THE YIN & YANG OF WEATHER FORECASTING
Let’s face it, I have one of the few jobs where you can be wrong on a regular basis and remain employed. That’s not something I would recommend to the average worker. The downside of that is having to learn how to handle the person who comes up to me and says, “Hey, Steve! You wanna help me shovel the results of that partly sunny forecast off my driveway!?”
But I’m a consumer of weather just like everyone else, and nobody gets more chagrined about being wrong than I. It’s enough to make a guy want to hide out, especially on those days when things don’t go exactly as predicted. I end up having dreams that go something like this: The alarm goes off. And rather than trundling off to the bathroom or to get a cup of coffee, I head first for the curtains, which I open very slowly to sneak a peek outside. At this point my head droops and I mumble, “Ahh, jeez, I suck.” I usually follow that by heading back to bed and asking my wife to call in sick for me. “What’s the matter, honey? Wrong again?” To which I reply: “Nooo. . .I just don’t feel well. Oh, and can you handle the grocery store, cleaners, and our parent-teacher conference on your own today?” “OK, honey.” Then she adds, “If you do decide to go out, your wig is in the closet above your Hawaiian shirts.” That’s when I wake up and realize that it was just a dream. Of course when I actually do look outside, I still hold my breath a little. I should tell you, I actually do have several wigs. More later on how those come into play. All of this angst is recognition of just how difficult it is to forecast weather in the Northwest
Perhaps the first thing to understand is that the Northwest is an incredibly complex area. In the Pacific Northwest we have an ocean, an inland sea (Puget Sound), two mountain ranges (the Cascades and the Olympics), a rain forest (Olympic Rain Forest), and a desert (eastern Washington and Oregon)—all fairly close to one another. There are days when it can rain for hours on end—without a storm around for hundreds of miles. And there’s one spot in Washington whose streets are barely wet while every other city is getting drenched by a huge winter storm.
So, when we sit down to do a forecast and realize that in the space of three minutes we have to cover the weather in nearly every one of those locations, well, let’s just say we’re in kind of a no-win situation. But It’s still fun in spite of the travails. If you want an insight into the data we use to do a forecast, check out the links below. Some of it you will easily understand and some is more complex. As you delve into it you will understand why it takes us a hour of prep time for every minute we are on the air! Now if you really want to know the inside story of what we do and how we do it, you should get my book. Of course if you already know it all or just want to check on the forecast, the links to your right are just the ticket. You can also check out the video below which is a short piece on weather basics. (You should probably get the book anyway since it’s a fun informative read that explains weather without all the jargon and gobbledegook!)
MY BOOK: SOMEWHERE I WAS RIGHT!GEt the book
BUDDY BLOGS (FRIENDS OF MINE)
SCOTT SISTEK UW PROF CLIFF MASS