Friday, December 11, 2009

Snowmageddon 2009 and the ignorami who grind my gears

I have been kicking the idea for this post around for a day or two. What's been holding me back is my tendency to descend into technobabble when talking about the weather. However, now that the first major, complex winter storm is over and the sniping has begun, I feel I have to respond.

As you know, I am a weather geek. I do not attempt to hide that fact, nor do I apologize for it. I love the weather. I love the dynamics and the complexity. All of the models, graphs, data, and observations are fascinating. The amount of information used for even a 48 hour forecast would make your head spin. This complexity is a constant source of irritation for me when I watch TV news, or listen to radio reports. Ask any real meteorologist, and they will tell you that anything more than a three day forecast is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty. 7 day forecasts are a joke. There is no way you can know that far ahead what will happen.

With all that complexity, is it any wonder that often things don't go exactly as forecast? Sometimes it rains more than called for, sometimes less. Sometimes storms develop where they weren't expected, and sometimes all the ingredients are in perfect alignment but nothing pops. People who have little to no knowledge of the weather are often the first to complain. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in snowstorm forecasts.

Which brings me to the crux of this particular rant. Early season snowfalls are notoriously hard to forecast accurate snowfall totals. A warm Lake Michigan, a lack of previous snowcover, and varying ground temperatures all conspire to destroy even the best of snowfall forecasts. It never fails though, every single snowfall, there is a loud, vocal group of people who seem to take it as a personal attack if we get less snow than was predicted. This last storm, I actually saw someone calling for weathermen to be sued for a missed forecast. Really? Your life is so devoid of meaning and excitement that you would consider such an extreme measure over a
snowstorm?

Granted, I have an issue with the sensationalized local weather myself most of the time. Most. The only exception is during tornado warnings. In Wisconsin, a tornado is one of the few, if only, meteorological events that is a serious, immediate threat to life. In those cases, I don't mind the wall-to-wall coverage. It serves a greater good. Hour upon hour of the same information every 10 minutes is asinine. I guess that's why, with the exception of one, I have little faith in TV weathermen. The guys at the NWS offices, on the other hand, have my total respect. The TV guys merely parrot the forecasts that the real meteorologists spend hours on every day.

Do I expect anything to really change with this? No. I know that there is a group of people out there who are not happy unless they are complaining about something. To those of you I say, take your complaints elsewhere. Your complaints are better served in areas where it may make a speck of difference.

2 comments:

Beeblebrox said...

To TV weather guys actually do the forecasting themselves or is it just fed to them? Oh, and why do they change their names sometimes?

TJSharky said...

Some guys go right from the NWS forecasts, some do their own. From what I have seen over the years, most of the ones that do their own are less accurate.

As far as changing their names, I'm not quite sure what you are referring to. I do know that WTMJ changed how they referred to their weather guys recently, but other than that, I don't know.

Sorry about the delay in response. I have been a bit busy lately, and forgot to check for comments!