Sunday, February 07, 2016

Canned Ham and Fresca

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Why Do We Believe in Ground Hog Predictions?

Ground Hog Day is a neat little holiday for many folks around the country who like to place the slothish behavior of a rodent on a pedestal. He's cute. Its old fashioned. Its tradition. There are top hats. Who wouldn't like to be a part of that?

So why do we like Ground Hog Day so much?

Our brains are hard-wired for simple stories. Go back to our earliest ancestors. Information was passed through stories.

We desire a good weather story (a feel-good forecast with some folklore) versus something data/science driven.  Why is this? A data driven paragraph by itself only activates the language processing centers (Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area ) of the brain. Brain scans show that if you incorporate stories with descriptive metaphors, it will active multiple sensory parts of the brain like the Motor Cortex (body movements) and the Insular Cortex (emotional region) at once. In other words, descriptive story with less data make our brains work harder by relating the story to our our own personal experiences! Given that personal stories make up more than 65% of our conversations, this makes perfect sense.

What does this have to do with weather forecasts?

Typically, our brains work much better with a theme or a story that has a beginning, middle and an end. In this daily forecast example, we visualize a line of showers that moves in at a specific time; it stays for a select amount of time and then moves out without fanfare. Our brains involuntarily take this weather story and creates a visualization by melding our personal experiences with the information. The forecast instantly becomes relatable!. It becomes personal!  Unfortunately, weather events rarely behave in this manner.

For our minds to grasp weather probabilities, we need to be able to handle multiple possible outcomes at once. Weather has many, many outcomes over a large area over a significant period of time. Change the initial weather conditions (humidity, wind flow, frontal position, upper level energy, etc) and you create more uncertainty. Factor in time and the probability becomes significantly higher. Unfortunately, when meteorologists attempt to use a data driven narrative to explain why something did or didn't happen, the emotional centers of the brain described above are not activated. The emotional centers of our brain are not activated when presented with probabilities. Our brains simplify the probability using a story (narrative) that we can relate to. If not, there is no nice and tidy story here for our brains to trigger an emotional response.  Simply put, we feel uneasy.

Instead, we favor more simplified stories like the folklore of the Ground Hog or the Old Farmers Almanac.  Without asking your brain subconsciously shrugs off probability and uncertainty narratives and replaces them with predictions and stories from the Old Farmers' Almanac or Punxsutawney Phil.

So why do we believe Ground Hog predictions? It makes us feel good.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Why is it so cold in Rome, Ohio?

Last winter, Rome, Ohio in Ashtabula County reached an unofficial state record low temperature of -39. Why is Rome, Ohio so cold compared to other rural locations?  It lies in a valley surrounded by higher elevation. The denser, colder air drains into the valley when the sky conditions are clear and the winds are relatively calm. The heavy snow cover also promotes more cold.

I emailed a variety of people within the National Weather Service asking why this temperature was not certified as the new state record low. Gerry Creager explains:

"In general (and there are others on here who can correct me if I'm wrong), US NWS, and climatological records are recorded by the National Weather Service Forecast Office with responsibility for that area, as well as the Operational Monitoring Branch of the Climate Prediction Center (
In addition, the various State Climatologists are responsible for their local data, and report to their own State, often as direct reports (at least on paper) to their Governor.
There are three networks of stations that might use for climate monitoring, including the Historical Climate Network, the Climate Reference Network, and the Federally maintained ASOS sensors usually found at airports. To the best of my knowledge, unofficial, and Citizen-Science sources are not included in monitoring extremes for records, but may be used, as they are in operational meteorology, as sanity checks for other observations. 
I believe you can pull the MADIS Mesonet records, and look at METARs as well. There are several climate data sets in there, but the ASOS data are present, as are the CWOP data. You might also want to peruse, and the NCDC holdings.
Note: This is based on my knowledge and interpretation due to my research, and some of the work I do with the CWOP servers. There are other folks, associated with the Federal side of CWOP and MADIS, included here, who can provide more authoritative data, perhaps."
Gerry Creager

John Horel from NOAA reiterated the same ...

