WASHINGTON — Make fun of the weatherman if you want but modern forecasts have quietly, by degrees, become much better.

Meteorologists are now as good with their five-day forecasts as they were with their three-day forecasts in 2005. Both government and private weather forecasting companies are approaching the point where they get tomorrow’s high temperature right nearly 80 percent of the time. It was 66 percent 11 years ago, according to ForecastWatch , a private firm that rates accuracy of weather forecasts.

That may not always be appreciated, especially if your livelihood depends on getting rain and snow amounts, and timing, just right, all the time.

“They don’t know what’s going to happen,” complained Washington taxi driver Antenhe Lashitew. He makes more money when it rains or snows, so he wants them to be more precise.

But they are already good enough for Major League Baseball, which is now able to move game times around based on forecasts so you have a much smaller chance of getting soaked in the stands.

Last week, the forecast for Washington was Thursday afternoon thunderstorm, so the Washington Nationals moved their game from 4:05 p.m. to 12:05 p.m. The game got in – the Nats won – and the storms arrived on schedule not long after the regularly scheduled start time.

“That would have been unheard of 20 years ago,” said retired Washington television meteorologist Bob Ryan, the first national on-air weatherman on NBC’s “Today” show. “If we did in the 1500s what we do now, we would have been burned at the stake as witches and warlocks.”

Ryan used to get people telling him he was never right, so he would challenge them to bet on how good his forecasts were. He’d offer to donate $5 to someone’s favorite charity for every blown forecast if they’d donate just $1 for every one he got right. No one took him up on the offer.

Better forecasts are partly the result of more observations taken in the air and oceans and better understanding of how weather works. But it’s mostly bigger and faster computers that put it all together in complex models that simulate the weather that may be coming tomorrow, next week and even later in the month, meteorologists said.

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