Beijing woes

Several people I know are directly involved in the meteorological support for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.  Algorithms developed by my group will be operated by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in Beijing, so even I am indirectly involved.  It is a daunting task -- much more daunting than the Atlanta or Sydney Olympics, where there were also
forecast demonstrations organized by the World Meteorological Organization.

Forecasting rain is going to be very important.  Something like 60% of the days in August, it rains in Beijing.  But it's going to be hard to forecast that rain.
  1. China is deploying new S-band radars (i.e . very good ones), but as in India (where I visited a couple of installations as part of a USAID project this year), the radars are placed right in the middle of cities. The way these radars work, there is a huge blind spot right above the radar, which means there will be poor to non-existent radar data right over Beijing.
  2. The topography around Beijing is challenging in other ways for radar siting.  There are mountains just to the west. The radar beam will be blocked by those mountains, so the radar can not see very far to the west.
  3. The climatology does not help either. Storms initiate on the mountains immediately to the west of Beijing and drop all their rain. Nowcasting thunderstorms depends heavily on extrapolation but there will be nothing to extrapolate.
The air pollution in Beijing is of course what every one talks about.  Word is that gray skies are the norm and that visibility of 30 feet is common. A few weeks ago, the Chinese authorities tried to run an experiment where only even-numbered cars would be allowed on the streets on even-numbered days. Apparently, it didn't help all that much.  With all that pollution, weather forecasting is not going to be driven by just rain and wind. There will be other factors that will affect athletes. But my point is that even rain and wind are going to be hard to predict. Let alone the effect of Beijing air on unaccustomed athletes and spectators.

No comments:

Post a Comment