Forecast vs Prediction

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Zealous, May 2, 2009.

  1. Zealous Senior Member

    These words have always been the point of my confusion, though they seem simple if viewed separately.

    In some (scientific) books relating to quantitative methods of explaining the world's phenomona sometimes expressions as

    "this model predicts, that...", "the observed value is slightly bigger than predicted", etc. can be found.

    To me, prediction always seemed as the word pertaining to attempts to see the future that are based on little (or no) scientific foundation. (for example, reading coffee grounds; looking at constellations - what is beautiful though)

    Forecast, on the other hand, seemed as something more precise, probable, and deeply based on science.

    There is a phrase like "Weather forecast", but not "Weather prediction". Does the choice of the words have something to do with the degree of trustworthiness of information that the statement is based upon? (weather is not that difficult to determine, and the weather report is reliable source of information - hence the term "forecast")

    What do You think??

    I appreciate your suggestions
  2. curlyboy20 Senior Member

    Lima, Peru.
    Peruvian Spanish.
    Both words mean to fortell what will happen in the future, but like you said, it's more common to say "Weather forecast" since "forecast" is more commonly used when talking about the weather.

    As far as the meaning of the words varying based upon the degree of how forseeable something is, I have no idea :)
  3. mplsray Senior Member

    Prediction is the usual term used in sciences other than meteorology and economics. I don't think there is any significance to the terms from the standpoint of science. After all, pseudoscientists and occultists usually make predictions rather than forecasts.
  4. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Before satellites gave us pictures of the world's weather systems, weather was not that easy to forecast :) Any fine distinction between the two words, such as the proposed one based on "reliability", has arisen from their usage in specific situations, not the other way round.

    In science, I think the concept of prediction is a solid one, because it is embedded in the scientific method. A hypothesis or theory tries to explain an array of observations. If it is a good theory, it will allow the "prediction" of an outcome to a new situation - such as one created for an experiment. This will not be a "guess" but the result of a calculation*. If the "prediction" was right, the theory does not need to be modified; if it was wrong then it does. In this case, the word pre-dict is precisely "to say before" ; in a way, it has become established "jargon" in the scientific arena - using "forecast" would precipitate the question "Do you mean predict?"

    * the theory may be a "guess" but the calculation (of the predicted outcome of an experiment) is usually precise. The theory may be unreliable but the prediction is solid :)

Share This Page