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(The Week)   So everyone knows that weathermen just pull forecasts out of their butts and it's all a bunch of guesswork, right? Well, actually...it's gotten a hell of a lot more accurate over the past couple decades. Here comes the science   (theweek.com) divider line 50
    More: Interesting, chaos theory, initial conditions, mathematical theory, weather forecasts, weather maps  
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731 clicks; posted to Geek » on 20 May 2014 at 1:19 PM (27 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-05-20 10:38:48 AM  
www.radiotimes.com
 
2014-05-20 11:00:27 AM  
www.thegolfcourseguru.com
 
2014-05-20 12:22:55 PM  
It should be noted that, in 1950, forecast skill of 70% was considered to be a perfect forecast... now look where we are (or at least were, as of 8 years ago).

stu-in-flag.net
/Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.
//Slightly-bitter meteorologist
 
2014-05-20 01:24:57 PM  
So why is it that looking at the radar and out the window still works better than relying on the weatherguesser on TV?
 
2014-05-20 01:30:28 PM  

ds_4815: It should be noted that, in 1950, forecast skill of 70% was considered to be a perfect forecast... now look where we are (or at least were, as of 8 years ago).

[stu-in-flag.net image 850x693]
/Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.
//Slightly-bitter meteorologist


Only slightly? ;)

And you're expecting people who ignore that they can compare the weather to the forecast and see that their opinion is misinformed to pay attention to numbers and graphs... Good luck. I moved a few months back, so I've got a whole new batch of people who think they're clever and repeat the same jokes at me, I don't even bother trying to correct them most of the time anymore. Mostly because it usually turns into a rant and they tune out 3 seconds in.
 
2014-05-20 01:37:11 PM  

Smeggy Smurf: So why is it that looking at the radar and out the window still works better than relying on the weatherguesser on TV?


Looking at the radar or out the window != multi-day forecast.
 
2014-05-20 01:43:59 PM  

ds_4815: Smeggy Smurf: So why is it that looking at the radar and out the window still works better than relying on the weatherguesser on TV?

Looking at the radar or out the window != multi-day forecast.


Seeing if something is coming by tomorrow does mean multi day. If you need more than that then pay attention to the world around you.
 
2014-05-20 01:45:09 PM  

ds_4815: Smeggy Smurf: So why is it that looking at the radar and out the window still works better than relying on the weatherguesser on TV?

Looking at the radar or out the window != multi-day forecast.


Not to mention the fact that the forecast/viewing area is a bit larger than your view from a window or knowing your exact location on a map with radar superimposed on it, if we're talking the current weather and not a forecast. And if you're expecting a 100% perfect forecast a week out, then it's your own fault for having unreasonable expectations of computing power, models, math, amount of actual data to put into the models, etc.
 
2014-05-20 01:48:47 PM  
Forecasts have improved greatly in terms of temperature, cloud cover, and "binary" precipitation forecasts - ie. it's going to snow or rain vs. not.  But they're still pretty terrible at predicting how much precipitation we're going to get out of a system.  I don't think we've had a single storm all winter that's gotten close to even the lower bound of the predicted range.  2 weeks ago was typical - called for 5" to 10" with locally heavier amounts.  Maybe got 2" or 3" out of it.
 
2014-05-20 01:48:54 PM  

Smeggy Smurf: So why is it that looking at the radar and out the window still works better than relying on the weatherguesser on TV?


Give us your zip code and a five day forecast.

We'll check back Saturday to see how you did against the "weatherguesser".
 
2014-05-20 01:49:05 PM  

ds_4815: /Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.


I'd heard the NWS was supposed to be getting a big new supercomputer, but turns out it hasn't even been ordered yet ...
 
2014-05-20 01:51:15 PM  
This is why I trust my meteorologist when he says that climate change is a hoax.
 
2014-05-20 01:51:55 PM  

Smeggy Smurf: ds_4815: Smeggy Smurf: So why is it that looking at the radar and out the window still works better than relying on the weatherguesser on TV?

Looking at the radar or out the window != multi-day forecast.

Seeing if something is coming by tomorrow does mean multi day. If you need more than that then pay attention to the world around you.


You've been told. Get over it.
 
2014-05-20 01:52:27 PM  

Ambitwistor: ds_4815: /Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.

I'd heard the NWS was supposed to be getting a big new supercomputer, but turns out it hasn't even been ordered yet ...


I'd done a research paper a couple of years ago on the computing power problem, and at that point, the discussion looked pretty favorable for getting that glorious supercomputer. Looking back on it, it almost seemed too optimistic an outlook for such a bureaucratic quagmire.
 
2014-05-20 01:53:03 PM  

Lamberts Ho Man: Forecasts have improved greatly in terms of temperature, cloud cover, and "binary" precipitation forecasts - ie. it's going to snow or rain vs. not.  But they're still pretty terrible at predicting how much precipitation we're going to get out of a system.  I don't think we've had a single storm all winter that's gotten close to even the lower bound of the predicted range.  2 weeks ago was typical - called for 5" to 10" with locally heavier amounts.  Maybe got 2" or 3" out of it.


If we're talking snow here (just going by the "winter" part), they're harder than just rain predictions. Because, to get a snowfall amount, not only do you have to have a sense of how much moisture will fall from the sky but also what the snow-water equivalent will be. Steadily, though, all parts of forecasting are getting better.
 
