Posts tagged weather forecast
Don’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.
How many of you pay attention to the weekly weather forecasts in your area? In the Arctic, we look at the upcoming weather regularly as it dictates what we can plan for the week. At least in the winter this is important. I mean, who wants to go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in -40° weather when they can wait a couple of days until it warms up to -35° C?
On Sunday when MasterMaq and Sharon Y. were preparing to leave Yellowknife I checked the weather forecast both for Edmonton, where they live and were headed back to, and Yellowknife (#yzf for you Twitter people), where they had been visiting us for a week. Their trip to Yellowknife started off with some modest -20° C temperatures the first 2 days which allowed them to go dog sledding but it quickly turned colder and they were forced to endure -30° C or colder weather for the better part of their visit.
So, Environment Canada’s weatheroffice website showed that Edmonton was supposed to get warmer with highs reaching 0° C by Saturday the 9th. The site also showed that Yellowknife was also supposed to get to 0° C by Saturday. For the north, that would be a big bonus considering we are just starting our coldest part of the year. In fact they list the warming trend that is supposed to start tomorrow as an “abnormal temperature trend”. Checking the website again last night I noticed that the forecast had changed and was now showing -10° C as the high for Saturday. This morning I checked the weather forecast again and now it is showing -14° C as the high. I am starting to feel that by Saturday we will just get our normal temperatures.
I have noticed this type of forecasting in the winter before. It’s almost like they are trying to pull a cruel joke on us northerners. Or maybe, just maybe, the GNWT is conspiring with EC to inflate longer term weather forecasts. The reason you ask? Simple!
There are 2 reasons. The first is they want it to look warmer to entice visitors to the north. Yellowknife especially has a large visitor boom in the winter as people flock from every imaginable place to see the northern lights (Aurora Borealis). Yellowknife is known around the world as a great place to view this phenomenon (although MasterMaq and Sharon Y. would disagree as they had clear weather every night here and didn’t see them once). The second reason is to play mind games with those of us who live in the north. Many look at the temperatures and start to think of leaving, either for warm vacations or moving to warmer climes but when we see that it is warming up those thoughts are put on the back burner until the next time those forecasts drop.
The funny thing is how this always seems to happen around the same time every year which is why it seems like a conspiracy.
UPDATE: As of Thursday, January 7th, 2010 the forecast for Yellowknife this Saturday is -19° C. I guess I was right after all.