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.

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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.



1 comment:

amber green said...

You Rock Scott!!!!