Monday, April 25, 2005

No news or snow news?

Driving to the office in downtown Akron from my Mogadore home this morning, I saw the sun peeking out here and there. And a lot of places were free of the snow that had fallen during much of the weekend. This was a nice change since, on Saturday night, my wife and I had been discussing whether we needed to take the snow blower out of its spring hibernation.
Then again, while I was thinking about this, I was also aware that my son was at home, his school having closed for the day. Indeed, a lot of schools up Cleveland way were closed, so there were clearly some driveways being dug out to the north.
This shows the problem of a weather forecast -- any weather forecast, not just the sometimes alarming presentations you see on local TV stations. My forecast of choice, after all, is the ''local on the 8s'' section on the Weather Channel, which is dispassionate, straightforward and often right.
But it seemed to mess up this weekend, when forecasts Friday and Saturday held out the possibility of a foot of snow accumulating. When we went out to a show in Cuyahoga Falls on Saturday night, we did so wondering if we would come out of the show to find the car covered. It wasn't -- but the snow was falling pretty hard. Still, when we got home, it wasn't falling nearly as hard. And there was no problem getting out to church and the grocery store on Sunday.
Forecasts, after all, are predictions. Scientifically based predictions, to be sure. But in the end, they are an analysis -- just the way pollsters try to analyze how an election will turn out, or ESPN tries to sort out who's going where in the NFL draft -- and they can be wrong.
What often bothers me about weather forecasts is that they tend to err on the side of disaster. A heavy rainstorm begins to sound like something Noah is getting ready for. A prediction of snow is accompanied by footage of some terrible earlier snow. When a parade of forecasts says the weekend is going to be bad, and then it isn't, well it's reasonable to feel skeptical about future predictions.
But once, when I wrote a column complaining about unduly alarmist predictions during a storm, I heard from people who lived in areas where the storm really was bad -- and they were glad to have had some warning. And, over the weekend, we can see that some areas were spared heavy snowfall -- while some others found it bad enough to close the schools.

3 Comments:

Blogger Beirne said...

I have felt the same way for a long time. My suspicions about TV weather were confirmed last year when the job of TV Meteorologist was declared one of the worst jobs in science by Popular Science: http://www.popsci.com/popsci/science/article/0,20967,713409,00.htm

10:37 AM  
Blogger Joejr said...

The best local weather forecast is at
http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/cle/digital1/DigFcst.html.
This is the NWS office in Cleveland.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Joejr said...

The best local weather forecast is at
http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/cle/digital1/DigFcst.html.
This is the NWS office in Cleveland.

9:54 AM  

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