Posts Tagged ‘meteorologist’

 

When In Doubt, Blame The Weatherman… Again

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

georgia snow

When in doubt, blame the weatherman! Maybe there was a time that worked. It doesn’t anymore. The governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, understands that better today than yesterday.

Tuesday at 10:00 AM, as a crippling snow and ice storm was moving through the south, Governor Deal said,

“At that time it was still, in most of the forecasts, anticipated that the city of Atlanta would only have a mild dusting or a very small accumulation if any, and that the majority of the effects of the storm would be south of here. Preparations were made for those predictions.”

Except those weren’t the predictions.

Here’s a segment of the NWS Area Forecast Discussion from Tuesday at 4:11 AM:

IN MAIN BAND FOR THE AFTERNOON AND TONIGHT…HAVE SNOW/SLEET AMOUNTS OF 1-3 INCLUDING ATL METRO. GREATEST AMOUNT ALONG A BROAD LINE FROM LA GRANGE TO THOMASTON TO LOUISVILLE. BUT SOUTH OF LUMPKIN TO MACON TO SWAINSBORO LINE…ACCUM WILL BE 0.1-0.3 INCH MIX OF SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN WITH UP TO AN INCH OF LIGHT SNOW ON TOP. ALL THESE ACCUMULATION… OTHER THAN THE NW GA LIGHT BAND…WILL MEET WARNING CRITERIA SO HAVE CONTINUED WARNING AND EXPANDED THIS TO ANOTHER TIER OF COUNTIES INCLUDING ATL METRO AREA.

FINAL NOTE…WE REMAIN CONCERNED ABOUT IMPACT WITH ONSET OF PRECIP AROUND RUSH HOUR AND SCHOOL RELEASE.

The governor has now been taken to task by pretty much everyone who knows the definition of the isobar!

Marshall Shepherd, a meteorologist with the University of Georgia and president of the American Meteorological Society, said neither meteorologists nor the forecast for the Atlanta area was to blame.

“The buses had a tough time getting kids home, but meteorologists should not be thrown under the bus,” he said.

At 3:39 a.m. Tuesday, Marshall said the weather service issued a winter storm warning for the entire Atlanta metro area, expecting 1-2 inches of snow. “Overall, the Atlanta event was a well-forecasted and well-warned event,” he said. – USAToday

This reminds me of Connecticut’s Halloween snowstorm of 2011. You remember Jeff Butler, the president of CL&P.

“But I will assure you, when we had the weather forecast and everything we looked at in preparation for this storm, the amount of snow, which ended up being the problem, was far more significant than what had been forecast,” he said.”This event as it came in Saturday started earlier and lasted longer, with more snow accumulation–and remember, all the trees still had their foliage on them.” Butler’s comments stood in stark contrast to the dire warnings issued by local television meteorologists and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday, more than 24 hours before the first flakes fell. “If we get the amount of snow that’s being forecast, a lot of people are going to lose power, and power is going to be out for an extended period of time,” Malloy told reporters at a news conference at the Legislative Office Building late Friday morning. – Hartford Courant

I don’t think so. Here’s what I wrote in my blog a few days before that storm hit.

Whatever falls will be heavier inch-for-inch than a typical storm. The snow to water ratio will be low. It’s the kind of snow that’s good for snowballs and extra slippery for drivers!

There’s one more element of this storm which is worrisome. Sustained 20-30 mph northeasterly wind with higher gusts is likely. If this wet snow clings to trees and leaves we’ll have enough wind to bring down limbs and power lines. – My Permanent Record

I wasn’t alone. NBC30′s Ryan Hanrahan’s early take:

“One of the reasons I’m unusually concerned about this storm is that the amount of leaves on the trees make them particularly vulnerable to damage. If the snow is of the heavy and wet variety we could have major and widespread power outages. We’re in uncharted territory here in terms of this type of storm this early in the season.” – Ryan Hanrahan

This same excuse was trotted out after Hurricane Sandy left Long Island powerless! Are we that easy a target?

