Does AccuWeather Respect the Process?

Or is this what people want?… (emphasis mine)

Though summerlike temperatures kicked off fall in some parts of the United States, winter — with its cold and snow — is quickly following. The season will get off to a slow start in the Northeast with only occasional shots of cold early on. The northern Plains and the Rockies, however, will be bitterly cold at times and buried in snow.

(From AccuWeather’s Winter Forecast article here.)

This is ridiculous when you consider just how difficult it can be to predict the weather months in advance.  Using definitive language like “this will happen…” seems like you’re setting yourself up for ridicule down the line.  Then again, maybe this is what people want.  I suppose a forecast that waffles or qualifies every statement lends itself to ridicule as well.

That said, I don’t know why it’s so hard to simply lay out one’s thoughts/arguments in defense of a forecast while acknowledging it’s a difficult task and not without risk of failure.  Confidence with humility – that shouldn’t be too difficult.

Anyway, here’s the graphic from AccuWeather for their Winter Forecast:


As you might suspect, the rest of the text is presented in a similar fashion to the opening paragraph quote above.  Of note here is the widespread cold and snow in the West, Northern Plains, and Great Lakes.  The graphic colors indicate a mild east coast, but the text notes that Winter may simply get a late start in this area:

Winter weather lovers will have to be patient this year, as the start of the season in the East certainly won’t pack a punch in terms of cold or snowfall. Winter will begin mildly, with a long duration of above-normal temperatures. One snow system and some chilly air could come at times during November, however.

Temperatures will fall in the latter part of the season, likely the beginning of January, allowing snow to fall along the I-95 corridor.

Philadelphia, which received only 8 inches of snow last year, will likely get higher amounts, but other areas from New York City to Boston should not expect to beat last year’s totals. Overall, however, winter sports enthusiasts have a shot at an average season.

Notice how they mention that “some chilly air could come at times during November.”  So, you know, if it gets chilly in November, they weren’t wrong even if their graphic says “Mild Start.”  They still seem to be forecasting an average Winter overall for the east, which makes that graphic a little misleading.  Otherwise, the rest of their text seems to align with the graphic.  How does this matchup with other forecasts?  We’ll take a look in the coming days/weeks.  (It is only October – although I saw snow here in Southwest PA this morning.)

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Warm Start to Autumn About to Come to Abrupt End

Temperature anomaly across the US from mid-September to mid-October.

Temperature anomaly across the US from mid-September to mid-October. (Click to enlarge this and all other images.)

Cooler than normal temperatures have lingered in the West while much of the middle and eastern part of the nation enjoyed a rather warm and pleasant beginning to Autumn.  As is often the case in transitional seasons, all good things must come to an end.  In this instance, not one, but two shots of cold air are expected to impact much of the country, with the second shot serving as the Winter wake-up call, so to speak.
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Santa Rosa, NM Experiences White Independence Day

07-08 Santa Rosa Hail

I’m a little late to the party on this, but my holiday weekend was full of work in and around the new house.  As you can see above, the streets of Santa Rosa, NM required plowing on Wednesday.  Not from snow (it is July in New Mexico after all), but from hail.  These storms aren’t unheard of in this part of the country.  In fact, you may recall an even more intense hailstorm occurred near Amarillo, TX last year.  Given the sparse population in this part of the country, many of these events go unnoticed.  It just so happens two such storms have passed over or near cities in the last 15 months.

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Flooding in NY; Fires in CO

There has been a lot of rain in the eastern US this past week, and it will likely continue into next week.  As a result, flooding is starting to occur in some towns.  I saw these photographs come across Jim Cantore’s Twitter feed and thought I would share them.  They are from towns in upstate New York near, and east of, Utica very close to the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90).  The flooding looks awful in these towns and, unfortunately, we could see more of this in the coming week.

Flooding in Fort Plain, NY courtesy of Whitney Wallace.

Flooding in Fort Plain, NY courtesy of Whitney Wallace.

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Could Cantore Witness Thundersnow #5?

I think it’s on his mind…

Of course, he’s witnessed it with cameras rolling four times before. (At least, by my count.  If there’s more, let me know in the comments.)  The first three occurrences are captured in the video below.


The fourth and most recent experience came a couple years ago in central PA.


Considering he “just need[ed] a moment” and contemplated entry into the Guinness Book of World Records last time, I’m not sure what his reaction will be if he experiences it with this storm.  Perhaps he’ll just pass out in a snow bank as joy overwhelms him.

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The National Weather Service Forecasts 21+ Inches of Snow Over the Atlantic Ocean

02-07 NWS Graphic

Today, it was announced that Dr. Louis Uccellini will take over as the Director of the National Weather Service.  I’ve had the opportunity to see him speak a couple times at conferences.  I hope he will do well in his new role.  Perhaps his first order of business should involve improving how the NWS communicates with the public.  Take, for example, the image above.  It was produced using computer model output and then color shaded to look slightly more fancy.    Much of it is meaningless.

For starters, I can guarantee you there will not be 21+ inches of snow over the open Atlantic waters.  When snow falls into water, it melts because, you see, the water temperature is above freezing.  (Otherwise it wouldn’t be open water. It would be frozen ice.)  Also, nobody lives in the open water, so why inform us of how much hypothetical snow will accumulate in that area?

Last I checked, NOAA and the NWS were organizations in the United States.  No need to let us know how much snow will fall in eastern Canada.  They will get that information from Environment Canada or the Weather Network.

Now, if you cut out that unnecessary information, you can zoom in on where people live in the northeast US and give them a better idea of how much snow to expect.  Of course, you’ll have to get rid of the “BLIZZARD” graphics written right over the top of the heaviest snowfall so that people can actually know what to expect in their backyard.

Finally, I don’t think this is even that accurate, and it contradicts what the NWS local offices are forecasting.  For example, they appear to have a 12″ band in western CT.  However, the Blizzard Warning that is now in effect for that area calls for 18-24 inches of snow.  Now, in my book, there’s a threshold of snow accumulation that, if crossed, it no longer matters exactly how many inches accumulate.  It varies by region, but I would think 12 inches is probably the threshold in New England.  Once you have a foot of snow, the impacts will be so high that any additional accumulation isn’t going to make the impacts any greater.  (Essentially, a foot of snow will shut down most transportation and keep most people inside.  So, how much worse can it get if another foot falls?)  Still, a 6-12 inch difference in forecast snowfall is not insignificant from a scientific standpoint.  It would be nice to see the NWS and their local offices agree on the forecast snowfall, right?

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Big Bowl Preview VII

11-30-12 Heart of Dallas
Some may say this is the beginning of the end.  It is true that the BCS is looking at a playoff system beginning in a couple of years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of bowl games altogether.  (Of course, given how expensive it is to travel to bowl games, their numbers may begin dwindling.)  I imagine the fans of big time college football programs would still like seeing their team play an extra game against a non-conference opponent, and I’m sure the coaches will love the extra few weeks of practice if for nothing more than preparation for the following year.  So, I don’t plan on this comprehensive, highly-analytical bowl preview being shut down anytime soon.

As always, this is meant to be fun and humorous, but that shouldn’t stop you from using any predictions as your sole source of information for gambling large sums of money.

(All times are eastern standard time.  Rankings reflect the final BCS top-25 standings.)
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