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Weather Forecasting

Numerical Weather Prediction

The term numerical weather prediction is something of a misnomer since all forms of forecasting make use of numerical data like temperature, atmospheric pressure, and humidity. More precisely numerical weather prediction refers to forecasts that are obtained by using complex mathematical calculations carried out with high-speed computers.

Numerical weather prediction is based on mathematical models of the atmosphere. A mathematical model is a system of equations that attempt to describe the properties of the atmosphere and changes that may take place within it. These equations can be written because the gases which comprise the atmosphere obey the same physical and chemical laws that gases on Earth's surface follow. For example, Charles' law says that when a gas is heated it tends to expand. This law applies to gases in the atmosphere as it does to gases in a laboratory.

The technical problem that meteorologists face is that atmospheric gases are influenced by many different physical and chemical factors at the same time. A gas that expands according to Charles' law may also be decomposing because of chemical forces acting on it. How can anyone make use of all the different chemical and physical laws operating in the atmosphere to come up with a forecast of future atmospheric conditions?


Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Verbena Family (Verbenaceae) - Tropical Hardwoods In The Verbena Family to WelfarismWeather Forecasting - The National Weather Service, Types Of Weather Forecasts, Long-range Forecasting, Numerical Weather Prediction