What happened in Georgia is truly a tragedy. It would have been nice to get a really long lead on this forecast, but sometimes science doesn’t cooperate. However, once the forecast is there you can’t stick your head in the sand and you can’t blame the weatherman.

Well, you can, but we’ll call you on it in a hurry.

In A Pissing Match Everyone Gets Wet

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

cantore-weather-channel

The Weather Channel and DirecTV have gone past the end of their carriage agreement with no new contract in sight. Let the PR games begin!

It’s only been the last few years that cable companies, satellite providers, stations and networks began airing their disputes in public, asking for your help to make sure channels don’t disappear. That makes me uncomfortable.

From my vantage, this dispute seems the most public and potentially ugliest so far. The Weather Channel is both DirecTV’s supplier and competitor–mostly owned by NBC/Universal, which itself is owned by Comcast! Comcast has to be careful they’re not teaching their suppliers how to beat them at their own game!

The Weather Channel of 2014 isn’t the same service that John Coleman began in 1982. Back then it was 100% weather presented without much sizzle. Today’s TWC is much more slickly packaged with lots of non-weather programming. DirecTV says, “more than 40 percent of The Weather Channel’s programming is dedicated to reality television shows.”

Beyond that, its iconic “Local on-the-8s” forecast is no longer uniformly delivered. In Connecticut, Comcast didn’t provide the local forecast on TWC’s HD channel. The forecast on TWC’s standard def channel was for the shoreline and often inapplicable where I lived a few hundred feet up on Mount Carmel. Here in Irvine, AT&T Uverse doesn’t provide it at all.

It’s also a problem for DirecTV subscribers.

Since we are a national service provider, we’re unable to offer local updates through The Weather Channel the way that local-based companies can.

The Weather Channel is facing a financial reality some all news channels are also facing. People watch when the weather’s compelling and don’t when it isn’t. That’s part of the reason for the move into (easily preempted) unscripted non-fiction.

weathernationThe wild card in all this is DirecTV’s ace in-the-hole, WeatherNation. A few weeks ago DirecTV began carrying WeatherNation right next to The Weather Channel. Begun by Paul Douglas, a Minneapolis area meteorologist for years and innovator in computer graphics, WN reminds me of the ‘old’ Weather Channel. It’s all weather with clean graphics, nothing fancy. It looks like a lean operation with the on-camera meteorologists acting as their own director, switching the show live on-air.

The Weather Channel is pushing back on-air and on-line. Jim Cantore, their most recognizable meteorologist/personality, has become the company spokesman.

But now DIRECTV is threatening to remove this critical life-saving community resource from 20 million households.

The problem is TWC probably isn’t where you should go when weather is critical. You’re nearly always better served going to a source which specifically concentrates on your specific area.

In the end this dispute isn’t about competition or technology or even “life-saving.” This is about money and power. When an agreement is reached (it will be) both DirecTV and The Weather Channel will shut up and play on.

Today it’s a pissing match and unfortunately, in a pissing match everyone gets wet!

This Is Your Doing: “Best Of” New Haven Advocate

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

I was feeling sorry for myself when the New Haven Advocate announced their annual reader’s poll. Maybe you remember? I asked for your vote on Facebook, Twitter and my blog.

The rules allow for electioneering. I had something to prove–something I still wanted to show.

The results are now in, appearing in last week’s Advocate (but for some frustrating reason not online). You done good!

Geoff Fox got more votes than the combined totals in many categories. He got so many votes we stopped
counting them. Seriously. The spreadsheet just went on and on and on. In our entire history of Best Of voting, we’ve never seen so many votes for one winner.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate your support… except to say I appreciate it a lot.

Is this vindication? I think so, but maybe I’m still a little too anxious about being vindicated.

