September 2000 Issue

Man Against Machine

The debate between human weather observers and automated weather has no clear winner

One of the results of poorly assessing the risk involved with flying is reflected by the number of weather-related accidents that consistently grace NTSB logs, even in the face of widely available real-time meteorological data. A study of the accident record demonstrates that the raging debate about human versus mechanical observers largely misses the point.

Sure, human observers are superior in most respects and automated weather sometimes gives goofy and erroneous reports. On the other hand, automated weather stations allow observations from far more locations than was affordable for staffed stations. Both people and machines have strengths and weaknesses, but the more immediate point...

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