Posts Tagged ‘Gil Simmons’

 

This Snow’s Got Potential

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Some folks like snow. Some folks don’t. Count me in the don’t column.

OKAY….I am loving this potential for tomorrow….just an fyi ! :-)

snowy-wood-pile.jpgThat was a tweet I got from Gil Simmons. Count him as a do.

His love doesn’t make any difference does it? We don’t control it. We can only hope to be right.

I am a poker player. I can’t tell you how many pots I’ve lost while playing my hand perfectly. Stuff happens. Educated predictions don’t always work. Still, this potential Nor’easter for Wednesday is tantalizingly well modeled by the computers.

Actually, there’s no way to know that until after the storm! It’s been consistently modeled. That’s for sure.

If you forecast weather you begin to assume that consistent outputs from the computers mean they have a handle on what’s going on.

Wait. I’m going to add a proviso again.

Consistent output means the storm’s relative position and strength remains constant run-after-run-after-run. It decidedly doesn’t mean consistency in predicting how much snow. That’s never consistent! The amount… the “quantitative precipitation forecast” is never right. Never! And, of course, it’s what the viewers want the most.

Here’s what I think I know.

  • Wednesday start, just before dawn.
  • Wettish snow to start, but becoming fluffier over the day.
  • Strong, gusty northeast winds–a classic Nor’easter.
  • Reasonable chance for thundersnow and/or a snow burst in the afternoon.
  • At least a half foot of snow. Probably much more.

The amount of snow is less important than most people make it out to be. It’s like worrying about changing diapers before your child is born. Trust me–diapers are the least of your worries!

Once the ground is covered 90% of the problems are in place. Yup, somewhere between ¼″ and ½″ is all it takes. This state screeches to a halt!

Three inches is another break point. Until then snow is easily cleared. Above three inches and many roads lose lanes as snow piles up at the curb.

Once we’re above eight inches additional snow hardly matters! Pretty much all optional outdoor activity has been cancelled. Cars on residential streets are plowed in, much to the consternation of their owners.

For me it’s a better time to travel because nearly everyone else is off the road. I am a speedy driver except in snow! I respect snow.

Most likely Wednesday’s storm is in this last accumulation category. Nearly everything will stop!

Five more model runs (every six hours) before it hits. I’ll deconstruct them all.

These Snow Forecasts Never Get Easier

Friday, December 18th, 2009

nws watches map.jpgThe weekend snow seems to be coming into sharper focus. I say “seems” because I won’t know for sure until the whole thing is gone. It’s been a wild, incredibly inconsistent ride which isn’t over yet.

Last night before going on-the-air I looked closely at the 00Z¹ GFS and NAM models. The NAM called for a blizzard. The GFS had a windy day with light snow.

Before bed I took another look.

The 06Z runs were in. The NAM had gone from Armageddon to nothing! It was now showing the storm missing us! I sent a text message to Gil Simmons who was already preparing his forecast at work:

Geoff: Nam to 60h. Sorry snowman.

Gil: WTF. Gfs still had some measurable.

Gil: Nothing like flushing hrs of work

Gil: What a joke

He was right–What a joke. With all this heavyweight computing power and myriad observations this was the best we could do-vague and inconsistent guidance!

I went to bed.

I woke up this morning and checked my phone. Craig Allen, New York’s best known broadcast meteorologist, was on Facebook. He was complaining about the Weather Service’s freshly issued “Blizzard Watch” for Long Island. It was much too early considering the inconsistency of the forecast and the immense impact on the weekend before Christmas.

By experience on-air forecasters understand it’s easier to cancel an event than un-cancel it! There’s no harm in waiting a little while longer. On the other hand there’s plenty of downside committing to a watch too early.

Before starting this entry I took a look at the 12Z GFS and NAM. Major snow is back in the NAM. The GFS has become less of an outlier and is now closer to (but still less than) the NAM solution. These models and a few more will form the basis for my forecast today.

I will spend the next few hours mulling over each detail. How much wind? When will the snow start? Will there be a burst period? What about the critical cloud temperatures which will define the snow’s fluff factor.

In the end I’ll hope to be close. There’s no bullseye in snow forecasts. You’re never exactly right. You can only hope people are well prepared and critics cut you a little slack.

¹ – To achieve global consistency all weather data is produced in “Z” time aka UTC or GMT. This time of year it’s five hours ahead of EST. So 00Z means 7:00 PM EST. That’s the initialization time. It takes a few hours for the results to trickle out.

The Long Trip Home – McCarran Airport

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Uneventful flight from Ontario. Our plane leaves at 2:00 PST. Hoping for land-able weather at Bradley tonight. More than likely we’ll be fine.