From the New Haven Advocate: Geoff Fox was not on the air while we conducted this year’s Best Of New. Haven readers’ poll. The former WTNH meteorologist’s contract was not renewed in January, and, for the first time since we have been running our annual survey, there would be no reason for our readers to fill in his name for Best Local TV Personality — an honor that had been bestowed on him many times during his 26-year tenure covering snowstorms and heat waves, and reporting on science and technology, for Channel 8′s news team.

Nevertheless, this was his biggest year ever. Call it a sympathy vote. We don’t know what we got ’til it’s gone. But one thing was clear when we counted this year’s votes: Geoff Fox got more votes than the combined totals in many categories. He got so many votes we stopped counting them. Seriously. The spreadsheet just went on and on and on. In our entire history of Best Of voting, we’ve never seen so many votes for one winner.

So instead of awarding him Best TV Personality, we are taking a leap and bestowing on him a special honor. Call it The Best of The Best: The Readers’ Favorite. Think of it as our first unofficial inductee into a New Haven Hall of Fame.

This year’s poll was our biggest year ever as well — we received well over 112,000 total votes in 16 categories. For those uninitiated, every year we run a ballot in print and online for four weeks beginning in February. Readers are asked to fill in their favorite places, on everything from Best New Restaurant to Best Hardware Store. There are no staff filtered nominations — every person, business or institution is eligible. We then spend days counting the votes.
The results are so big that we publish them in two issues.

Taken together, these two volumes (also available online as of May 12 on newhavenadvocate.com) not only provide a useful tool for discovering the best places to eat, shop, work out in and get healthy, but it is also a great overview of the quality of life and vitality in our region.

This year we introduced a few new categories — including Best Chef and Best Cupcakes. As usual, we have our share of repeat winners, but we are always excited to see newbies, too. You’ll have to check the following pages to see the results — no previews here.

We first met Fox more than a decade ago at one of our winners’ receptions. He was charming and engaging, as personable and funny in person as he is on air. We have spent a few hours together since then, and observed that Fox is, in the words of computer nerds from the 1980s, truly WYSIWIG —- that is, What You See Is What You Get. Fox defies stereotypes in many ways, but mostly by his curiosity and his smarts. He’s a technology buff — he
built his own computer and website, and he’s an amateur photographer as a well as a ham adio buff. He’s also a long-time pop culture vulture, the kind of guy who will reference Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “Mickey’s Monkey” as fluently as he will tell you how much he enjoys the latest TV phenomenon.

We have been at some of the hundreds of charity events he has graciously hosted — including our own Best Of New Haven celebrations on occasion — and laughed at his asides while he makes everyone feel comfortable. We have read his blog (geofffoxcom) while he traced the destructive path of Hurricane Katrina, concemed about a friend’s mother who was living in New Orleans at the time. (He called three days before the storm hit and told her she
needed to leave; he now says the house was destroyed and she would have been killed.)

We have invited him metaphorically into our living room, to find out whether we needed an umbrella the next day, and, like any weatherman (or meteorologist) he is very often accurate but sometimes not. We have heard people joke about how he always gets the weather wrong, even on days when he gets it right. And when he does blow it, perhaps most unusually of all, he apologizes, as he famously did last winter for a storm that never roared.

”People think we hype the forecast numbers,” he says, “but there’s no upside to being wrong. If I say there is going to be half an inch of snow or 15 inches, there’s no difference in the ratings. The word ‘snow’ is the magic word. Believe me, I don’t want to be wrong and I don’t want to hype.”

In the days just before we went to press, Fox the TV station announced that Fox the meteorologist would be joining the station’s news team. The seven-time regional Emmy Award winner now does the weather and a science segment for WTIC weeknights at 4 and 11 p.m., and billboards promoting his return to the airwaves light up the interstate.

Welcome back, Geoff. And see you next year. – Josh Mamis

I’m Ready For My Cameo

Friday, April 8th, 2011

I was in my car on my way home from Orange yesterday afternoon when I reached my friend Peter’s voicemail. Peter and I met as adults, but we understand each other’s background. We were both A/V Squad member nerdy geeks. We grew up separately, but on parallel paths.

