Science in the service of climate

Meteorology not only allows the production of weather forecasts, but also provides the support for different productive sectors

Matilde Rusticucci. Photo: CONICET Photography.

Matilde Rusticucci is a CONICET independent researcher and director of the Department of Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). After teaching for more than 29 years, she explains that this branch of science not only allows the production of weather forecasts but also provides services to areas such as agriculture, tourism or the use of water resources.

In spite of the fact that the weather forecast is the most well known activity of the meteorologist, there are others such as the determination of the impact of climate on health; or the now-casting, a short term forecast – in a few hours -, which could be adjusted in order to assure with more accuracy when or where a hard rain is going to start, for example”, she comments.


In general, what is the geographical precision of a weather forecast? 

Forecasts cover large surfaces. In the case of rainfalls, for instance, it could be predicted that they are going to occur in the area that comprises the north of the province of Buenos Aires, east of La Pampa and south of Córdoba and Santa Fe. Since it is a large area, it could rain in Zárate but not in the city of Buenos Aires. Sometimes it is very difficult to produce a differential forecast in these almost 100 kilometres that separate these two locations. For this reason, instant forecasting became so important, because it is updated every hour and provides greater geographic precision.


What is the degree of accuracy?

It is variable and it depends on the situation. It is easy to determine whether a cloud cover is going to affect la Pampa or even the whole country. However, there are others which are more complex, such as a fierce storm with a radius that range from 10 to 50 kilometres or more. For me, it would be very interesting to determine the location of the largest number of rainfalls. They could cover all the City of Buenos Aires, which has a small geographical distribution or larger radius. Precisely, that area of knowledge needs more resources. There is another one that is related to the activities that could have weather service, such as the assistance that could be provided to the agricultural sector: being able to define what is going to happen the following autumn, if draughts or frosts are going to come, a service known as climate forecast.


How soon is it possible to produce that forecast? 

Currently, depending on the region forecasted, it is possible to work with periods of three months or even a year in advance. Although short-term weather forecast is 95% accurate, that figure is lower for the climate forecast and the accuracy reduces as the forecast becomes more distant. Thus, it is necessary to increase the number of professionals trained by specialists in this area and capable of improving coastal and marine forecasts, to name some examples. Knowledge on future climate is a valuable tool to avoid negative impact in different socio-economic areas.


As a professor and researcher, what is the importance of studying Atmospheric Sciences? 

First, we are all immersed in the climate and the atmosphere; they are part of our ordinary life. Currently, we are more aware of the changes in climate and we are more subject and exposed to extreme events. For instance, one heatwave could lead to blackouts or health problems, since we were able to determine the relationship between extreme temperatures and mortality. Besides, agricultural activities might also be affected because draughts or late frosts damaged vegetable and fruits crops last summer. These are only some examples that show the need to increase local knowledge in Argentina in order to achieve noticeable impact on our economy.

Matilde Rusticucci holds a PhD in Meteorological Sciences and a doctorate in Atmospheric Sciences. She is a CONICET independent researcher at the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires. Besides, she is an associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences at the same institution.

In the last few years, Rusticucci has published more than 30 articles in scientific journals.

  • By Ana Belluscio.
  • Versioning: Cintia B. González.