One Does Not Simply Pull a Weather Forecast From Thin Air

This post is admittedly a rant post. I’m not going to drop knowledge on you. I’m not going to come to a groundbreaking conclusion. But I am going to offer an opinionated rant.

What will the weather be for Super Bowl XLVIII?

No one: Not the NFL, not the world’s greatest meteorologist, not the Farmers Almanac, not AccuWeather’s 45 day forecast, not me, not you knows what the weather is going to be on February 2, 2014 at about 6:25 PM EST. No one knows…no one has a clue…you could make a forecast as good as me, well versed in long-range forecasting with 10 years of experience under my belt. In fact, I’ll bet you can probably beat me to make a forecast that specific in place and time.

Yet, we’re devoting an absolutely absurd amount of time discussing it, analyzing it, breaking it down, harping over contingency plans. 

Besides filling time on NFL themed shows, what is this accomplishing? Anything? Could someone please show me how any of this has been helpful to anyone, ‘cuz if ya’ can, I’ll give you a lot of credit.

I’m ranting. I’m annoyed after seeing this article from nj.com:

Super Bowl weather: NJ climatologist ripped for ‘one of the dumbest weather predictions’ in history

Peter King, a well regarded NFL columnist, shredded Dr. David Robinson, one of the best climatologists in the field, for Robinson’s comments on “That Other Pregame Show” on Sunday. If you sit through the 5+ minute clip (and it is a good watch), and then read King’s comments, you might ask yourself, “Huh?”

Thankfully, Robinson shot back at King today. 

That should put the matter to rest, but it highlights an unfortunate problem inherent to the field of meteorology. To liken this to a football game, since that’s what all the hubub is about: Despite all of the advancements in and lives saved thanks to weather prediction, meteorologists are constantly running a 2 minute drill, down three touchdowns, starting inside their own five yard line. Why? Because the perception is that we’re going to get it wrong when it matters most to someone: Not when their lives are in danger, not when a hurricane or tornado is coming at them. No, none of that…it’s when it truly matters most to people: An outdoor birthday party, a trip to the beach, a football game in February. 

So when someone like King, who has a megaphone and a lot more reach than some of us have, says a forecast made by a climatologist is “one of the dumbest weather predictions in meteorological history,” it deepens this hole that meteorologists have to dig themselves out of. On top of all that, he clearly had a preconceived notion (“I want to take a swipe at weather forecasters because they’re easy targets”) and only listened for what he wanted to hear from Robinson. If you watch the clip, Robinson never makes an actual forecast. He answers a question. He’s providing a past history of the weather on and around that date, and he answers the question asked of him. There’s no forecast here…no agenda, except for that of a frustrated football writer who wants to use up space dissecting the weather forecast for the Super Bowl, a month and a half before it kicks off.

When the perception is that you’re going to fail, how does one get over that hump and above the noise to shut someone like this up? How many Sandys, Katrinas, or lives saved thanks to advanced tornado warnings is it going to take to finally rid meteorologists of this unfair reputation of “being right half the time and keeping our jobs?”

There’s no right answer…but it further illustrates how those of us in the meteorological community need to continue to run that 2-minute drill and make sure the message we’re communicating doesn’t get lost in the noise. It’s not an easy task, but it surely presents an opportunity to improve ourselves and stand out.

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