Over the last few years, we noticed that US weather forecasters have been forecasting higher winds, even hurricane force, in specific and well defined areas of mid-latitude low pressure systems with increased frequency and accuracy than before, but we did not know how they were doing it. Now we do.
Unfortunately, the tool that the forecasters were using to pull off this important increase in forecast accuracy and granularity—unexpected hurricane force winds in a small area of a big mid-tropical low have, I suspect, caused more yacht casualties at sea than hurricanes—is no longer available to them with the demise of the QuickScat satellite, pictured above.
Also, I’m guessing that the death of the QuickScat antenna will have at least some negative effect on the accuracy of GRIB files, particularly in remote areas.
These days, a lot of ocean voyagers are relying exclusively on GRIBs, which are generated automatically by computer with no human input or sanity checking, for their weather planning. The loss of QuickScat is just one more reason why we think that’s a really bad practice. GRIBs certainly have an important place in our weather analysis, but we always use them in conjunction with weather maps and text forecasts so as to benefit from the human insight of a trained meteorologist.