Here's what I think: Weather Predictions

Weather forecasting is a difficult science. When I was in college I elected to take a Meteorology course thinking that it would be an easy science credit. To my (and my GPA’s) detriment it is by no means an “easy” thing to learn. Weather is so unpredictable and relies on a number of factors. We put a lot of faith in our weather forecasters to provide us with the information we need to go about our daily lives. We feel personally connected to our local meteorologists and trust them to predict the unpredictable weather with absolute accuracy. When inevitably the subtle changes in weather patterns cause a shift in what was predicted, we say “Darn weather people never get it right!”

While I find weather fascinating, I try not to rely on long-range weather forecasting. Unless there’s an outdoor event in the upcoming week or a need to travel, I try to look at weather on a day-to-day basis and I think this helps me get through these long winters. I usually enjoy winter, I love the snow but enough is enough. I heard a forecaster call an upcoming storm “Snow-over it” and those are my feelings exactly this year. But people are so connected to what’s going on outside 24/7. We’ve got weather alerts through email, text, and up to the minute details on weather crawls. No longer do we need to wait for the morning or evening news broadcasts because we’ve got, the weather channel, and local weather channels like 13.1 on digital cable that stream your local forecast all day, every day.

Here is when I need to know the weather: in the morning before I have to drive to work, in the evening before I drive home. That’s pretty much it. I don’t need constant updates through out my workday; frankly it’s more of a distraction than helpful.

Lay-person commentary on weather amuses me, I think it’s funny that they think with their limited knowledge of the elements that effect weather they are a higher authority than trained professionals. What really gets me is when people rely so much on the Farmer’s Almanac (or the Old Farmer’s Almanac). I don’t take offense to farmer’s almanacs. I think they have very useful information while maintaining a humorous tone, and I believe they use solid scientific methods such as comparing solar patterns and historical weather conditions with current solar activity to predict their 16-18 month forecasts. But a prediction is a prediction, not an absolute – there are too many variables and we can barely predict the weather 16 hours from now, let alone 16 months.

These long-range weather predictions remind me of horoscopes, so vague that they can apply to any one in any situation. Wouldn’t it be funny to find that Farmer’s Almanac weather predictor “Caleb Weatherbee” is actually Miss Cleo, the face of call-in fortune telling? Both the Farmer’s Almanac and the Old Farmer’s Almanac claim 80-85% accuracy in long-range weather forecasting, but in reality it can be argued that even a random guess can sometimes be 100% accurate. But true believers are able to force these predictions to fit in to place.

So for all you believers out there here’s a genuine farmer’s almanac prediction that I heard on the radio this morning: last November we had about a week of dense fog. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, 90 days following the fog we are supposed to get a big snow storm… guess what? 90 days hits this weekend through next week. So enjoy the sunny, 27 degree weather today because it looks like we’re in for another whopper.

1 comment:

  1. Riddle me this... if you compare the Farmer's Almanac to the Old Farmer's Almanac are the predictions the same? They are from different editors and publishers so I'm guessing they use a different "formula" for prediction. Anyone have a comment?


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