"Gerry covered the issue very well. It is very difficult to get the Climate Extremes Committee managed by NCDC to use networks beyond NWS/FAA.
for more details on the process, etc."
So it doesn't look promising that Rome, Ohio will officially break the all-time state low temperature record set back in 1899 in Milligan, Ohio

Friday, January 08, 2016

Winter Pattern Taking Shape

Back in September, I strongly speculated on the possible winter pattern. This was my initial outlook given the initial conditions and projections FOR DECEMBER back in September.  In reality, the southern jet stream hadn't established itself as a winter storm driver.

The position of the warmth was too far west for December.  The arctic air over the North Pole was very stable. The ridge was powerful across the east. Heavy rain and severe storms/deadly tornadoes during the month were common around Christmas.
On December 6th, I opined using videos (bottom half of the post at this link) showing the stronger position and intensity of the southern jet stream in January.

Our final winter outlook in late October echoed this southern panhandle storm track for the second half of winter

The extended models are this southern storm track (panhandle lows) as the dominant track through much of February.  Here are the snapshots on six periods of seven days each ending during the third week of February.

Most of the teleconnections (NAO, AO and PNA--EPO bouncing back a bit) showing troughiness in the east overall.

All of these factors seem to be the real deal which will lead to colder temperatures and higher chances of panhandle low type systems to interact with colder air leading to an eastward push of snow!

Lake Erie ice cover is nearly non-existent. Last year (before the record setting cold developed) ice cover was only 5% through the first 8 days of January. The current water temperature is still at 40 degrees.  The average water temperature is 35 on the 8th. Any cold outbreak like what we will see next week will aid in dropping the water temperature versus adding lake ice outside of the western basin where the water depth is shallow. Bottom line, lake effect snow is more possible January through March than in past years.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

2015 Movie List - Top 10 Favorites

Here it is. My final movie list of 2015--83 in all--with links to past years' lists. Wikipedia has a great description of each movie. Enjoy!

2009 MOVIE LIST  100 total
2010 MOVIE LIST  120 total 
2011 MOVIE LIST  150 total
2012 MOVIE LIST  110 total
2013 MOVIE LIST    90 total
2014 MOVIE LIST    94 total

The Skeleton Twins
The Imitation Game
Only Lovers Left Alive
American Sniper
Horrible Bosses 2
The Dirties

A Most Violent Year
Ernest and Celestine
Bad Day At Blackrock
The Judge
Stalag 17
Save The Tiger
Million Dollar Arm
The Zero Theorm

Love is Strange
Lone Star
Young Ones
The Gambler
Close Up
Force Majeure
Listen Up Phillip
50 Shades of Grey

Last Days of Vietnam
Into The Storm
Tim'r Vermeer
Taken 3
The Drop
Top Five
Down By Law
Ciitizen Four

McFarlene USA
Mad Max Fury Road
Avengers 2
The Missing Picture
The Overnighters
Leviathan (Russian)

Like Father Like Son
Ex Machina
Xmen Days of Futures Past
Straight Outta Compton
The Babadook
The Chaperone
Furious 7
Slow West

Inside Out
Ted 2
Bad Turn Worse
The Interview
Bridge of Spies
The Martian
Terminator Genisys
Mission Impossible 5
Black Mass

Danny Collins
Kingsmen Secret Service
Ant Man
Clouds of Sils Maria
Peanuts Movie
Star Wars The Force Awakens

Bone Tomahawk



The next five:  Mission Impossible 5, Bad Turn Worse, Citizenfour, Joy, Spy

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Let's Clear Up A Few Things...

Many wonder why I write so much about the psychology of weather. If you read the comments on most of my posts over the last several weeks you'll see why: They believe what they want to believe. They use social media as a conduit to say whatever impulsive thought they want without recourse. Perception is the ultimate reality.

I use social media and my blog to show why weather events occur the way they do. I post stats and records about past weather to show some perspective in the hope that this will help viewers of our station and the general reader. Often times it just doesn't work...much to my dismay.

