It Didn’t Snow In Santiago, Chile — Uh Oh!

If I got a snow forecast wrong people knew and were VERY upset. After all, I claim I can predict the future. People would come up to me on the street or at the market and let me know. No one wants to disappoint the people who trust you — certainly not me.

American GFS computer mode – 12Z 10June2018

It’s winter in South America and the forecast in Santiago, Chile called for snow. It didn’t snow. Snow is a rarity in Santiago, Chile. They get snow, not often. It’s a Mediterranean climate — just what we have here in SoCal.

Which brings us to the message I got Monday afternoon from a reporter at Las Últimas Noticias, a national newspaper in Chile.

Hello Geoff.

Thank you for answering.

Last week, all the forecast said it will be a snowfall this Monday morning. Even the schools closed. Most of people took the prediction as something extremely catastrophic. Well, the predictions failed. The TV weather men and women had to give some explanations. There are a lot of complains and jokes on Twitter about this. So here are some questions:

-How difficult is to predict a snowfall?

-What factors do you have to consider make it?

-Is it a matter of technology? The snowfall forecasts in US don’t fail too much?

-Have you made mistakes in situations like this? What do you do next? Is it good or not to try a kind of apologize?

-In Chile, at least, the weather in TV channels is a kind of terrorific issue. A heavy rain prediction, for example, is almost the end of the world, even with a terrorific music in the background. What do you think about that?

-Do the weather sell in TV?

Thank you
Ariel Diéguez
Las Últimas Noticias

I’m not sure how he found me, but of course I answered.

Of all the predictions meteorologist make, snow is arguably the most difficult. It is a multistage forecast. It’s not just how much moisture is in the atmosphere, but the temperature at different levels in the atmosphere. A small change in temperature is the deciding factor between rain and snow, or even sleet (ice pellets) or freezing rain (rain falls as liquid but freeze immediately on contact with trees, power lines, roadways, etc.).

We used to do this all ourselves. Computers have made life much easier because computer models follow the drops as they fall and figure out their state at every stage. Humans can’t do this alone — much too complex.

The technology has gotten much better over time, but snow forecasts are much more complex than most others. Cloud temperatures decided how fluffy snow is. Snow can range from 6 or 7:1 (7 cm snow from 1 cm liquid) to 30:1 or higher! So, how much snow will fall is very difficult to forecast and almost never exactly right.

I was on TV for 30 years in Connecticut, about 100 km northeast of NYC. If I got a snow forecast wrong people knew and were VERY upset. After all, I claim I can predict the future. People would come up to me on the street or at the market and let me know. No one wants to disappoint the people who trust you — certainly not me.

The number of wrong forecasts is definitely a fraction of what it was 30 years ago. No one is happier about that than me!

I have apologized on-the-air. Absolutely. I take responsibility. The forecast is mine, not the computer’s. I ask you to believe me.

Weather is the single most cited reason for people to watch local TV news. People accuse us of hyping storms, or making them scarier than they are. No. No. No. No. There is no upside to being wrong.

One more thing — Chile doesn’t make the forecast easier by sitting alongside the Pacific. Though we now have satellite observations, much of the Pacific has no surface weather observations. This leads to poor initialization of the computer models and garbage in/garbage out.

Ari – let me know if there’s anything else you need.

Glad to help,
Geoff

A Connecticut Facebook friend in Santiago promises to keep an eye out for the story.

A Few Moments With My Dad

Just got off Facetime with my dad. He’s feeling a little tired today.

We chatted for a few minutes. Nothing important. Roseanne. Politics. Somehow, how surreal it was to think of him as a sailor.

I had never heard this before. He told me what his father said as my 18 year old father left for WWII. His recollection: vivid.

“Don’t kiss any strange girls.” Thank you Grandpa Jack.

In another part of the conversation we were talking… well, does it make a diff the topic because this really works in all situations.

“Geoffrey, I am 92 years old. I have seen stupid people in my life.”

Yes he has.

So Here’s The Plan

A few weeks ago my sister told me the good news. My dad’s doctor said he was healthy enough to fly. We began to make plans to bring him west.

Then reality set in. My sister was never strong on the idea, but didn’t have the heart to stop us. My niece was wary too and told me so.

It led to one of those awkward conversations where father and son sheepishly came to the same sad conclusion. Practicality over fantasy. My dad had permission to fly, but was he prepared to spend a full day traveling then do it again on the way back?

And so the trip was scotched. Of course that’s not the end of the story.

