The coronavirus pandemic has brought global commerce to a near standstill. Now it’s threatening to obscure the ability to even make forecasts based on weather data.
The World Meteorological Organization said it’s concerned about the virus’ impact on the quality and quantity of weather observations and forecasts. Maintenance on satellite systems and weather stations could be affected if lockdowns continue in the coming weeks.
Accurate weather predictions are critical for commodities markets including agriculture, natural gas, electricity and coal. Farmers and food-crop traders rely on forecasts for planting schedules and prices. Gas markets are particularly sensitive to weather data to help predict demand.
The amount of weather-related information collected from commercial aircraft has already plummeted as airlines across the globe ground flights.
“In-flight measurements of ambient temperature and wind speed and direction are a very important source of information for both weather prediction and climate monitoring,” the WMO said in a statement.
The Geneva-based organization serves as a backbone for weather and climate services for 193 countries and territories which rely on the data to prepare weather forecasts, advisories and warnings to citizens.
With much of the system being automated the impact on weather data has been relatively modest so far but “as the decrease in availability of aircraft weather observations continues and expands, we may expect a gradual decrease in reliability of the forecasts,” Lars Peter Riishojgaard, Director, Earth System Branch in WMO’s Infrastructure Department, said in a statement.
If a decrease in surface-based weather observations continues, in particular if the outbreak begins to widely impact the ability of observers to do their job in developing countries, forecasts will also be affected, he said.
« Back to index