At the moment I’m taking advantage of the free WiFi here to download a few things to watch on my iPhone (which contains an iPod). Just podcasts and the like. Nothing special.

In other news, the first tweet I read upon landing was Gil Simmons’ engagement! That was a surprise to me. Of course I hardly ever see Gil with our schedules at opposite ends of the clock.

It’s impossible to remove yourself from the stream of information today.

Back to CT later tonight. Aloha.

So, What Did You Do At Work Today?

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

I got to work this afternoon as thunderstorms were firing. No surprise there. They had been well forecast by me (and everyone I would hope). As the afternoon progressed the storms increased in intensity until, just before 6:00 PM, we went to a Tornado Warning for Fairfield and New Haven Counties.

It might be different in the Midwest, but here we go wall-to-wall with Tornado Warnings and so we dropped what was scheduled for our newscast and began to do live weather.

When you start live coverage, you have no idea how long it will last–I certainly didn’t. Ten minutes in, Gil Simmons (our morning meteorologist) came in. He wasn’t dressed for TV, but he strapped on a mic and helped out off-camera. I can’t begin to tell you how helpful he was.

By the time we rejoined regular programming, I’d been on-the-air live for a little over an hour straight. It was all ad lib for me… and everyone else. You’ve got to remember, the producers, director and crew were trying to make sure we were all heading in the same direction, though we really couldn’t speak directly to each other. They were amazing–probably more than they realize.

I don’t think there were any tornadoes this afternoon. I’d rather have it work out that way. But while it was happening, who could tell?

The Modern Desktop Publisher Uses Video

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

About two years ago, a bunch of my friends got together to make a movie for an 8 hour film contest. One of the participants was Harvey. Harvey is a physician, heavy on the research, whose specialty is getting women pregnant.

He likes to say that. Me too.

One of the things Harvey has devised is a test used to better understand why some women don’t get pregnant… and how to change that. I’m oversimplifying, but you get the idea.

When we made the movie, Harvey knew nothing about video production. Because he had Final Cut Pro on his Mac laptop, and because he didn’t know how to use it, he asked if he could be our editor!

He wanted others, people who did know what they were doing, to teach him the software. That was a masterstroke.

That afternoon, Harvey began to edit. What he did was rudimentary, but before we began, Harvey didn’t know enough to know the extent of what he didn’t know!

I got an IM from Harvey yesterday. He was working on his own video project, explaining a medical test he’s devised for IVF candidates. Would I look at it?

What Harvey brought was a little rough. You could see it wasn’t done by someone who edited a lot. But, it was easy to see there was a really good and effective presentation hidden beneath the rough cuts.

First I, then my weather partner Gil Simmons, watched the video and took notes. Most of the problems were simple things – dissolves versus cuts and how to work around shaky shots. Harvey took it all in.

The really cool part was, Harvey had gotten so close by himself. He shot, wrote and edited the whole production¹ with no outside help.

We had dinner and Harvey headed home, hoping to begin cleaning the production up. We spoke again at 11:30 PM.

By this time, I was as anxious to make the video a success as he was. I drove to his home and spent nearly three hours with him working on graphic elements.

Final Cut Pro is an amazing product. Just using the tools he had at home, Harvey was beginning to have a very slick looking production. It will end up being burned on DVDs and put on the web as Flash video.

There is a moral to this story. The kind of production Harvey assembled could have cost well into five figures – and it would have been worth it. Now, effective video production can be done by anyone, even a multiply doctored academician from Yale!

It’s true he needed some professional help to get him on track, but he was incredibly close to success all on his own. Non-linear editing tools allowed us to manipulate the project where it needed to be with little trouble.

Video production is the most powerful storytelling medium ever devised by man. It has been democratized.

¹ – Writing is probably the most important part of video production. A well written story is the blueprint which guides how everything is assembled. Good writers are tough to come by.

Talking Up New Haven

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

We’re getting some equipment installed at work. That means a support tech in from Madison, WI and lots of extra time on-the-job (for both of us). Tonight he and I and Gil Simmons took a walk from the TV station to get dinner.

I’ve been meaning to say this, because I’ve been noticing it a lot more, but New Haven is becoming a happening place, especially downtown. I’ve been here 23 years and the changes are amazing.

As we walked past the Green and down Temple Street there was plenty of activity at outdoor cafes. I’m going to have to take Gil’s word, but the bar scene is happening. More importantly, there are now dozens of nice places to eat downtown.

People are also moving into the downtown area with some very pricey condo conversions. An old girdle factory, phone company building, and other office space have become apartments and condos. When people live in a city, it will thrive.

Make no mistake, New Haven has plenty of problems. You can’t watch my station or read the New Haven Register for long without reading about a shooting – often gang related. And, New Haven is still a very poor city, with lots of unemployed or underemployed people.