I purchased tickets tonight. Helaine, Stef and I will be heading to Milwaukee for Father’s Day weekend.

“What are we going to do with Doppler?” Helaine worried. We have no one close-by to leave her with. So guess who’s taking her first airplane ride!

My father got the news on Facetime this afternoon. “I’m very excited,” he said. Me too. Us too.

In spite of having grown up in Queens and her husband Jeff in Washington Heights, my sister and brother-in-law have planted their roots in Wisconsin. Three children. Four grandchildren. And, of course, my dad.

Can’t wait to see them all.

And the Phillies will be in town!

The Political Come To Jesus Meeting About To Take Place

I watched cable news this morning as reporters and anchors tried to explain how Michael Cohen’s accepting money from AT&T, Novartis, Korea Aerospace and a billionaire pal of Vladimir Putin’s was probably legal and the job description of loads of Washingtonians. Business as usual!

What I’m saying is we needn’t worry how retired US Senator John Boehner will afford his newly embraced pot love. Selling access in Washington is big business. Boehner’s easy to pick on but it’s Democrats too.

I’m hoping this will open a national dialog about the position of money in government. I’ve used “come to Jesus meeting” in my title with the understanding it means a frank discussion about a very serious problem that needs immediate action. That’s us.

Obviously, AT&T, Novartis and the others who ‘gave at the office’ felt there were real profits to be made by buying Michael Cohen’s time and shaping his opinion. I find that entirely disgusting.

Before the recent tax bill was passed, The Hill reported this tidbit from Congressman Chris Collins of New York.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) had been describing the flurry of lobbying from special interests seeking to protect favored tax provisions when a reporter asked if donors are happy with the tax-reform proposal.

“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’ ” Collins replied.

Here’s who they are:

Fewer than one in fifty of Collins’ campaign dollars comes from small individuals. Those weren’t little guys asking for this bill.

When you see obviously unpopular legislation (net neutrality and consumer financial rules as two examples) and wonder how could that possibly become law–see above.

If It Looks Like I’m Showing Off…

If it looks like I’m showing off weather maps lately it’s because I am.

It’s pretty amazing how far Greg and I have come. We’re doing something very different, adapting tools made for more scholarly pursuits.

These are not the maps I’d use to prepare a forecast. They’re designed for show and tell — to point at.

This project might be more detailed than even building my studio. I’m certainly learning more.

Greg writes most of the back end code, I handle the stuff you see, mainly written in an arcane macro language called .gs. Each map is hand crafted with all sorts of decisions for look and feel. They’re all similar but different depending on scale, topography or my judgement the moment of creation.

What’s posted here are 800×450 gifs. Internally I use 1920×1080 mp4s. The maps look good.

This would be impossible without Open Source programs like QGIS, ffmpeg, GrADS, NaturalEarth database and even the OpenSans font family! And it all runs on Centos Linux, also Open Source.

About 80 tasks are in the scheduler. Half run every hour 24/7/365, the others four times a day. Each frame in an animation is an individually rendered map. Tens of thousands are produced daily. Most are never be seen before being overwitten.

My box doesn’t do everything yet, but it’s getting closer. Each additional piece makes it easier to code the piece that follows.

It’s good to get excited.

No One Wants To Get This Text

I got that shitty text no one wants to get this morning. Cousin Gary was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December. This morning he died.

It is an awful disease–a cruel killer with no regard for who you are or how good you were. Gary was a good guy. My friend Kevin, taken by pancreatic cancer ten years ago, was a good guy too.

Don’t get a false impression by my ‘cure.’ There is no actual cure for pancreatic cancer. My cancer was found and removed before it spread. That is the only way in 2018.

“Clean margins,” was the surgeon’s verdict after six hours in surgery. It was what we wanted to hear.

Only one in three can get this surgery. Only one in three of those have this result.

People call all the time to talk about pancreatic cancer. It’s a role I’ve taken on willingly. Most of the time I know how things are going to end before we begin.

There is research ongoing, but this is a particularly tough disease. There is no definitive test for pancreatic cancer other than a physical biopsy. It’s not a routine test because it’s surgery.

Though only 3% of all cancers, pancreatic cancer accounts for 7% of deaths. It’s fast and efficient. The five year survival rate for those whose cancer was detected after it began to spread is 3%.

So, we root for smart doctors and the really brave patients who let them experiment on them with trials, so far mainly ineffective. And we remind the families, like my cousins today, how much we love them and how much of their pain is shared deep inside.

It hurts me Gary suffered for one minute. I hate this damn disease.