Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

It is now abundantly clear: weather forecasters are more likely to get their predictions wrong than give a fair idea of what to expect.

In the "old days", the summer rainfall pattern had a form of regularity. In Pretoria, where I grew up, we talked about "civil service rain". Days would dawn bright and temperatures would rise to the upper 20s, early 30s. In the early afternoon, the "thunderheads" would appear on the horizon.

At about 4pm, the brief storm would break just when the public servants left their offices, and they would dash for the nearest shelter to avoid being drenched in the usual short, sharp shower — followed by a bright evening.

The seasons, too, had this familiar regularity. There were periodic droughts and floods.

The decades passed, mankind exploded in his numbers and technology raped the world while the bottom fell out of its morality. Now there is no predictability left anywhere as inevitable man-made climate change overwhelms us.

The weather forecasters find that their very sophisticated models no longer work. Weather models and science can only be constructed on the basis of past experience. The science of meteorology developed increasing insight in the functioning of the weather and applied this to practical predictive models. When everything continues to change, the parameters will probably never reach their former reliability.

As long as our rape of the earth continues to affect the atmosphere, we cannot expect any handle on things such as weather forecasts.

It is up to each one of us to contribute to reducing the uncertainty.

Balt Verhagen

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