weatherDon’t you wish you could do a job and it didn’t matter if you were right or you were wrong? A job where everyone listens to what you have to say every day and a job where, while everyone listens to you, no one trusts you? A job where you get the latest and greatest in computers and software? If this is what you want in a job then you need to be a meteorologist.

Sure, you spend thousands of dollars to get a formal education, but it doesn’t really matter. Even someone without a formal education can make a reasonable guess at what the weather is going to be like tomorrow and be as close or more accurate than those who do it for a living. But I guess the education is what makes people listen to you.

It is a funny profession. It is a profession where there are never any absolutes other than the sun rises and the sun sets. But that is about it. It is a profession where you can get a different answer depending on where you work. It is a profession where you can change you mind every hour. But at least the sun rises and sets (except in places that get 24 hour sun or 24 hour darkness).

Here is what I see. I went to bed at 2:00am last night with the temperature at -26°C and the forecast for today of -18°C for a high and -18°C for a low. I get up at 7:30 and the forecast has now changed to a high of -23°C and a low of -30°C. Well that was on one of the three sites I checked. Another site had a high today of -16°C and a low of -20°C. A third site had a high of -21°C and a low of -25°C.

I got up this morning at 7:30am…5½ hours after I checked the forecast. The first site has now changed today’s forecast to a high of -23°C and a low of -30°C. The second site now has a high of -24°C and a low of -27°C. The third now has a high of -17°C and a low of -20°C.

5½ hours and the forecast changes on not 1, not 2 but all three sites. How is that possible? First I have to ask all three sites could have a different forecast…a forecast that was less than 24 hours away. I understand the forecast for a week or even 3 or 4 days away can be off but less than 24 hours? But 3 different forecasts for the same 24 hour period? I guess on the positive side, they all 3 say that it is currently -25°C with scattered cloud, partially cloudy or a few clouds depending on who’s readings you look at.

100s of thousands of dollars of computer equipment, forecasting software and satellites and this is the best they can do? Here is what I am getting for the Tuesday forecast. Site 1 forecasts cloudy with a high of -23°C and a low of -25°C. Site 2 forecasts sunny with a high of -26°C and a low of -31°C. Site 3 has a forecast of cloudy with a high of -14°C and a low of -24°C. So what do we figure it will be like on Tuesday? A mere 48 hours away? My best, uneducated guess for this is it will be mostly cloudy and be cold. That is as good as any of these guys can do.

Let’s go a bit further out. Next Friday for example. That’s a forecast 5 days from now. Site 1 shows mostly cloudy with a high of -2°C and a low of -14°C. Site 2 shows a mix of sun and cloud with a high of -12°C and a low of -15°C. The site 3 forecast shows mainly cloudy with a high of +2°C and a low of -9°C. That is a high variance of 14°C. There is a big difference between +2 and –12.

Are these guys using the same education? Same satellites? Same modelling software?

I started thinking about this at the end of November and on November 30th I posted this on my Facebook page:

The Weather Network and Environment Canada both have the current temperature listed as -32°C. TWN is forecasting -9°C for tomorrow and Environment Canada is forecasting -2°C. That is a fairly big difference for 2 professionals to be forecasting. If they are doing the same job with the same radar shouldn’t their forecasts be closer? And seriously those temperatures considering what it is today is pie in the sky forecasting. I guess we will see. I really don’t think it will get warmer than -15°C. Let’s see who is closer…2 professionals or a guess from someone who has lived up here for 21 years. 

So how do you think this turned out? Here is my post from December 1st:

Lets Review: On Wednesday morning it was -32°C. Environment Canada said it was going to be -2°C and overcast on Thursday afternoon. The Weather Network said it was going to be -9°C with light snow. Martin said it was going to be -15°C and snow like crazy. So today is Thursday and what did we get? We got -12°C and it is snowing like crazy…3 inches so far in the last 4 hours.
I would say that my gut feeling and aches did a better job of forecasting the weather than individuals who get paid good money, have thousands of dollars in equipment and forecasting/weather modeling software and have spent thousands on a formal meteorology degrees. If you listened to me Yellowknifers then you are welcome…if you didn’t then I hope you aren’t out somewhere not expecting this foot of snow tonight.

So, like I said at the beginning, if you want a job where you don’t have to be right and that is fine. A job where a guess is as good as an education. The feeling in your gut and bones can be more accurate than thousands of dollars of equipment, software and an education. A job where people listen to you all the time but don’t trust you. Then meteorology is the job for you.