground observations, radar systems, lightning detection or satellite images and calculations of various numerical models enable synopticians to develop weather forecasts. Based on their knowledge, analyzing the movement of baric systems, the position of fronts and comparing results from computer programs, they develop weather forecasts that can be more accurate and detailed than those based on models alone. In addition, synopticians issue meteorological warnings about forecast and observed hazardous weather conditions, which can be distributed by government security centers (RCBs) to individual recipients.

In addition to general forecasts, synopticians create specialized weather forecasts for specific audiences, such as biometeorological, depicting whether perceived weather conditions will be favorable or the opposite, agrometeorological with information on frosts, on the occurrence of storms, or hydrological on water levels. Specialized forecasts for shipping take the form of short messages broadcast over the radio, while those for aviation give additional parameters, such as cloud height, visibility or icing. In special cases, forecasts are also made for sea and air rescue services, as well as for the movement of volcanic and radioactive ash and even solar activity.

In addition, it is the meteorological observers and synopticians who provide a 24-hour synoptic and information service, keeping track of current weather conditions. It is thanks to them that weather forecasts and warnings are kept up to date and keep the public safe. So, if I may, to my fellow professionals and all weather people, I wish that their forecast always works.

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