The Forecaster’s Burning Ears

I have my name ‘forward searched.’ If a new entry comes on the Internet, or gets published in a newspaper, and if Google sees it (and they see everything) , they send me an email. I get asked for quotes about the weather all the time and I like to see what people write.

A few minutes ago, Google sent me a link. They’d found a new webpage with my name on it.

The link led to a site where there is an argument going on about me. How absolutely weird&#185. How many other problems must you solve before you get to me on life’s giant to-do list?

The combatants are on a site populated by weather lovers. By and large, these people like active weather and are disappointed when the forecast doesn’t follow. What they do is called ‘wishcasting’.

I think most forecasters overforecast snow. My forecasts tend to be conservative. On a seasonal basis, I would guess I forecast fewer inches of snow than any other meteorologist in Connecticut. No one gets them all. My forecasts are pretty accurate.

The link led directly to a post ridiculing my forecast. I learned a long time ago you don’t do that until AFTER the event.

Did anyone see Geoff Fox’s snowfall forecast. My jaw almost hit the ground when i saw 0-1″ for the shore and 2-3″ well inland with 4-7″ for the northern counties. That microcast is frying his brain or something. Anyone with a half a brain could forecast this storm better than that. Look at this consensus…

Another poster added:

he just went with precision microcast. Didnt even make his own forecast. I guess that leaves you the easy out…”the model was wrong” if you bust.

Followed by the closer:

Geoff fox may be right for THE WRONG REASONS based on the available data its STUPID to forecast what he did. Whoeever said it was based on that POS microcast was right. Thats exactly what he used he didnt forecast at all, use thermal profiles, etc. I refrained from emailing him but its sad. Even Brad Field told me “WOW…hes nuts, i would sell my house if we dont get accumulation on the shore”

This is one of the saddest things ive seen come out of that weather center

Brad is my friend. I’m sure I’ve said worse about him. No foul.

You know, it wasn’t too long ago this stuff would have bothered me. I’m on TV. I understand people will judge me.

Some people did come to my defense. They’ll be receiving something extra for Christmas.

Here’s the payoff:

Well, it look like Geoff Fox’s forecast will verify yet again. YOU are the crazy one. he was right about everything. The sleet mixed in early and i only got 2 inches here in monroe which northern sw ct. Geoff Fox is RIGHT most of the time. he forecasts reality. don’t get me wrong, I LOVE SNOW! but the pattern we are in is not bringing much of it here and Geoff has forecast basically every storm right so far this year. so don’t bash his forecasts till they bust, because in this case, you and everyone else busted.

Ah, sweet revenge.

Truth is, any forecast can be a bust – even one prepared with all due diligence. That’s why I sweat them all out. It’s the most nerve wracking part of my job.

Though one poster accused me of using a single computer model out of the box, I put a lot of thought into what I finally forecast and use a lot of tools in getting there. There are charts and maps and columns of numbers from multiple computer models.

I’m a math geek. I love this stuff.

I am ultimately responsible. It’s my decision… my voice… not some suite of models and simulations. I apologize when wrong. Thankfully, not often enough that the guy who said I’d blame the models would have ever seen me do it.

I’ll tell you a secret. This is real ‘inside baseball’ stuff and I won’t be offended if you’re bored.

My number one job is not accuracy. Please, don’t get me wrong, accuracy is important. If I’m not accurate, people will stop watching. It’s just not number one.

My main goal is to tell a useful and memorable story. I need to leave the audience with an understanding of what will happen. If I’ve done my job right, they will viscerally understand the weather to come.

A forecast is worthless if it can’t be conveyed to the audience in a useful fashion – no matter how accurate

And, in reality, there is no practical difference between 3″ or 5″ or 7″ of snow. They all have virtually the same effect. They are dealt with the very same way. With 3″ or 5″ or 7″ of snow, schools will close, plows will roll, traffic will snarl and nighttime activities will stop.

That’s why using graphics derived from a single model is OK, even when they differ slightly from my ideal forecast. I would rather use an effective tool to connect an idea to the viewer rather than throw it out, especially when its deviation from my thoughts is inconsequential.

&#185 – I’m not going to publish the link and would rather it not be included in comments.

11 thoughts on “The Forecaster’s Burning Ears”

  1. At first I wanted to comment here about this because I think Geoff is on the money with they way he presents his forecast, but I really did not know what more to say. I then instant messaged a link of this post to my wife knowing she would be interested in this too. We are both fairly internet savvy people and know commenter’s in many ways just say things that are so, as Geoff says “WEIRD”. My wife replied back to me via IM:

    “Brandi: Ha! Geoff Fox is my favorite weather man ever. He is right in saying he is conservative…and I just purely like his personality. He’s always struck me as an honest, funny kind of person that you could have a cup of coffee with and shoot the breeze. I think you feel the same.”

    I think that says enough.

  2. Geoff, my husband just posted part of my comment to you. I’d like to add a little bit more to it though . . .

    Even though I have NO idea what goes into forcasting weather I’m the type to think outside the box and believe that there’s far more that goes into a weatherman’s job than to look at one model and go with it. Plus I understand we’re only human and mother nature has the final say in what will happen. But at the end of the day, I’m certain you have many followers such as myself and we appreciate your forcasting abilities and stand by your side in full defense. Have a wonderful day! 🙂

  3. I looked you up on Wikipedia, and one of the things it said was this:

    “Geoff Fox is regarded as the most popular weatherman in Connecticut. Fox has a sense of humor and style of presentation similar to that of former weatherman David Letterman. Fox occasionally does science pieces under the moniker “Mr. Science” and has created an informal humidity index around how curled his hair is getting. Though a natural entertainer, viewers take Fox’s forecasts very seriously – and he takes his audience seriously.”

  4. It’s appreciated, but I don’t need, or want, to be defended.

    This stuff really doesn’t bother me. It comes with the territory.

    I just thought it was interesting to have stumbled upon it, written by people who seemingly thought they could have a private conversation on the Internet. They certainly didn’t expect me to read it.

  5. Kevin Smith (the director) is infamous for finding things written about himself online and arguing the point in his own defense. I’m not sure I see the point in that.

  6. I find it interesting that you posted about work related stuff, insight into what goes on behind the scenes and some ‘inside weather’.

    Geeky stuff is fun to read, we all have varying levels of geekiness.

    And I hear there’s a house for sale…

  7. Geoff,

    Anybody that complains about your forecasting abilities has got to be “weird.” Can you tell me if any other meteorologist/weathercaster has been on-air in CT as long or longer than you [other than Dr. Mel and Bruce DePrest]… I know where to get the real weather forecast. There must be a reason that they renew your contracts…

  8. I’m just glad beyond words to live in a state where the local “weathercritters”, as we lovingly refer to them in my family :), actually forecast the weather. I’ve been to so many other areas where the local weather people are just reading what they printed off of … who wants that??

  9. All that bashing of SuperMicrocast, I might have to tell Bruce he needs to get on that message board and defend his product. I will have to check that board out in the Spring and see what they say about my ESP.


    (Chris works for the company that provides one of the computer models I use, Microcast – Geoff)

  10. Geoff, I gotta say this was one of your best forecasts. As a shoreliner I have endured perpetual disappointment with every storm since feb 2001 and was hoping your were wrong and the storm would track farther south. It seems like we can’t get a big storm that’s just all snow anymore. I’m sure it has something to do with the enormous positive trend in the AO and NAO over the past 20 years. The NAO has averaged negative for only 3 winters in the past 17 odd years and all those 3 winters we ended up with huge snowstorms on the shoreline: 92-93, 95-96, 00-01.

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