Gentrification often displaces people of more limited incomes who are priced out of the neighborhood. At the moment that’s less likely to happen here because there were few living downtown.

Out-of-towner’s think of Connecticut and visualize lower Fairfield County. New Haven is not Greenwich! This part of the state has little in common with the Gold Coast, beginning with income and housing prices.

I don’t think there was a tipping point – a magic moment when everything began to change for New Haven. It just happened organically. Now the pace is picking up.

Like I said, after 23 years here it’s a very welcome change.

It’s The Emmys

Friday, March 9th, 2007

It’s been a few years since I entered the Emmys. It’s a very weird competition. It’s totally arbitrary. Winning is totally without rhyme or reason. Judges get few guidelines.

Helaine thinks the whole process is ridiculous. She very well may be right.

One year I won. The next year I wasn’t nominated. Honest. Go figure.

I am lucky enough to have seven sitting in a case in my family room. From a practical standpoint, seven is the same as ten or three.

Actually, seven is better than ten. Having ten would make it look too easy.

All of this is the setup for what will transpire Sunday.

Gil Simmons, at my station, has volunteered to coordinate Emmy judging for the San Francisco/Northern California region. I volunteered the location, my house.

It looks like we’ll have six or seven of us watching the DVDs. The more the merrier. I sent a few more emails tonight, trying my best to guilt the last stragglers into coming.

For some of the younger guys¹, this will be a revealing process. Seeing how the Emmys are judged is helpful when you’re deciding what to submit the next year.

It will be interesting to see how they treat the weather in an area where weather usually isn’t as important. It will also be interesting to ‘take notes’ on how their weather equipment is being used. We mostly use the same, or similar, tools. Sometimes you catch a glimpse of a technique or twist you hadn’t thought of.

Last time I was a judge there were moments when I wondered, “What were they thinking when they sent in this tape?” Hopefully, that won’t be the case again.

¹ – It has been pointed out, all the weather people in this market are men… white men. That’s becoming more and more unusual.

New Haven Rainbow

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

Photo from my Motorola RAZR cameraphone

20 Jun ’06, 8.10pm EDT

Originally uploaded by Geoff Fox.

A wicked line of thunderstorms moved through Connecticut this evening. I went out with my RAZR cellphone – but the pictures it takes aren’t all that great. Here’s what Gil Simmons saw, using the camera in his Treo 700W.

Higher resolution and better definition pay off when you’re shooting a rainbow – decidedly low contrast.

The thunderstorms never got down here, though parts of the state were pummeled.


Taking My Work Home With Me

Monday, December 5th, 2005

I’ve just taken a look at the late night computer runs. For the past few days there’s been snow in the forecast for Monday night/Tuesday morning. It’s a big deal, because snow on the ground at wakeup time means lots of school cancellations, delays, and other grief.

It would be so nice if this was an easy forecast. Of course it is not.

Here’s the simple truth. No one cares about the difficulty of my job. All they care about is whether I get it right! That’s as it should be.

Earlier today, Gil Simmons, another one of our meteorologists, sent me an email. He was worried because the two models we most depend on were in total disagreement! Even tonight there’s a 10:1 ratio between their predictions of precipitation.

I can’t think of anyone who forecasts the weather who doesn’t take a peek at the data, even on days off.

Luckily I won’t have to address this ‘in public’ until 5:00 PM. By then the computer will have churned a few more times. The storm will be closer. There will be a better chance to see how the models initialized.

I’m sure I’ve written this before, but here’s my secret. I don’t have to bag the numbers exactly. Is there a difference between how you deal with 3″ versus 5″, or 9″ versus 13″? No.

Close is good enough.

The real criteria will be, once the snow is falling will people be prepared. If they feel they got the right warning, I’m off the hook… until the next storm.

I don’t want to be wrong. It is painful to be wrong. After all these years of forecasting, it’s the my greatest work related fear.

The Snow is Finished

Sunday, January 23rd, 2005

Yesterday was my day off – but how could I not work with a major storm coming! I went to work about 2:00 PM and, with Gil Simmons, did cut-ins through the afternoon. Then, I was on the news at 5, 6, 10 and 11, did more cut-ins through the evening and cut some special forecasts which ran on the station’s Internet site.

The snow didn’t come up to my expectations, though it was pretty bad. Some areas did get the two feet I called for. Most did not.

However, I didn’t get more than one or two small complaints – and I got nearly 700 emails this weekend! So, the forecast must have been close enough to prepare people for what came – and it was pretty awful.

After a storm like this I like to write and thanks everyone who went out and measured snow or sent me a snapshot. Attached below is what I sent.

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