COVID-19 could mean less available weather data for meteorologists

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ST. LOUIS – The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on people and industries worldwide. Could the effects we’ve seen from COVID-19 affect the weather models that meteorologists use to make our forecasts?

The short answer is yes.

Numerical weather prediction systems, which meteorologists commonly refer to as forecast models, are simulations of the atmosphere. They use weather data from airline flights across the globe.

Due to COVID-19, there has been a big loss in air traffic and therefore a loss in the weather data that these flights provide. This could impact the quality of these weather forecast computer models.

While an intense study would have to be done to diagnose to what extent this loss of this data has on our forecast models, there are still plenty of other data these models use.

“Radar data, there’s surface observation data, there’s weather balloons we launch at least twice a day. There’s also satellite data. We launched a really great satellite about three years ago that gives us weather information about every minute and those go into the models as well,” said Kevin Deitsch, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in St. Louis. “So, while the airline, loss of some of that data may have an effect, I think through the spring our models are going to do just fine.”

Although this loss of aircraft data will likely have some effect on our forecast models, there will have to be thorough studies done to see just how detrimental it was.

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