Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Post New England Blizzard Thoughts

I will admit that I bounced back and forth on a final NYC snowfall forecast late Sunday/early Monday as the new data was coming in showing the nor'easter farther east.  In the end, the storm developed farther east.  I reluctantly went with higher amounts for NJ and NYC. It didn't pan out although Long Island got hit hard. Was it a bust? Hardly. Were the amounts way off for many locations? Absolutely.  Were the amounts accurate for other locations? Yes.


Should snowfall forecasts have been altered?  Probably.  Then again, when you warn 50+ million people, it's very hard to retract a Blizzard Warning that stretches along hundreds of miles of coast line. You live by the sword and die by the sword in the court of public opinion (now social media).

I participated in several twitter discussion with other meteorologists and broadcasters about what we as meteorologists/broadcasters still need to do better in communicating the essential aspects of extreme storms.  The responses were very enlightening.  I know I will take all of this and apply it to my own weather world here in northern Ohio in future weather events. 

Here are several key points, questions and comments from these Twitter conversations. I paraphrased some the statements:

* I have a very difficult time (as a meteorologist) blaming people for focusing on their situation in their town.

*  The science of Meteorology & forecasting are getting so much better but our communication of that information is getting worse & worse IMO.

*   Lets not forget this was like the 1st hurricane of the season, it always gets out of control coverage. No one covers storm ten like storm one.

*   This storm is an excellent case where choice of words in conveying severity is of the utmost importance.

*   People just hear the big numbers and worry just about that!

*   Risk is personal. Mass media is for the masses. Have to find the middle.

*   (response) Here lies the conundrum: Risk is personal. Yet people want personal forecasts

*  Too much emphasis on uncertainty can breed inaction.

*  We need a delicate balance between voicing uncertainty and a declarative forecast for general public

*  "Our NYC forecast, while hardly perfect, was useful"

*  Why no uncertainty cones with these types of systems ?

*   Public can't grasp reality outside of our own weather window

*   Yes but there is so much message competition now and some/a lot operate outside of the Weather/EMA/Gov enterprise...message competition plays a huge role, I think. Even decision makers who we work closely with fall victim to confusion.

*  Some in my business (media) don't care about public good, credibility or long term gain. They get judged on clicks, shares, ratings

*  "There is more risk and nuance in weather forecasts than the public is interested in consuming so it is a challenge to craft a message that gets attention, is not "hype", yet has actionable information.'

If you have anything else to add, let me know.  Comments below.

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