Friday, August 21, 2015

War On Science

I was reading a blog post by meteorologist Dan Satterfield about the forecasts made concerning Superstorm Sandy in 2012. At the time, the European forecast model (ECMWF) had Sandy hitting New Jersey while the American model (GFS) had it going out to sea. As we all know, the Europeans were right.

Turns out, there is more to the story than just two different forecasting models. The real problem is that the Americans did not have current computers. The European computers were faster and were able to make more detailed forecasts. It turns out, when the GFS is given the same detailed information the ECMWF had it produces similar results.

This means the problem wasn't the model. The problem was the funding. Given proper funding, the American's would have had the ability to make an accurate forecast in advance the same way the Europeans did. You now have to wonder how much damage and how many deaths were caused because of the disconnect between the two. If both ECMWF and GFS had provided a forecast showing Sandy striking New Jersey what would have been done differently?

Satterfield, states it well,
The anti-science posture of many of our so-called political leaders is actually having an impact on many aspects of how science is done in this country. The effects are widespread, and run from NASA, to weather prediction, to a serious deficiency in weather satellites. While NOAA now has new computers going online, we’re going to have a tough time catching up, because Europe,China and Japan are not sitting still. More so, they aren’t sitting around arguing over stickers in Biology books saying that natural selection is just a theory, or fighting over teaching accurate climate science to high school students. The result is that they have better weather models, faster computers and much more sophisticated weather satellites that can feed data into those models.

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