Weather Forecasting: Myth or Reality

Kirk is quick to defend the data and techniques behind his company's results. "Traditional meteorology, as you know, does not work beyond 14 days. You cannot use that to project next year's weather. So, we have a proprietary process — statistics, math, climate, secret formula, if you will — that projects these trends."

But why would companies selling beer, first aid or even orange juice be so concerned about weather in the first place? Kirk said that what's happening outside affects when and how much we dig into our wallets.

"We consume more orange juice — 60,000 more bottles of orange juice — for every one degree colder it is nationally," he said. "So, this week, here, is 13 degrees colder than it was a year ago. We're talking about hundreds of thousands, if not millions of boxes of orange juice that are being sold because of weather."

Kirk firmly believes the uses of long-range prediction will only gain in popularity. "I think this will change the world. We are talking to the travel sites and Googles of the world — imagine you getting the same value as my large national retailer that spends a lot of money for this service, so you can plan your vacations, your golfing trips, with a little bit more degree of skill. Get the wedding in a more likely period to have the weather that you want.

"So, you can do that, maybe it's not eight times out of 10 when you're speaking about a real finite period of time, maybe it's six or seven times out of 10, but it's still better than guessing or waiting to see what happens."

Despite those meteorologists on the cutting edge of business-meets-weather, most conventional experts in the field still contend that the science on long-range meteorology will never get as precise as a five-day forecast. They argue true accuracy is too uncertain, especially for events, such as hurricanes, which profoundly affect weather results.

Unfortunately, it's not possible to know if it will rain on that fishing trip you have planned for 2009. As Knight asserts, "It's smart to use climatology for business decisions, but as far as the type of info that has a climatic theme to it — that is, it tells you normal conditions in the various parts of the country that you're interested in marketing too — that's smart. [But] to believe that specific events are going to happen is stupid."

This report first aired on April 16, 2008.

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