BLOG: Weather, whether or not it’s accurately predicted
Having spent literally all of my career in the very exacting and fact-driven world of journalism, I sometimes long to be a weather forecaster.
By their own admission, they are wrong 50 percent of the time. Extrapolate that to the world of news – well you see my point. If we could get by being correct 50 percent of the time in our reporting, it sure would make life easier.
My frustration has grown over the years as more of the resources weather forecasters use are available online. There’s an amazing amount of stuff you can access and make your own predictions based on maps and charts.
When it got to the point a while back where I was able to look at the maps and charts and more accurately predict the weather than those who were doing it professionally for Weatherunderground, for instance, it took on a new height in ridiculousness.
A week or so back several forecasts were calling for temperatures well below zero, north wind AND six to eight inches of snow. If you’ve spent any time at all in the upper Midwest, you are aware that when temps drop, the air becomes abnormally dry and any sort of precip moving into that dry air tends to disappear quickly.
Sure enough, the “six to eight” inches turned out to be a light dusting, about what you’d expect when the air temperature is that cold and there is no southern moisture to drive the amount of precip up.
I suppose weather forecasters are a necessary evil. Most of them couldn’t exist in the business world where being “right” half the time would mean a career life expectancy of about a day. I guess if the choice is these folks ending up on welfare, weather forecasting may be the lesser of two evils.
A larger question might be why we are so fixated on weather around these parts. There’s going to be weather, whether or not it’s accurately predicted. Sometimes it’s good weather, sometimes it’s bad weather. That’ where the 50 percent correct portion of forecasting comes in.
Part of the answer might be utilizing a bit more common sense. Most of you know about the “duck test.”
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Hence, if you look out your window and the wind is blowing snow all over and reducing visibility, it’s safe to predict ground blizzard conditions.
Most of my family lives in North Dakota. If you visit their homes, the television is often tuned to the Weather Channel, or worse, the local cable company’s version of the Weather Channel. This generally consists of a screen at which the temperature is shown at the top and the wind speed and direction on the bottom.
They’ll watch that for hours, waiting for one or the other to change. For some, that’s the highlight of their day – when the temperature on the cable company’s weather screen changes.
Winter will end soon (really, I promise) and all this focus on weather will disappear for a while anyway. The next big challenge will be predicting spring storms and tornadoes without scaring the pants off the general population. That’s always a balancing act.
Winter, Spring, Summer Fall … the weather goes on and although we can adapt to what is coming, there’s not much else we can do about it. I think I’ll go watch the local cable company’s version of the weather now. There doesn’t seem to be much else to do.