So let's clear up a few things. Rather than use science to explain the why we do what we do, I'm using straight forward bullet points. Let's wipe the slate clean and start out fresh and new as we approach the end of the year.


1) It WILL snow at some point. It always does. And no, I don't like snow.

2) The warm weather is playing with our minds.  Our weather perceptions (cognitive biases if you will) are very strong.  We are not immune.  We are all human.  Recognition of these preconceived notions is the first step in an objective understanding the weather and the science that governs it.

2a)  We hate forecast uncertainty. Here's why LINK

3) Contrary to what you might believe, weather forecasts are more accurate than they were 15 years ago.  According to this study, "the accuracy of the 8-10 day forecast today are similar to a 5-7 day forecast 15 years ago. Hurricane accuracy is greatly improved since Hurricane Katrina LINK.

4) Our morning show here at FOX 8 is on for 6 hours. The weather forecast between 4 and 10am can change as the conditions change. Forecasts are not frozen in time during each newscast.  The weather doesn't stop for television.

5) The decision to break into a popular TV show or sporting event with a weather update is NOT an impulsive one. Stations have different philosophies on when to break into programming. I can't speak for the others. However, my station WJW-FOX 8 only breaks during a tornado warning or a significant winter weather event (widespread, blizzard-like snow). If you send a comment complaining about our stringent guidelines, you obviously care more about football than being warned when a tornado warning is issued.

6) Contrary to many weather maps on the air, the atmosphere is three dimensional and ever changing. Imagine the atmosphere (especially during sleet, freezing rain events) like layers of a wedding cake.  Each layer of icing represents the different layers of air at different temperatures with different types of precipitation.

Note: The wedding cake analogy is mine and mine alone. I invented it.

7) Moon or sun halos are not uncommon. They are beautiful sights caused by the bending, splitting and reflecting of sunlight through ice crystal clouds.  We have hundreds of photos.

8) I'm not a fan of phone weather apps that promise super-local weather forecasts for your backyard. They are like unicorns.  They don't exist.  Most are computer generated data approximated based on your location via GPS.  I trust a human generated forecast (via NWS or your local tv station) every day of the week.

9) Jet contrails are not chem-trails.  They, like, unicorns don't exist.  I don't like conspiracy theories.

10) I have no control of weather, news or school closing promos that run 15 times per hour. The promotions department is on the first floor.

11) These above normal December temperatures were mentioned in a blog post on my weather blog in early September and again in our FOX 8 winter weather outlook. Yes, pre-Christmas warmth has happened before.  Remember 1982?

12) Simply because the weather has been warm or cold, wet or dry doesn't confirm or deny climate change in any form. I'm an operational meteorologist who happens to be on television.  Keep your subjectivity or bias to yourself.  So please don't send me anecdotal evidence confirming your preconceived notions.  See number 2 above for the reasons why.

13) We forget that last December was above normal with no snow for only the 3rd time in 140 years.  Christmas week in 2014 was the 8th warmest on record in northern Ohio.

14) This warmth is driven by BOTH El Nino and a strong Polar Vortex not just El Nino. Remember the Polar Vortex from last winter?  Yes, it's real (LINK)

15) Storm systems like what we are seeing currently which develop over Texas and move northeast--termed "Panhandle Hooks"--are more common in El Ninos.  Wet snows are more common from Texas through the mid-Atlantic in these years.

16) Contrary to what we believe, you cannot use one or two days or a weeks worth of weather as a predictor or the season ahead. In other words, a warm or cold December is not an indicator of the spring or summer ahead. The drivers of winter aren't necessarily the drivers of spring and summer.  It's not an apples to apples comparison.  (Remember December 2014 was warmer than normal.  Then the bottom fell out: January through February was the 6th coldest on record, coldest since 1978)

17) The fact that I have said over the last week that colder air in January will replace the relative warmth in December doesn't mean the entire winter will be colder than average. (see FOX 8 outlook issued in October)

18) Lake Erie water temperature is 45 degrees. It's been this warm before on the 22nd of December: 2001 and 1998 for starters.  The water temperature is taken at a depth of 30 feet. No one seems to have an answer as to why.

