I am lucky enough to be friendly with a bunch of the service techs at the company we buy our weather equipment from. They are squirreled away in Madison, WI, figuring out ways to make weather a more compelling story on TV.
Last month I was speaking with Bruce, one of those techs, and the subject turned to snow and then a little friendly pool the guys were were having. Each threw in $5, with the winner getting the bundle for predicting the January snowfall at Madison’s Dane County Regional-Truax Field Airport.
I asked in. I know nothing about winter weather in Wisconsin, except it’s cold, windy and snow filled.
My guess was 16″, which led Bruce to post this.
Pat 4.2″, Brian 7.7″, Chris 8.2″ and John and Bruce both picked 8.7″ and Geoff at 16″
So the breakdown is as follows:
5.9″ or less Pat wins
6.0″ – 7.9″ Brian wins
8.0″ – 8.4″ Chris wins
8.5″ – 12.3″ John & Bruce win
12.4″ and higher Geoff wins
After 13 days, KMSN currently stands at 4.5″
My guess was way too high. It was obvious these other (mostly) meteorologists were more attuned to their local climatology than I was.
I sent Bruce $5 via PayPal and forgot about the whole thing until last night. Curious, I fired off an email with just two words: “How bad?”
We got 23.2 inches…which is was the eighth snowiest January on record. December-January of this year was the second snowiest 2-month period in Madison records…which go back to the 1880s. Since we got hit so hard in December, the thinking was that the odds were against back-2-back snowy months. However, La Ninas—if they have any trend at all–tend to make winters over the upper Midwest a bit more potent…whether that be cold or snow…or both.
In forecasting, as in life, it is much more profitable to be lucky than skilful.