UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In the future, weather forecasts that provide storm warnings and help us plan our daily lives could come up to five days sooner before reaching the limits of numerical weather prediction, scientists said.
"The obvious question that has been raised from the very beginning of our whole field is, what's the ultimate limit at which we can predict day-to-day weather in the future," said Fuqing Zhang, distinguished professor of meteorology and atmospheric science and director of the Center for Advanced Data Assimilation and Predictability Techniques at Penn State.
Reliable forecasts are now possible nine to 10 days out for daily weather in the mid-latitudes, where most of Earth's population lives.
New technology could add another four to five days over the coming decades, according to research published online in the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences.
The research confirms a long-hypothesized predictability limit for weather prediction, first proposed in the 1960s by Edward Lorenz, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematician, meteorologist and pioneer of the chaos theory, scientists said.
"Edward Lorenz proved that one cannot predict the weather beyond some time horizon, even in principle," said Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at MIT and coauthor of the study.