You’re asking the wrong Phil

So happy Groundhog day, even though it’s almost over. The movie “Groundhog Day” has more repeat value for me than almost any other movie. Is that ironic? Also, here’s a weather related question. Do we need to be able to accurately predict quantum behavior in order to achieve relatively perfect weather prediction? Is that even theoretically possible, at least for all intents and purposes? Would the Uncertainty Principle significantly obstruct such predictions? Would you need to know the impossibly precise position and speed of all environmental elements to know the exact weather for a month? Will meteorologists run into the limits of physics before even reaching the near perfect 7 day forecast? Well, I doubt it, but there may be a theoretical limit out there somewhere.


One thought on “You’re asking the wrong Phil

  1. rdtheta says:

    Well the answer, as we currently understand it, is: it has very little to do with quantum-level phenomenon. The thing about quantum unpredictability is that, when you consider moles of the stuff all together, that all actually averages out into solid, predictable behaviours like thermodynamics and fluid dynamics, both of which were described classically. The killer thing about weather is that it’s a nonlinear system exhibiting chaos. Any simulation, no matter how correct and complete in physical laws, has to have some starting state, and this can never be perfectly precise. In some situations, only having 3 sig figs is ok, because the small uncertainty, carried through the algorithm, amounts to small uncertainty in the calculated prediction. But not with weather, the uncertainty compounds with time until what you have in your simulation exhibits the same behaviours on a large scale, but all the specifics are wrong. So we need to constantly update and correct simlutations so that the weather they are modelling is not just “possible weather” but our weather.
    So the current thinking, I believe, is: we would “need to know the impossibly precise position and speed of all environmental elements to know the exact weather for a month”.

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