“I’ve just been with us when we were in high school,” I said at the sound of the tone.

My trip to Orange started with an email from Nick Minore.

For my English final project, a group of students and myself are working on developing a student-produced news broadcast utilizing works of literature that we’ve read throughout our studies. Our plan is to take events from literature and report on them as real-world events, including weather, sports, finance, and movie reviews.

We came up with the idea to describe the weather and then thought of you. Would you be willing to assist us with our project by helping us produce a real-world weather broadcast? One of our group members has developed a studio, complete with lighting, sound equipment, and a full-sized green screen.

This is the kind of thing I normally don’t do, but I was curious.

The studio was located in a pool house behind Nick’s family’s home. The single room ‘house’ with ceilings high enough for lights is just the right size for a studio!

What amazed me was how well equipped Nick was. He didn’t have broadcast quality equipment or even many cases TV specific equipment. What he did have was an understanding of what was needed and the ability to ad lib and adapt.

The fill lights were decorative lanterns with paper shades that diffused the light. The blue chromakey wall was a sheet. A microphone was hung from a beam supporting the roof. There was a “control room in a box” TriCaster that Nick borrowed from a local producer he works for.

Nick’s father who fabricates metal for high performance race cars built an aluminum camera jib that would be the envy of most high end production companies! Seriously. Nice job.

Nick was accompanied by three other college bound Notre Dame High School students in Mrs. DelVecchio’s English class. One was the weatherman, the other two were the crew. I was there for a cameo!

A moment after the weatherman began to deliver his forecast I walked in and asked if this was where the meteorologist auditions were taking place. Funny? Maybe.

Did I add anything to their presentation? Probably not. In this case I was the one who got a treat by meeting these industrious kids.

Note to Mrs. DelVecchio: These kids love you. Whatever you’re doing, don’t stop.

The Not Really A Blizzard Blizzard

Monday, December 27th, 2010

I am bushed! I know my job isn’t physical labor, but today it was very draining. I started around 1:00 PM and went until 11:35 PM.

A lot of people do a whole lot more. How do you do that?

From a meteorologist’s standpoint today was very interesting. I know now there’s no way I could have predicted snow accumulations accurately. I think most people caught on to that viscerally. Basically there was so much wind the snow was blown into drifts which had the effect of compacting the total.

This is one of those cases where one plus one doesn’t equal two! It was possible to have an inch of snow one hour, an additional inch the next and end up with under an inch of snow!

How many feathers does it take to fill a bag? Similar quandary.

The wind was… still is at this hour… crazy. We seldom get 50 or 60 mph winds, but we did tonight and they were widespread.

I spent the my time on the air telling people to stay off the roads, but by the time I left the building the snow had temporarily let up and I made a dash for the house in Helaine’s 4WD SUV.

I took city streets instead of my usual missile flight up I-91. The main streets were plowed but very slippery. Once I turned onto the squiggly road that climbs my hill things became a little more dicey. The last half mile to my house had no visible tire tracks!

By the way, I stopped the car to take these photos. With all of you at home stopping in-the-middle of the road was no problem. Thanks.

Actually, I take that back. At one stop I had a little difficulty regaining my traction. A quick shift to reverse and a few feet of rollback solved the problem.

We had blizzard warnings tonight and certifiably rotten conditions. What we didn’t have (as I warned in a post a few days ago) was a blizzard! The official parameters are so stringent I’m not sure we ever could!

Maybe blizzard needs to be redefined.

Weather Stuff I Look At Every Day

Monday, October 18th, 2010

From time-to-time someone will walk up to me and tell me they’d like to be a meteorologist. If you’re younger, smarter and better looking than me while willing to work for less I’ll do my best to discourage you! Who needs the competition?

Lots of people are surprised there’s math involved. Yes there is! In the 21st Century spelling counts too.

I like the job a lot partially because I get to look at stuff like this every day. Here’s today’s BUFKIT output. Like Hebrew you read it from right-to-left.

