The Detroit Post
Friday, 26 February, 2021

Do Weather Forecasters Exaggerate

author
Maria Garcia
• Tuesday, 03 November, 2020
• 8 min read

Children would turn on the radio each morning to pray that their school would be canceled, so they could all go outside and have some real fun in the snow. In the year 2000, my wife and I moved to North Carolina, and our running joke was the absolute fear that the meteorologists would put in people if the slightest hint of snow was forecasted.

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Schools would be cancelled the night before a storm based on the possibility of snow. Newscasters practically begged people to stay off the roads and to watch out for the ever-present and dangerous “black ice.” We just couldn’t understand what the big deal was about.

Isn’t this the role of moms and dads to give these speeches and deliver these life-lessons? © Character Development & Leadership, 7752 Clearwater Court, Williamsburg, MI 49690.

They’re right up there with doctors as the most visible scientists in society, but their work is routinely badmouthed and unappreciated by so many people who benefit from it every day. “They get paid for being wrong half the time!” is a common insult, and it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If your local forecast called for a high of 85 °F today and it only hit 79 °F, that was a bust, but it’s not one many people are going to notice. If a forecast calls for flurries overnight and you wake up to find your car buried under a snow drift, that’s a huge bust.

Each new tool they create allows meteorologists to understand more about our atmosphere, and better anticipate its next moves. It wasn’t uncommon a few generations ago for people to go completely unearned before a hurricane tore through town.

Some of the worst forecast busts come from weather models giving us bad information. A perfect example of this is Hurricane Joaquin, a powerful storm that developed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2015.

Warm water and the late September heat allowed Joaquin to pack 155 mph winds at its strongest, and many weather models showed the storm making landfall near Washington D.C. a few days later. Few models showed it moving out to sea, so meteorologists were concerned that a major storm was about to hit a huge metropolitan area.

Since there’s a decent amount of instinct and judgment that goes into forecasting, it’s not unusual for a meteorologist to get one wrong. Maybe he or she misjudged the timing of a warm front, or mistakenly brushed off a pocket of cold air that allowed the rain to turn into ice.

A day can have the perfect ingredients for severe weather, but sometimes nothing happens because the air just couldn’t rise. Not only do forecasters have to work through actual errors in the process, but the Facebookization of the weather means they have to play the expectations game as well.

In 2009, heavy rains dampened a “barbecue summer” prediction by Britain’s Met office. In January last year American meteorologists apologized profusely on Twitter for predicting a “crippling” and “historic” blizzard that never arrived.

Over 11,000 observation stations across the world take hourly measurements of temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction, rainfall and other conditions. Meteorologists interpret the computer-generated forecasts by comparing with different mathematical models and tweak them by relying on the torrent of real-time data coming from the field.

There are not enough weather balloons to constantly record conditions in the upper atmosphere, home to the real action. A water pipeline in Israel, for instance, changed the landscape of the Negev desert to affect weather conditions, confounding forecasters.

The brute force of “petals” supercomputers capable of cranking out 1,000 trillion floating-point calculations per second has helped reduce guesswork. Meteorologists now divide the planet into a grid of two-dimensional blocks 13 km by 13 km across to make their predictions, down from 338 km by 338 km during early 1900s.

The aim will be to achieve the precision of say, Google Maps, which “foretells” traffic conditions down the road in real-time. But given the cosmic odds, predicting the future accurately may remain a distant dream for meteorologists.

Weather Forecaster Secrets: What Meteorologists Won't Tell You Skip to main content Steve Heater/Shutterstock Weather is one of the top reasons why people watch local news. Ken McKay/Shutterstock I’ve been told to trim my eyebrows and wear more makeup.

Ken McKay/Shutterstock Africa Studio/Shutterstock When it’s raining, for example, you can have 100 percent humidity, but it may not feel sticky. Unlike warm- weather predictions, if I’m off by one degree in the winter, it can mean the difference between rain, snow, and sleet.

ELI5:Do weathermen deliberately exaggerate their predictions for ratings, or are they genuinely unsure about what, exactly, the weather will look like? My area was supposed to get 30 inches* of snow in a historic blizzard, although the end result is... underwhelming.

But the prediction for my state, specifically, was that we were getting unprecedented amounts of snow, and that was definitely not the case. With a road sign warning of an expected blizzard, morning commuters travel across the Hakim Bunker Hill Bridge into downtown Boston on Monday.

The Boston area is expected to get hit with about two feet of snow in the winter storm. So, secure your canned goods and descend to your caves, people.

Virtually no one is exclusively living off the land dependent on the sky to nurture the soil with the threat of starvation should it not. But, by and large, the weather as a function of life itself has long ago become a non-factor.

They are here to tell you what you must fear, to elevate its threat and then to act as your savior from the imaginary boogieman of the sort of snowstorm that comes around every few winters or so. But ever since it was acquired by NBC/Universal seven years ago, in evidence has been a reduction in the sober science of meteorology and a ramp-up of faux reality-show-style drama.

It is the worst of the most alarmist faction of local news affecting a national scale. Because I have a couple of Penn State meteorology friends, I've been clued in to how this sort of systematic sales job began to pervade the airwaves.

That's how you get Barbie dolls screeching warnings about a “crippling, historic, life-threatening event. Snowstorms are not named by the National Weather Service or any other meteorological entity.

Or if you're obese or unaccustomed to exercise and try to shovel snow for an extended period. An extra trip to a well-stocked supermarket that billions of the world's people would look at with awe as some sort of utopian dream world is transformed into a life-or-death ultimatum.

Going to a gas station to fetch fuel for a generator is turned into a do -or-die mission. A century or more ago, before radio, before electricity in rural areas, before communication guaranteed support systems, a storm like this could threaten lives.

It's the story of pioneer residents of what is now South Dakota and other points in the northwestern Great Plains, afforded no warning of a January squall that plunged temperatures 80 degrees or more. Rural children were leaving schoolhouses for the long walk home and farmers were caught outside with their animals.

Winter is a cold and stormy season, anyone would expect that. The telly forecasters always have to over- exaggerate the elements. Now, that was terrible, with some people not getting home for nearly 3 weeks, without the modern telecommunication systems that we have now.

The village and surrounding fields were covered in six feet of snow which did not melt for weeks. Back in 1947 hundred of thousands of Germans froze to death.

It's about litigation and not wanting to be the next Michael Fish who forgot to mention the storm that flattened south England. Peter cries wolf so many times people will ignore the warnings on the one occasion they shouldn't.

Severe weather warning for Norfolk yesterday and today. They tell us not to travel unless absolutely necessary so the whole world takes a day off work and end up doing the garden.

Sign in Yes technology, better computers and weather satellites can really improve the forecast accuracy. However, Nature has a mind of its own and winds can shift and change directions...and then the forecast don't make sense...

Can't be that difficult being a weather -forecaster, it is always raining somewhere, always cold somewhere and I am still waiting for the snow. My grandfather used to be able to tell the weather by the pain in his hands caused by arthritis, he was always spot on.

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