Posts Tagged “meteorologist”

Radar loop of WS StellaLast Tuesday’s winter storm (named “Stella” by the Weather Channel, but “Eugene” by WFSB-TV here in Connecticut) turned out to be a bust, in the mid-Atlantic and New York City regions. And there’s been a lot of grumbling about how it was forecast. Those places all ended up getting much less snow than had been predicted.

Lots of people wonder how meteorologists could have been as wrong as they were. Well, it turns out, they actually knew — as the storm approached — the storm wouldn’t live up to their stated projections. Yet, as the New York Post reports, they chose not to change their forecasts to match what they knew would fall (cached):

On the eve of Tuesday’s Winter Storm Stella, the National Weather Service got reports that its dire prediction of up to 2 feet of snow for New York City may have been exaggerated — but decided not to change its forecast.

Fears of a massive blizzard led officials to close city public schools and for above-ground train service to be stopped — but in the end, only about 7 inches fell in Central Park.

After announcing that snow could reach record levels in the city, NWS meteorologists in New York and other Northeast cities held a conference call Monday afternoon about computer models that dramatically cut predicted totals.

But they decided to continue forecasting deep snow, claiming that they didn’t change their forecast for fear people would mistakenly think the storm was no longer dangerous.

Their excuse? They wanted to make sure people were still “cautious”:

[Chief of forecast operations at the Weather Prediction Center in Maryland, Greg] Carbin said a last-minute change downgrading snowfall totals might have caused people to let their guard down because ice was still a potential danger for cities such as New York and Washington.

Full disclosure: It may have seemed to New Yorkers that this storm was a dud, but that’s not quite true. Where I live, in northwestern Connecticut, we’d been told we could get between 16 and 24 inches of snow, and that turned out to be accurate. So not all the predictions failed to pan out … just some of them.

In the northeast, and especially here in the Nutmeg State, folks often joke that our weathermen punch up their forecasts to make them seem more dire than they ought to be, in order to glue the public to their TV sets, radios, whatever. Perhaps this is just a perception error, as well as a function of the basic uncertainty of weather forecasting. Or, maybe it really is the play for ratings it seems to be. But in this case — and in the case of the January 2015 blizzard — it’s clear this actually happened, and that meteorologists do exaggerate; and moreover that they feel entitled to do so whenever they see it as necessary.

We’re used to politicians lying to us, and have come to expect it. And maybe we kid around about weathermen grubbing for ratings by predicting cataclysm when none is on its way. But clearly, they lie. And they know they lie. And they admit they lie!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Observed departure of temperature from average for the period Nov. 2004-Mar. 2005. Superimposed in bold text is the winter forecast made in the 2004 Old Farmer's Almanac for the same period. The Almanac got four regions correct and eight incorrect, with two too close to call. / NOAA-CIRES & Climate Diagnostic Center, via Weather UndergroundEvery year around this time the Old Farmer’s Almanac, and its similar rival the Farmers’ Almanac, trot out weather predictions for the coming winter. And every year we’re treated to media stories about it … as though any of it actually means anything. Yesterday the Associated Press published a story with a lede guaranteed to pique Americans’ interest (WebCite cached article):

Just when you thought you had gotten over last winter, be warned: The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts it will be super cold with a slew of snow for much of the country, even in places that don’t usually see too much of it, like the Pacific Northwest.

If you don’t want to read about those four-letter words, there’s plenty more to peruse in the folksy, annual book of household tips, trends, recipes and articles, such as animal jealousy, the history of shoes and anticipation for the biggest Supermoon in decades in November 2016.

That crap is all I can take, so I won’t quote any more of it. In spite of the AP story’s paean to a supposedly accurate prediction last year, in truth, the two Almanacs” weather predictions are, in a word, bullshit! A steaming load heaved right out the back of the barn. Claims of over 80% accuracy are not true at all. They’re lies. Real meteorologists who really study the weather, who base their conclusions on real measurements, and who have real credentials that show they know what they’re talking about, have determined the Almanacs actually have very poor track records (cached and cached). The Farmers’ Almanac was, quite famously, wrong about Super Bowl XLVIII being hit with snow.

It’s utterly irresponsible of mass media outlets — especially those as widely-read and respected as the Associated Press — to treat this rank bullshit as though it’s news. It’s not. The Almanacs’ predictions are nothing of the sort! Making everything much worse … because this was released by the AP, it will get propagated by virtually every other media outlet in the country, and internationally too. Which is far more publicity than this crap deserves.

It’s time for the mass media, especially the AP, to just fucking stop falling for bullshit like this. Yes, as I said, the lede of this story is compelling. It’ll draw eyeballs for sure … but it will still be uninformative and useless crap that no one should bother seeing. Both Almanacs sell well enough that they don’t need the AP shilling for them.

P.S. Mention of the Almanac‘s prediction of a “supermoon” in 2016 is superfluous. A supermoon, aka a “perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system,” is a very predictable phenomenon. Astronomers (as in, real scientists using real equipment) can predict them many years in advance, and have done so — without the specious help of the Old Farmer’s Almanac or their mysterious, undisclosed algorithms.

Photo credit: NOAA-CIRES & Climate Diagnostic Center, via Weather Underground.

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