Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Viewer Phonecall and My Hypothetical Response

Invariably after a "big' weather event, angry viewer phone calls follow.  Usually, it’s the same people. The reoccurring characteristic of these callers is that they never Identify themselves.  They just start venting once they hear the voice mail beep and abruptly end the call often times in mid-sentence.  

A few things before you begin:  This post chronicles a really bad phone call. We don't get them that often. 99.9% of viewers are great and are a joy to talk to both on the phone and in public.  It's that 0.1% who frankly, drive you nuts.  I want to reiterate that the first part of the call is the actual "transcript". The latter 2/3 is pieced together with my fantasy responses.  I purposefully used "enter city" in the place of a specific city.   Here we go with the call.

Viewer:  "What happened to all this rain?"

Me: "Whom am I speaking with?"

Viewer:  "You said it was going to rain all day?"

Me: "I am sorry sir. What is your name? Where are you calling from?"'

Viewer:  "You said it was going to rain all day?"

Me: "Your name, sir...where are you calling from?"'

Viewer: "Dave from  (enter city)."

Me: "Dave, I believe I said that the rain would be scattered and not everyone would see rain. I most certainly didn't say it would 'rain all day.'"

Viewer: "I got no rain in (enter city).  My wife and I think you need to go back to weather school."

Normally, the conversation would end here with me saying something innocuous like "I'll take that under advisement" or some other canned, hyper-neutral response like "thank you for your feedback." If the conversation were to take a turn to the dark side, this is where it happens.  So to the dark side we go.  The viewer portion below is real.  My response below is a purely hypothetical retort that often goes through my head in the heat of the moment.  I remind myself that it takes a level of discipline and nicety that rivals Sister Teresa not to snap back with a more piercing, direct response when taking to a belligerent viewer.   Thank goodness for that mental filter that prevents thoughts from becoming words.    

Remember, my responses are more therapeutic than literal, a cathartic moment for me as the rain continues to fall today so PLEASE don't take it seriously. I’m just having a little bit of fun. Let’s continue with the rest of the phone call...

Me: "Sir, the very nature of atmospheric behavior has a built in element of randomness.  While we have equations and computer projections that do a very good job of estimating the position and strength of rain/storms a certain time intervals into the future, there and always will be limitations...

Viewer: "...You can take your computers and fancy math stuff and all of your Facebook pictures and throw them out the window...I can do a better job by looking out my kitchen window"

Me: "Sir, we all believe that our weather outside our window is a microcosm of the overall weather picture.  Most times, this isn’t the case unless we are experiencing a widespread area of tropical spring rain which happens maybe 3 or 4 times a year"   

Viewer: "Why don't you get it?  You're fancy technology sucks and doesn't do ANYTHING! Forecasts were better 20 years ago than now..."

Me:  "Trust me, sir.  I understand what you are saying but your wrong.  Forecasting is MORE ACCURATE in recent years.  This has been..."

Viewer:  "...Do you even know where (enter city) is?"

Me:  "Sir, I've spend many a day in (enter city) as a kid visiting my cousin.  I can't tell you how many 4th of July's I've celebrated in (enter city) and other surrounding communities.  

Viewer:  "You never mention  (enter city) at all in your weather."

Me: " I absolutely do!  I just can't mention  (enter city) in every weathercast.  Its next to impossible to mention the 1000+ different communities in northeastern Ohio in a little under two and a half minutes."

Viewer:  "Why don't you like  (enter city)?"

Me: "Sir, I just said I try to mention  (enter city) as much as possible.  The universe doesn't revolve around your (enter city) There are other locations we need to worry about just as much"

Viewer: "Go back to weather school where you can learn how to be accurate."

(At this point, the conversation is now spinning back in on itself; a runaway collapse with no way of resuscitating it. At this stage, the hopes of a rational discussion are almost zero. My attempts are futile)

Me: "Sir, my point is that while spotty showers didn't occur in (enter city) where you live they did occur in many other places. So, my forecast of 30% coverage was accurate.  Each of us has an atmospheric horizon--dome of weather influence which surrounds us at any given point--and its very small.  Weather still occurs outside of what we can see."

Viewer:  "You are full of yourself.  Your no damn psychologist. You are a (expletive) horrible weatherman..."

Me: "Sir, this conversation is going nowhere.  If you want to have a rational and objective conversation about all of the variables that go into the mechanics of meteorology and how our cognitive biases shape our perceptions on the accuracy of weather forecasts, I am all in. If you want to continue to use inappropriate language and behave in a disrespectful manner, this conversation is over.

Viewer:  Dead silence...(Click)

I can only imagine what customer service associates go through each day.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Today's Complicated Storm Setup

This spring has been void of severe weather and widespread heavy rainfall here in Northeastern Ohio.  The setup today through this evening is different from the last several cold frontal systems in that most of the parameters needed for heavy rainfall and severe weather will be present:

Courtesy: American Wx

*  Humidity is climbing; precipitable water (atmospheric moisture) levels will climb sharply
*  Convergence (different air masses slamming together) along the warm then cold front at just the right time (late afternoon/early evening) when the temperatures are the warmest
*  Atmospheric energy will be high

What makes today's weather difficult is that we have two completely different sets of conditions present embedded within this system. Warm front is catching up with the rain that outran it late last night.  Warm frontal characteristics usually promote "clusters" of storms versus well-defined storm "lines". This morning, the cluster is well ahead of the high dew points. This is evident by the area of rain/storms in northwestern Ohio stretching out over Lake Erie.  The cold front trailing behind is driven forward by colder air lurking behind.  These storms--unlike the cluster earlier--will move into Ohio mid to late afternoon fueled by high dew points and sparked by the energy with the cold front.


The problem today?  The cold front is catching up to the warm front. The energy from the cluster of rain/storms over Lake Erie is blending together with the energy to the south resulting in a blending of the two areas of rain and storms. The physics of one doesn't necessarily describe the other all of the time! This makes the forecast details today very difficult to nail down. 

The Storm Prediction Center has us in a "slight risk"

Radar is showing one cluster in western Ohio ahead of the warm front.  Its not moving very fast as of 10AM.  If anything, its outrunning the warm front.  As the warm front lifts north, it will supply more energy (mid level lift) to enhance the cluster further.

The second wave is now developing along the cold front.  Given breaks of sunshine in southern Ohio and the increase in humidity along the cold front, the late afternoon/early line of storms will reach severe limits with locally heavy rainfall especially across our southern counties.

Now its just adjusting the timing of each "spoke" of rain and storms that jut out from the main area. More updates later today