Are Forecasters Liable?

Drudge has linked to an article from a Central Florida TV station that’s interesting and worrisome.

Hotel Mogul Threatens Lawsuit Over Hurricane Expert’s Gloomy Forecasts

Rosen: Fla. Lost Billions Of Dollars Because Of Incorrect Storm Outlook

I’m a non-believer in seasonal forecasts because I think, by and large, they’re awful – aka, inaccurate. By the way, the same goes for all the Global Warming hype.

Here’s what I wrote to a viewer earlier tdoay:

Viewer: I’m just wondering what the outlook is for the 2007-08 winter season. A lot of snow, not much but colder. I heard we arent’ going to get much snow. Please advise. Thanks.

Geoff: I don’t believe in them. We don’t currently have the skill. Most long range forecasts end in embarrassment for the forecaster.

Should there be a monetary downside to a bad prediction? Neither Gray nor anyone other forecaster claims divine insight and 100% accuracy. He used the best techniques known to science.

More importantly, I don’t think anyone expects 100% accuracy.

I tend to think Harris Rosen’s rhetoric is bluster and no more… but who knows? Maybe he does have a case. I’m sure there’s a lawyer willing to help him.

But why go after Dr. Gray? There are other seasonal hurricane forecasts from forecasters with deeper pockets. AccuWeather comes to mind, though there are probably others.

I’ve got a dollar that says the attorney won’t forecast the outcome nor guarantee it.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Central Florida’s most famous hotel owner, Harris Rosen, lashed out at hurricane expert Dr. William Gray for his gloomy storm predictions saying they have damaged state tourism.

“Look, doctor, you’ve made these forecasts and you were wrong once,” Rosen said. “You made the forecast and you were wrong twice. Are you going to continue to make these forecasts?”

The hotel mogul said surveys show 70 percent of guests not returning to his hotels cited hurricane fears as the reason why.

“I suspect it costs the state billions of dollars,” Rosen said. “Five thousand people scheduled to attend my association meeting and I’m looking at Orlando and it is September or October, I may say, ‘Why take a chance.'”

Rosen said if people would stop paying attention to Gray, more people would come to Central Florida, Local 6’s Chris Trenkmann said.

Other business owners are angry at Gray’s predictions.

John Smith, who runs a plywood alternative company that has benefited from busy storm seasons, spends thousand of dollars when an active year is predicted.

“What we do is stock up,” Smith said. “When there is a let down, we have all of our capital invested in materials and you know, we have to wait until the next big weather event.”

More and more business owners said they prefer that prognosticators keep their outlooks to themselves.

“A local meteorologist would not last as long as some of these prediction artists have been in business,” Smith said.

Gray responded to Rosen’s complaint, saying anytime there is a catastrophic hurricane season like in 2004, there will be a slowing down or hesitancy to return to Florida, Trenkmann reported.

Gray, of Colorado State University, predicted 17 named storms with nine becoming hurricanes.

The 2007 storm count came short of Gray’s predicted totals and no hurricanes came near Florida in 2007.

The last time Central Floridians dealt with a major hurricane was in 2004.

Hurricane season officially ends Friday.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

3 thoughts on “Are Forecasters Liable?”

  1. I was wondering how long it would take for someone to try to sue over a forecast. Does this mean that before and after every broadcast, we’re going to be subjected to disclaimers, like they do with the drug advertisements?

    btw, Geoff – I’m going to Florida on vacation March 13 thru 20 in 2008 – what will the weather be like?


  2. …and it’ll sound something like:

    “Channel 37 Weather is brought to you by Rick’s car wash, now open on the east side”

    “Warning… Due to the way mother nature works, forecasts might be inaccurate more that 36 hours out.”

    (music) “Now your Channel 37 storm tracker-first alert-weather plus forecast from the storm team weather lab-center-area-patio-deck-garden featuring super-duper ultra doppler 37,000,000,000,000”


  3. Is there an AMS code of ethics? Curious about that. In the legal profession, you are prohibited from guaranteeing a result- not that this doesn’t happen I’m sure.

    Academically interested if there is such a code. Could a member be thrown out of AMS? Has that ever happened?

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