Ask Me Anything–More Work Related Stuff

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I’m currently answering all your questions. Read more about it here.

From Jon comes: “Here at the Dallas/Ft. Worth TX station I work at our Weather guessers have been accused of being Weather Nazis when any rain starts to fall. They take over and viewers miss their programs. Do you ever get comments like that?”

Jon – I assume we break in a lot less than they do in Texas because we have a lot less ‘short fuse’ weather like tornadoes. There have been some complaints when we’ve gone wall-to-wall but we only do that when there’s a tornado warning–rare here. Our prime time for severe weather is late afternoon so we’re less likely to be blowing out people’s favorite shows.

If you ask our producers they’ll tell you I most often ask them to tone down not hype up coverage. Not always, but mostly.

Ken is wondering, “How much of the work do the on-air personalities do when determining the weather? Is it a job where you filter the analysis from a Weather center (or techies)… or are you doing the leg work yourself? I’ve always been curious about that.
Thanks!”

Yes Ken. I was chosen for my shapely gams!

No, actually our four main weather people are meteorologists. One has a PhD in physics. Another was trained by the Marines.

Dr. Mel, our PhD, knows more about weather history than any three people I know. He learned to forecast before computers did most of the heavy lifting. It boggles the mind.

When I first met Gil I was looking down my nose at USMC meteo training. I could not have been more wrong! The coursework he took and the practical experience he gained was second to none. He is among the finest, best trained forecasters I’ve ever met and I don’t throw that compliment lightly.

When I started on-the-air as a ‘weatherman’ I didn’t have a clue! I quickly realized I’d better learn what I was talking about. I did a lot of studying before finally going back and getting certified at Mississippi State University. I was awarded a certificate for academic excellence and finished with a 3.97 GPA. I have the AMS Seal. I also have seven Emmys, though that’s a performance and not accuracy based award.

Jonathon is pushing back a little. “It is my understanding there is only one sky. So why do you weather people say “skies will be cloudy”?

Jonathon, “Home on the Range” influence, plain and simple.

A nearly seasonably topical question from Paula. “Thank you so much for a chance to ask you questions. If you had the chance to fly through a hurricane again, would you? Which one of the adventures that you went on years ago was your favorite?”

In a heartbeat Paula! I’ve done it twice. It’s less scary than you might think. I actually wrote about that trip for my blog and it’s still available–just a click away.

My scariest adventure was flying in an F/A18 with the Blue Angels. We took off nearly vertically, flew upside down and in ever tightening inside turns. All of it was done while sitting on an explosive charge in the ejection seat!

I didn’t lose my lunch.

Craig wants my job… or one like it! “Are there any online schooling you can take to become a meteorologist? Can you reccomend anything for someone possibly interested in shifting career paths. I would like to work for the NWS. Thanks”

My MSU coursework was all online. It’s a lot harder to do it that way than in a classroom. You need a great deal of discipline and motivation. The MSU course isn’t calculus based (which no meteorologist uses in daily forecasting) and is not an accepted course to work for NWS.

The Agriculture Department used to have a distance learning course which was thorough and very difficult. I haven’t heard of it in years.

Job prospects in meteorology are very poor. NWS has fewer employees and TV stations are cutting back where they can.

The Forecast From Hell

Friday, December 18th, 2009

snowy-wood-pile.jpgThe past few days have been bitterly cold. Very unusual this early. It’s been an easy forecast to make. This Sunday there might be snow. It’s the forecast from hell!

All the computer models are pointing in different directions. The implication is there will be a big snowstorm. I just can’t tell you where.

Up in Buffalo, safely removed from this particular tumult, Don Paul threw out a forecast suggestion for us in the Northeast: “Accumulations may range from 3″ to 3′.”

He suggested we mumble that line and move on.

The models are seeded with real world data to get them initialized, but my usual favorite (GFS) has initialized with a poor understanding of a strong low in the Gulf of Mexico. Other models are forecasting snowfall in the multi-foot range. Are they any better initialized?

