The science of meteorology has become much more advanced in its technology and accuracy in recent years.
We've seen significant improvement in the past five years to global weather models with upgrades to the GFS (Global Forecast System) and the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting) and radar technology.
But even with these improvements and upgrades, how well has the forecasting become? The GFS can forecast out 16 days into the future, but how reliable is that 16 day forecast?
Accuracy in forecast within three days of the initial forecast; with an 85 percent probability of the forecast being right. Between three and seven days, accuracy does diminish, to around 60 percent. But the further out you get from the initialization point of a model, the data gets blurrier and blurrier.
Large scale pattern can be well modeled during this 16 day period, but sensible weather is hard to pinpoint much after seven days due to the volatility of the science.
In August 2013, Accuweather, a private weather forecasting company, introduced a 45 day forecast product. This was met with some controversy in the weather enterprise. Recently, Accuweather unveiled a new 90 day forecast product.
With the limitations of the science, namely in sensible weather forecasting, how can this be? The longest range synoptic model only goes out 16 days and even that is sketchy at best.
Many in the weather community has criticized this move because it lacks transparency of the data sources and could be a disservice.
The issue is, there is a market for these long range forecasts.
People who want to plan weddings, plan trips or just general curiosity, the market exists. Most people see these and realize to take it with a grain of salt; others could take it to heart and make major decisions based off these wildly variable forecasts.
For instance, on April 6, 2016, the forecast for Wilmington for July 4 called for it to be "mostly cloudy and humid with a shower or thunderstorm around." The high: 86 degrees with a 60 percent chance of storms. The forecast from April 11, 2016 for July 4 calls for "sunny skies" and a high of 89 degrees.
Both forecasts seem plausible, considering the time of the year.
So will you cancel your plans or let them ride? Only time will tell what will happen in 85 days; we'll make sure to give you our thoughts on Independence Day in about 78 days.