The Profession of Meteorologist. An Interview with Daniele Mocio
Weather forecasts proliferate on TV, in newspapers and especially on the internet. But not all the information is reliable. To understand how to separate good from bad information, we interviewed Italian Air Force lieutenant colonel Daniele Mocio on the occasion of World Meteorological Day.
How do you produce weather forecasts?
A forecast starts from an objective datum, the current atmospheric state, that is, the analysis of observations made at a specific time, and it also takes into consideration past weather, that is, climate. Then, thanks to computers that have now become extremely powerful, a mathematical model is created to obtain information about the future atmospheric state. This is represented through maps that are interpreted by the forecaster and from which – thanks to study, experience and professionalism – we manage to predict future atmospheric conditions.
So the role of meteorologists still counts?
It still counts because, however sophisticated the model may be, the forecaster or meteorologist –the person who makes weather forecasts – must also know the place. Very often, the place, the orography cannot be fully understood in mathematical models.
First of all, it is necessary to know the weather conditions at ground level in the area for which we want to make a forecast and then see what is going on at altitude. Therefore, the added value of the person who studies the maps is still very important.
There is a growing interest in meteorology from a wide audience. How do you communicate a forecast effectively?
Surely, we must start from the assumption that we know what we want to talk about and communicate. We cannot inform about something we know nothing about, so preparation is essential. Then there is the return to something simple, which can explain what we have learned, our cultural background, our profession.
Very often, or rather most of the time, we are asked whether or not it will rain. We have to answer this question. We must not create situations that perhaps do not exist in meteorology, and which can do everything but give an answer, amplifying situations that actually would not deserve to be amplified.
It is a bit like an Italian sentence, we need a subject, a verb and a complement.
It is about studying a situation and talking about its effects, which may or may not happen, because we are talking about future atmospheric conditions, and, therefore, of a prediction.
So the big question “Will it rain?” can be answered in a simple way, even though there is a very complex science behind it?
Exactly, because simple communication translates something complex into something accessible, something understandable for those who must then “chew” what is communicated. If the scientific aspect is communicated in an equally scientific way, or it is even communicated in misleading terms, as it is happening recently, it is clear that the public can only feel the effects of misinformation.