19) There is a TON of science behind seasonal outlooks. The Farmers' Almanac is not science (although I enjoy reading it).  Weather consulting companies issue seasonal outlooks tailored for their clients. This sector has grown significantly in recent years.

20) Many readers will ignore everything I typed here and replace it with their own conclusions regardless of their validity.

I reserve the right to add to this list.

I hope this helps.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Warmth Continues...When Will It Flip To Winter?

No one is complaining about the above normal temperatures after the two past harsh winters. Above normal temperatures across the eastern 1/2 of the US.  This warmth is not unexpected given the strong El Nino reaching peak strength though I am somewhat surprised that the warmth has been this consistent.


It can't last forever.  So when will it flip or at least trend colder with higher chances of snow!

Remember our preliminary December outlook issued back in early September showed the core of the high pressure/warmth across the northern states into Canada with the core of the low pressure centers across the south (panhandle low type systems).
Through the first week or so, the core of each HIGH and LOW is much stronger than anticipated yet they are roughly in the same position as our forecast 3 months ago indicated. However, the southern lows (Panhandle type) are far weaker and, as of this writing--December 8th--are just now showing signs of developing. (see the smaller "Ls").
Since November, the warmth has been extensive with below normal temperatures in the west. Warmer colors indicate above normal temperatures, cooler colors below normal temperatures.

Some computer model projections have been bullish in tracking these southern lows further east and the warm ridge further north into Canada by the beginning of Christmas week.


The big questions for the end of the month and Christmas week: 1) How fast will the ridge lift north and 2) how strong will the low in the southwest/panhandle region push east?

We do know this: Any easterly migration of the southwest low along the southern jet stream will increase our chances of a wet panhandle-type snow by month's end. 


The chances we will receive wet snow from a panhandle low will climb further after the first of the year. 


Friday, December 04, 2015

The Difference Between Meteorological and Astronomical Winter

"Sorry but it's still fall NOT winter!"

We get tons of notes from viewers like this each year after we tell everyone that meteorological winter just began on the first of December.

So what is the difference between Meteorological Winter and Astronomical Winter, the one that starts around December 21st?  NOAA--National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration--has a great explanation:

...The astronomical seasons are based on the position of the Earth in relation to the sun, whereas the meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle. The natural rotation of the Earth around the sun forms the basis for the astronomical calendar, in which seasons are defined by two solstices and two equinoxes. Both the solstices and equinoxes are determined based on the Earth’s tilt and the sun’s alignment over the equator. The solstices mark the times when the sun’s annual path is farthest, north or south, from the Earth’s equator. The equinoxes mark the times when the sun passes directly above the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice falls on or around June 21, the winter solstice on or around December 22...

Because the Earth actually travels around the sun in 365.24 days, an extra day is needed every fourth year, creating what we know as Leap Year. This also causes the exact date of the solstices and equinoxes to vary. Additionally, the elliptical shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun causes the lengths of the astronomical seasons to vary between 89 and 93 days. These variations in season length and season start would make it very difficult to consistently compare climatological statistics for a particular season from one year to the next. Thus, the meteorological seasons were born.
Meteorologists and climatologists break the seasons down into groupings of three months based on the annual temperature cycle as well as our calendar. We generally think of winter as the coldest time of the year and summer as the warmest time of the year, with spring and fall being the transition seasons, and that is what the meteorological seasons are based on. Meteorological spring includes March, April, and May; meteorological summer includes June, July, and August; meteorological fall includes September, October, and November; and meteorological winter includes December, January, and February. These seasons were created for meteorological observing and forecasting purposes, and they are more closely tied to our monthly civil calendar than the astronomical seasons are. The length of the seasons is also more consistent for the meteorological seasons, ranging from 90 days for winter of a non-leap year to 92 days for spring and summer. By following the civil calendar and having less variation in season length and season start, it becomes much easier to calculate seasonal statistics from the monthly statistics, both of which are very useful for agriculture, commerce, and a variety of other purposes.

You can read the entire explanation HERE  (courtesy: NOAA)