Last 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.Tags: blizzard, blizzard eugene, blizzard stella, greg carbin, meteorologist, meteorologists, meteorology, national weather service, new york city, snow, snowstorm, storm, storm eugene, storm stella, weather prediction center, weatherman, weathermen