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  • Writer's pictureDr. Hansi Singh

Decoding Weather Beyond 7 Days: Planette's Advanced Forecasting Insights

Navigating Weather Uncertainties for Skiing in February or an Outdoor Wedding in May

Person skiing down snowy mountain

Imagine this: you're in the midst of planning a February ski trip to Whistler or a May wedding on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, but the elusive factor of weather uncertainty casts a large shadow on your preparations. Will there be enough snow in February? Will your wedding be bright and sunny? Or will an atmospheric river wash away your celebration?

The critical point lies in the limitations faced by traditional weather forecasts, especially beyond the 7-day mark. This is primarily due to the inherent unpredictability of atmospheric conditions.

Traditional Forecasting Challenges

Traditional deterministic forecasts like the 7-day weather forecast are limited because of their sensitivity to initial conditions, which they use to develop a forecast that is integrated forward in time. Given the chaotic nature of the atmosphere, even slight discrepancies in these conditions can significantly alter predictions. This uncertainty prompts the use of probability in forecasts, which you'll recognize by weather statements like "a 20% chance of rain tomorrow."

Understanding Numerical Weather Model Simulations

How was "a 20% chance of rain tomorrow" calculated? The numerical weather model was used to create 10 simulations, each starting with a (very) slightly different version of today's atmospheric conditions. Looking at the results from these 10 simulations, only 2 simulations had rain, while the rest didn't, yielding that 20% chance of rain outlook. So even though numerical weather forecasts are deterministic, forecasts are reported statistically because they are highly sensitive to the initial state - even slightly different atmospheric initial conditions can yield very different outcomes the next day or next week.

Monthly Climatology vs. Climate Change

So traditional weather forecasts are out. What about monthly climatology based on historical patterns? The weather in Whistler, British Columbia in February is usually cold, although drier than December and January. There is usually several feet of snow at the summit. Will their be fresh powder in February? The range of expected snowfall in February is large - some years can have 100-inches of snow, while other years as little as 10-inches. So which one will it be?

Now let's add climate change to the mix. Snowfall is decreasing over most locations* around the world, and like other ski resorts, Whistler is literally facing the heat: less snow, a shorter ski season, and more rain than snow events. So how does climate change affect that expected range of snowfall in February?

May outdoor wedding canopy on an island

What about that May outdoor wedding? May in the Pacific Northwest can be ridiculously rainy or relatively dry, and climate change is shifting both rainfall patterns and rainfall amount.

Monthly climatology can't tell you the specifics.

The Need for a New Approach

It doesn't matter if you're planning a ski trip or a wedding, numerical weather forecasting just doesn't have any accuracy beyond a 2-week time horizon. Layering in monthly climatologies isn't a solution either, especially when the range of what you are trying to predict is large, and is being affected by climate change. These constraints mean we need a new approach to climate forecasting.

Here's where Planette's mid-range forecasting technology provides new insights into what we can expect from weather in the future.

Planette's Approach

Planette weather forecasting Earth system model

Planette harnesses the inertial power of the ocean to create monthly forecasts of key environmental variables, like snow, rain and temperature, up to 5 years into the future. Unlike weather forecasting models, which are only models of the atmosphere, Planette uses comprehensive Earth system models to predict the state of the climate system in the future. Earth system models include not only the atmosphere, but also the ocean, land surface and ice. These models are computationally expensive, requiring hundreds of hours and thousands of processors running in parallel to generate a simulation, but they have the essential physics needed to model the Earth system. At Planette, we use these same models, but accelerate them using the power of AI to generate timely forecasts.

Wedding gazebo for May outdoor island wedding

Benefits of Planette's Forecasts

Planette's forecasts are probabilistic in nature, underpinned by cutting-edge scientific advancements. Although we can't guarantee a particular outcome, we can tell you whether the odds are stacked in your favor, or against.

We can tell you whether conditions are right for a good February ski trip, or a dry May wedding.

Wherever weather nuances play a pivotal role in your life, the reliability and precision of climate forecasts become paramount. Planette's advanced forecasting technology offers heightened confidence in anticipating and strategically navigating atmospheric intricacies from a few months up to 5 years from now.

And that's good information to have, when you're planning for the future!

*Interestingly, snowfall is actually increasing over parts of Antarctica. That's the subject of a different blog post!

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