A little ‘inside baseball’ on weather forecasting. The graphs on the left (Courtesy: coolwx.com – click the image for a better look) show Wednesday’s weather in New Haven as forecast over time by various computer models.
The ‘ptype’ forecast has been all over the place. What’s it gonna be? The guidance has waffled between snow, sleet and freezing rain.
Even if I got it right on the last forecast, it was little consolation to those who’d watched earlier. That made me very unhappy. Sometimes there’s no choice but to change the forecast. You can’t feel married to it.
I traded tweets with a former co-worker this week who shares my angst. It really made storm nights, hell.
Most people don’t realize the most important part of the forecast is, impact. There are fewer potential impacts than storm parameters.
If the timing is right… if the road hazards/conditions are right… if the school situation is properly handled, then how much snow falls or whether it’s a freezing sleety mix don’t matter as much.
But it killed me every storm. There was never a forecast I was really happy with. Not one.
I just traded quick tweets with Ryan Hanrahan at NBC30.
geofffox: @ryanhanrahan How’d you do on this one so far?
ryanhanrahan: @geofffox Not bad – all about where fgen sets up. Haves and have nots. Some towns will get hit hard others won’t.
I don’t know about Ryan, but these were the nights I dreaded! I was on-the-air 28 years in Connecticut. It didn’t take long to realize how unhappy people are when a snow forecast goes wrong.
Ouch. Some were brutal.
Even when right I’ve been blamed for the forecast on other stations and the Weather Channel and by people who just misheard!
Forecasts aren’t blown because you haven’t worked hard enough. Predictions go south when bad guidance (computer models) leads you astray. By and large computers are superior to humans in quantifiable solutions to tough atmospheric problems.. That makes it difficult to discard them in pressure situations.
Mid-storm I was like a caged animal. I’m sure that didn’t make me a dream co-worker.
Sadly, no matter what I did it was never 100% right. There was always an outlier. Frustrating.
Post-Sandy the federal government allocated significant resources to beef up our weather computing power. Implementation is excruciatingly slow. Forecasts will improve a little. The low hanging fruit has already been picked.
I’m watching the Pats/Broncos and remembering winter. They’re not pleasant memories.
If I was still forecasting in Connecticut, I’d have been talking about Wednesday’s potential storm for days already. Fellow forecasters, I feel your pain. The forecast has vacillated like a bride-to-be on “Say Yes To The Dress.”
Even today no one knows for sure. I certainly don’t.
However, the models have begun to stabilize. The forecast solution has become more consistent run-to-run.
Wednesday looks like rain all across the East Coast. In fact, it looks like rain most of the way from Canada to Florida! Early Thursday the rain turns to snow, but by that time the storm’s moisture should be mostly spent.
In New York City the potential is there for enough wind to keep the balloons grounded Thanksgiving Day. No one wants that.
Here in SoCal it’s temps near 70° and a slight chance for rain Thursday and Friday. Slight.