As the crow flies, the distance between Baltimore and Newark is only about 160 mi. But during the height of thunderstorm season, when lines of towering cumulus march eastward–often erupting into wide, impenetrable walls of rain, turbulence and lightning–the distance can easily double, while travel times can triple.
Predicting the weather is a little like trying to pick up Jell-O before it sets. There are a lot of molecules up there, all interacting in less than predictable ways. It is a little surprising, then, that the head of one of the world’s foremost weather-data specialists says forecast accuracy is about to see vast improvements over and above what today’s computer modeling is capable of generating.
NASA researchers are seeking to bring better weather information to pilots and controllers by converting a fleet of regional turboprop airliners for service as flying weather reporting stations.
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has submitted legislation that would prohibit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service from providing weather forecasts to the public when a private firm can do so. S.786 is designed to keep the government from competing with private industry.
Notwithstanding this spring’s violent (and numerous) tornadoes, forecasters in the Midwest are able to make more accurate local weather predictions thanks to an airborne sensor being tested by NASA’s aviation safety program.
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