In the United States and across the globe, predicting weather eight to 10 days in the future is notoriously unreliable. That's because the data are notoriously unreliable.
That far ahead might not sound like a huge deal, but it is for someone who relies on weather data for their livelihood, like a farmer who needs to know when to plant his harvest, or a pilot who needs it to create potential flight plans.
But on an even broader scale, weather data are instrumental to how we understand the future of climate change, particularly how scientists can better learn about the unprecedented hurricanes, wildfires, droughts and heat waves the planet is experiencing.
Some of the gaps in U.S. weather data are simply because there's a large distance between weather monitoring stations and infrastructure in less populated areas, or outdated or broken instruments being used in others.
For example, the National Weather Service Upper Air Station in Chatham, Massachusetts, decommissioned the only weather balloon launch site in the region in April 2021 because of significant erosion on the bluff where it was located. That means important data are not being collected there, which impacts the accuracy of computer modeling and weather forecasts.
There is no one answer, but the Swiss company Meteomatics thinks it might have one new instrument to help: a weather drone. Its drone, Meteodrone, is still awaiting government approval, but when it gets the go-ahead, it will be the first drone in the United States to help collect vital weather data.