Thursday, January 09, 2014

Weather Reporting Needs To Change: Polar Vortex Edition

Many media outlets in my opinion have incorrectly described the cold air outbreak across the US as the Polar Vortex moving across the US. Some have said that their reasoning was the 500mB heights/trough signature. I think that this 500mB northern hemispheric map shows it best. While the eastern US trough was deep, cold and unlike any outbreak since the early 1990s, other pieces of the PV were easily visible on the 500mB chart around the higher latitudes. Was this piece of the PV over the US the actual main Polar Vortex sliding south from the Arctic or was the piece over northern Asia or the one over Northern Europe the main Polar Vortex?  Or did the main Polar Vortex stay over the North Pole with several pieces breaking off, amplifying and propagating south into lower latitudes dragging down arctic air?  (The correct answer is the latter) But see what I mean?

Call it an argument of semantics. Call it splitting hairs. Call it no big deal. I say it is a VERY big deal.

In a time where basic, objective and accurate science knowledge isn't emphasized in the media; where the US is lagging many other counties in math and science scores; where short phrases and hashtags govern our daily social consciousness; where scary words like "Polar Vortex" gain national and international attention through its instantaneous proliferation through social networks, attention to detail makes a HUGE difference.

I understand that "Flash and Dash" reporting has long since replaced investigative reporting. I get it. I understand that holding the viewer as long as possible is an important driver of a newscast. That's not going away. But we still have a duty to educate the public when its appropriate.  All I ask is for some basic due diligence.  When meteorological phenomena like the "Polar Vortex" directly effects a large chunk of the nation's population, we owe it to the viewers to be as detailed, complete, objective and accurate as possible. Perhaps shelving the flashy reporting model with a more--dare I said it "old school" approach in these instances would serve the viewers better. I'm open to suggestions.

The last paragraph in this blog entry say it all.


4 comments:

Christopher Naples said...

And that's why you're the best meteorologist in Ohio!

Christopher Naples said...

...And that's why you're the best meteorologist in Ohio!

Mary Balint said...

Well said. That's why I watch you in the mornings.

Mary Balint said...

Well said. That's why I watch you in the mornings.