Our data is limited and often flawed. There are many places for which no data is received. I don’t quite understand how these models attempt to compensate for all the things we don’t measure. It has to weaken the model output.

As a meteorologist the uncertainty bothers me no end.

We’ve had a little discussion going on over at Facebook. Some of the talk is technical. This is generally a time when meteorologists talk it out. The scenarios are so complex it’s possible to miss something so talking is valuable.

In the end all our individual forecasts will vary a little. Most of the time most of us will be mostly right… and we’ll relax knowing we’ve dodged the bullet for now. There is no upside to being wrong.

After twenty five plus years these winter forecasts have gotten no easier to make. I’m sweating it out with you.

Have Hackers Unearthed Climate Change’s Real Inconvenient Truth?

Friday, November 20th, 2009

When people hear my opinions on human induced global warming they’re usually surprised… maybe shocked is a better word. I am a meteorologist with some training in climatology. I watched Al Gore present his global warming lecture as an invited guest in the White House. I’m a liberal. And yet I don’t believe we humans are changing our climate in a noticeable or troubling way.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for freeing ourselves from the grip of foreign oil, even if that’s painful in the short term. I’d like the air cleaner with less crap emitted by cars, trucks and industry. My goals are mostly the same as the goals of the global warming doomsayers.

Unfortunately, if you dissent on the issue of global warming you’re branded an idiot or heretic or maybe I’m in the pocket of big oil. The global warming theory proponents often have a religious-like fervor in their support. “How can you dismiss all the evidence,” they ask?

This is my blog. This isn’t the news. My level of fact checking is very low, but published reports say web servers at the England’s East Anglia Climate Research Unit have been hacked and some of the personal emails and data removed are damning!

It looks like some well publicized global warming evidence is the product of the books being cooked! It’s possible the loudest voices in this fight have been playing fast-and-loose with the truth when it doesn’t serve their purpose.

Even though I disagree with these people I am seriously shocked to hear this might be true. I expected the debate was educated and legitimate.

Here are two email snippets.

“I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” – Phil Jones

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.” – Kevin Trenberth

The problem is recent history has shown a halt to global warming over the last decade. Whatever the reason it doesn’t make sense to see this if the most well known theories are correct!

This is a story that’s just beginning to be written.

I don’t condone breaking into a computer, as these hackers allegedly did. I certainly don’t condone passing off lies as fact.

Using Cars To Help Forecast Weather

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

I’m not sure how I got on the mailing list to receive “Imaging Notes,” but I did. It’s a glossy magazine dedicated to “Earth Remote Sensing for Security, Energy and the Environment.”

It is geek porn as companies and suppliers show off their ability to sense and photograph the Earth from satellites. Spectacular images are the norm.

I was thumbing through my copy yesterday when I came across a small inset on the editorial page: “Sensing severe weather from automobiles.”

auto info on radar.jpgThe Doppler radar map on the left shows a typical display augmented by data from cars! How simple. How amazingly powerful!

“A distinct change in wind direction is observed by the automobile as it approaches the storm center, indicating inflows at ground level characteristic of tornado formation. This information is not available from either the fixed weather stations or the Doppler radar. Automobiles are already equipped with useful temperature and pressure sensors; simple rain and wind sensors could be readily added. Drawing data from the community of millions of vehicles on the road would complement our centralized satellite and ground-based weather data sources, enabling us to forecast development of severe weather and micro-weather with unprecedented accuracy.

Google’s new traffic data is already integrating realtime data from moving vehicles to enhance the utility of its product. Why not do the same to help initialize our weather models?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked with meteorologist friends about data initialization being a weak link in weather prediction. We just have too few observations to use. It would seem for short term predictions a dense carpet of additional observations might greatly increase our accuracy.

This still doesn’t put more sensors in the oceans or other inhospitable places, so the global and extended range implications seem minor. For thunderstorms, tornadoes and even the development of winter storms this could make a huge difference.

It’s the first I’ve heard of this at all.