Fewer Airline Flights Surely Leaving Meteorologists Blind

When you look at all the Doppler radar-filled nose cones that used to be crossing the planet and reporting detailed weather, and then the empty skies today… you might be inclined to think forecasting will suffer.

I laid awake one night thinking about this but I haven’t seen it discussed widely yet.

If weather predictions are less accurate now with flights reduced, I suspect nobody anticipated losing a huge number of live airborne sensors.


Update: I should have waited to post this. A quick bit of searching found at least two studies in mid-to-late 2020 saying forecasts have been seriously affected.

Here’s one from the UK.

COVID19 pandemic imperils weather forecasting of surface temperature, RH, pressure, and wind speed due to the lack of aircraft observations during the global lockdown.

And here’s another from The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and World Meteorological Organization.

“One of the many unfortunate aspects of the COVID-19 crisis has been the severe loss – of up to 90% – of aircraft-derived meteorological data as a result of the steep decline in airline operations and passenger flights since March 2020,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas. “Meteorological services and other data providers have tried to offset this loss, but there has been a measurable negative impact on the accuracy of weather forecasts as a result of AMDAR data reductions,” said Professor Taalas.

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