Here’s What I Don’t Miss From Work

Yes, the models are consistently inconsistent and it’s enough to drive me nuts… or it was.

Do I miss forecasting the weather on TV? Absolutely! Do I miss snowfall forecasts? Nope.

Of all the different types of weather I forecast snowfall was the type most consistently misforecast! I’m not just talking about me. No snow forecast by anyone is ever completely right!

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself and my colleagues? There’s a lot of utility in snow forecasts. One reason schools are closed more now is because decisions can be made with confidence. We mostly hit the target. We never get the bullseye.

When snow forecasts are really wrong there’s nowhere to hide!

Here’s what we do reasonably well:

  • precipitation type
  • start time
  • wind
  • temperature

Here’s what we do poorly:

  • precipitation amount

“You said six to ten inches and and I got four!” Trust me, I’ve heard that angry sentence more than once.

Shoot me. It happens.

A snowfall forecast is actually a forecast on top of a forecast on top of a forecast. If any of the intermediate calculations are off everything else is off too. That’s bad news because forecasts can change radically over a short period of time.

The good news is we don’t see cars stranded like they were in 1978 because even if we don’t get totals right there are few storms (and no large storms) that appear as surprises.

To most of us there’s no difference in our lives between one inch and four inches. There is no difference between three inches and eight inches. Sure there’s more to plow, but whatever stops for eight inches has mostly stopped for two.

I used to say all the slippery’s in the first quarter inch. It’s true.

At the top of this entry is a time-series plot courtesy of Dr. Robert Hart from FSU and his website. It’s a breakdown of the prediction from Monday’s 2:00 PM EDT (1800Z) NAM computer run. The NAM says New Haven will start seeing snow Wednesday afternoon with the mainly light snow continuing through the night. The scale on the left side shows water equivalent as opposed to snow totals.

By the time the snow ends Thursday this model says we’ll see about .7″ of water converted to snow. At a typical 10:1 that’s seven inches of snow.

Of course no snow is really typical and warmer ground and light snow at the onset will probably melt the first flakes that fall. Beyond that when snow falls for any length of time it tends to settle, so it takes more than five inches of snow to get five inches of snow! That makes the .7″ academic, not practical.

I mentioned this is from the 1800Z run. As I was typing the next run, the 0000Z came in with around 1/5 the snow!

Yes, the models are consistently inconsistent and it’s enough to drive me nuts… or it was.

Here’s the takeaway. There will probably be some snow on the ground when you wake Thursday. There will be delays if schools think they can wait it out… and they probably can.

The last word on this system hasn’t been written. In some ways I’m happy to be an outside observer.

12 thoughts on “Here’s What I Don’t Miss From Work”

  1. Geoff, right or wrong you always had a great explanation and one we could learn from. I assure you that you are missed!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Geoff,
    Great hyper-link! I can really make use of this info as a complement to what I use everyday in the planning process. Thanks for pointing it out and including it in your blog.

  3. Geoff, question: why is it that with all the modern technology, radars, dopplers etc. used by meteorologists these days, most can’t get it right and years ago in the 60’s for example when there wasn’t this sophisticated type equipment weather was predicted more accurately?

    Also, are there windows in the rooms where the meteorologists work? Sometimes they predict overcast and it’s sunny outside?

    Just curious…thank you.

  4. Geoff, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are whom I listened to (along with Dr. Mel) when a storm was coming. I live on a farm and it is absolutely necessary to know the time a storm begins, when it will get heavier, and when it will stop. The animals protection depends on it. Duration/wind/temp is more important to me than accuracy on the amount! I am sooooo glad you prepped me for Wed/Thurs. Glad you are back at it even if it is Facebook!

  5. I kept meaning to write to you and tell you something from the early 90’s. I worked at a place where if it snowed, it was mandatory that we show up & we’d more than likely be snowed in so we’d pack for an over-night stay.
    YOUR snow forecast “that there could be significant heavy snow (no one else had – they said maybe 1”)enabled me to prepare for the over-nighter – bringing in food for all, too! Everyone was singing praises to you that morning, Geoff!! 😀
    Oh, sorry for the delay in thanking you – but this is one good thing about the internet!

  6. Seeing as I don’t watch the weather anymore, I didn’t know we were getting snow until reading this. I just checked out Channel 8’s website and in the weather blurb is the following sentence: “As time has progressed, the storm looks to be getting closer and closer.” Hmmm, imagine that.

  7. Don’t worry about your past snow forecasts that were off. Anyone who watched you regularly could always pick up in your tone and words when the forecast wasn’t going to be that precise. I always listened to what you had to say and then translated it in my head into a range of worst and best case scenarios so I’d be prepared. Even snow isn’t black and white!

  8. Last year when a huge storm was predicted and turned out to be minimal you were the only one who went on the air and actually apologized for the bad forcast. You were humble about it and were not afraid to say you and everyone else made a mistake. Talk about refreshing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *