Weather wise

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The Independent Online
THE PROBLEM of forecasting the weather is mainly one of timescale. Thanks to increased knowledge and faster computers, today's short-term forecasts are remarkably accurate up to a day or two ahead, and our understanding of long-term trends means that we can be pretty confident that the earth will suffer another ice age within the next 10,000 years or so. It's those irritating periods between three days and 10,000 years that are the main problem.

The ambitious programme of the International Clivar Project Office, however, intends to tackle it.

Clivar - a study of Climate Variability and Predictability - is a new project of the World Climate Research Programme which spans a wide range of timescales. As its director, Dr John Gould, explains: "It will conduct research aimed at such questions as: Can we predict whether next year's monsoon will be good or bad? Can we say when the next El Nino will be? ... Can we define precisely what its impacts will be?"

The answers to questions such as these will give perhaps the only real measure of the extent to which we are able to forecast the weather more than three days ahead.

The Clivar project office is in the process of moving from Hamburg to Southampton which, as we mentioned on Friday, was the hottest place in the country last week. Even if this is not a clear confirmation that these Clivar chaps know what they are talking about, it is good to know that the weather gods are smiling on their efforts.