Ben Franklin was the first to conjecture that weather systems move from west to east or southwest to northeast. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson observed chronicled weather information dealing with historical weather events
An official agency wasn’t established until 1870 when Congress established a Weather Bureau that was assigned to the War Department. The bill was signed by President Ulysses S. Grant. Congress transferred all weather responsibilities to the Department of Agriculture in 1890 and the US. Weather Bureau began in 1891. Their forecasts were simply worded and only went out for a day. In World War Two, B-29 pilots flying missions over the Pacific came in contact with strong winds aloft, and the jet stream was discovered. This was an extremely important element in weather forecasting
By the mid-1950s, computer models, primitive as they began to create forecasts. The model most used was called the barotropic model. It had some severe limitations. In 1960, TOROS 1 weather satellite was launched and it became a new day for weather forecasting. By the early 1970s, a new model (LFM) became operational. This model had limitations, compared to what we have today, but it was a giant leap forward. Forecasts for two to three days became more reliable. In the 1980s computer modes really evolved and they could forecast farther ahead in time. Three-day forecasts were becoming more accurate and you could at least get an idea of four to five-day forecasts in many situations.
Today, there is a myriad of models that can be used for forecasting. We have to remember that models are only a projection based on atmospheric data that is fed into them. These include mathematical equations and even current conditions and radar. Some models can project out for weeks and even months at a time. Accuracy falls off sharply after 3 days. The total amount of information that can be communicated to the public is eye-popping the various graphics and broadcast/digital media that can be used is also incredible.
There is so much information available and so many ways to communicate it. The demand for specific weather information is ever increasing. There are so many situations. Winter weather, severe weather, and tropical weather are SO different and pose different challenges to the meteorologist.
Severe weather is on a mesoscale level rather than on a grander scale like winter weather and tropical weather. Trying to forecast where particular thunderstorms will be or where a tornado will form is almost impossible until radar indicated that it has happened.
Forecasters can hone in on areas with computer models and upper-level forecasts for certain time periods, They also look at atmospheric parameters where severe weather can develop. The only way to communicate this is to show a percentage chance of severe weather over a particular area and a time frame for the event. The chance for particular forms of severe weather like large hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes. So while we have became better at our weather guessing we still have issues in the details.
April 2019 summery
Here is a summery of how April 2019 ended up in southwest Michigan. At Grand Rapids the mean was 47.7° (-0.3°) the highest was 77 and the coldest was 19° the total precip was 4.05” and 4.9” of snow fall. At Muskegon the mean there was 47.1° (+0.5°) the highest was 80 and the coldest was 26° there was 3.38” of precip and 7.8” of snow fall. At Kalamazoo the mean was 48.5° the highest was 77 and the coldest was 20° there was a total of 3.90” of precip there is no report on snow fall. In central Michigan at Lansing the mean there was 47.2 (-0.2) the warmest was 76 and the coldest was 20 they reported a total of 3.50” of rain and snow with a reported 1.6” of snow fall. As you can see April’s temperatures were near average but there were some wild swings as the daily departures at Grand Rapids ranged from +16.4° to -13.0° there were 5 days of departures of departures of more then 10° below average and 3 days of departures of 10° above average.
I would hope that the 2018/19 snow season is now over. If so here are the numbers for total seasonal snow fall. At Grand Rapids 81.3”. Muskegon 77.2” and off to the east Lansing reported just 38.8” but their report is missing the last 10 days of January and the total should be higher. Not sure if the NWS will update that or not. Note Kalamazoo does not keep an official snow fall record.
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