2014-05-20 01:54:43 PM  

ds_4815: It should be noted that, in 1950, forecast skill of 70% was considered to be a perfect forecast... now look where we are (or at least were, as of 8 years ago).

[stu-in-flag.net image 850x693]
/Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.
//Slightly-bitter meteorologist


If I did 60% or even 80% of my job right like your graph shows, my company would fire me in a week.
 
2014-05-20 01:56:13 PM  

ds_4815: Ambitwistor: ds_4815: /Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.

I'd heard the NWS was supposed to be getting a big new supercomputer, but turns out it hasn't even been ordered yet ...

I'd done a research paper a couple of years ago on the computing power problem, and at that point, the discussion looked pretty favorable for getting that glorious supercomputer. Looking back on it, it almost seemed too optimistic an outlook for such a bureaucratic quagmire.


You never really can tell one way or the other until the darn thing gets rolled in the door. All it takes is a couple of angsty bureaucrats to end up with no new shiny supercomputer. And, maybe, just maybe, the right people will get their heads out of their collective asses and it'll happen. I won't hold my breath, though, and I'm ever the optimist.

/Maybe if the NWS can convince the military that they need it for their forecasts, but that it has to belong to NWS for "reasons"...
 
2014-05-20 01:58:07 PM  
DRTFA, so basically someone just did a book report on Nate Silver's  The Signal and the Noise?
 
2014-05-20 02:00:56 PM  

bmckenna: ds_4815: It should be noted that, in 1950, forecast skill of 70% was considered to be a perfect forecast... now look where we are (or at least were, as of 8 years ago).

[stu-in-flag.net image 850x693]
/Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.
//Slightly-bitter meteorologist

If I did 60% or even 80% of my job right like your graph shows, my company would fire me in a week.


And how often do you have to perfectly predict the future of a chaotic system governed by differential equations being solved numerically with estimations, into which you have input an incomplete dataset? And have this prediction apply to a variety of adjacent "scenarios" (in this case geographic locations within the forecast area)?
 
2014-05-20 02:03:13 PM  

jaytkay: Smeggy Smurf: So why is it that looking at the radar and out the window still works better than relying on the weatherguesser on TV?

Give us your zip code and a five day forecast.

We'll check back Saturday to see how you did against the "weatherguesser".


You should already know my general location.

Highs in the mid 70's ranging to the low 80's, a bit windy.  Low chance of rain for the next couple of days.  In other words, the same as it always is this time of year every year.
 
2014-05-20 02:03:33 PM  

bmckenna: If I did 60% or even 80% of my job right like your graph shows, my company would fire me in a week.

bmckenna: ds_4815: It should be noted that, in 1950, forecast skill of 70% was considered to be a perfect forecast... now look where we are (or at least were, as of 8 years ago).

[stu-in-flag.net image 850x693]
/Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.
//Slightly-bitter meteorologist

If I did 60% or even 80% of my job right like your graph shows, my company would fire me in a week.


If your job was to guess how much money the company would bring in tomorrow and you said "$50,000" but the real amount was $52,000, you wouldn't get sacked.
 
2014-05-20 02:11:01 PM  

bmckenna: ds_4815: It should be noted that, in 1950, forecast skill of 70% was considered to be a perfect forecast... now look where we are (or at least were, as of 8 years ago).

[stu-in-flag.net image 850x693]
/Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.
//Slightly-bitter meteorologist

If I did 60% or even 80% of my job right like your graph shows, my company would fire me in a week.


But if you were a ball player who could get a hit 40% of the time you would be a god
 
2014-05-20 02:11:37 PM  

Luthien's Tempest: /Maybe if the NWS can convince the military that they need it for their forecasts, but that it has to belong to NWS for "reasons"...


The military doesn't even fund its own weather HPC at that level.  All of FNMOC's HPC put together is 270 TF (660 TF projected FY15), while the new NWS supercomputer is spec'd at ~2000 TF.
 
2014-05-20 02:12:51 PM  
Weatherpersons in Houston are absolutely terrible. (yeah, Chita is smokin' hot, but so what - so's the soccer mom at Kroger.) They spend half their air-time trying to get me to like them on facebook and follow them on twitter. Not only that, every one of them must live in a condo downtown because they're just overjoyed about it being sunny with 0% chance of rain for weeks and weeks at a time. I wouldn't wish a drought on my biggest enemy, but not the Houston weather-tards, they love that it never rains. Aw, hells bells, now my blood is boiling.
 
2014-05-20 02:15:57 PM  
Nobody can figure out the farking weather here, but it isn't the fault of the meteorologists, the storms that they say are heading our way almost always doo what they say they will.

Up to a point...

The problem is that Salt Lake lies in a big ass bowl of a valley, with mountains on 3 sides, and really only a narrow corridor between the lake and the mountains on the 4th... Storms either stall right on the other side of one of the mountain ranges, stall right at the northern passage into town, or the mountain we cross to go south to Provo. You can have a storm dump a foot of snow in Bountiful and next to nothing in SLC. Officially, they are probably 20 miles apart, but really there may be 5 miles that separate SLC form the Bountiful/Kaysville area. Same to the south. The southern part of Salt lake is about 5 linear miles from Utah Valley, of which Lehi his the first town you come to. The snow can be falling like a bastard there, and nothing in SLC. Other times shiat stalls out in the valley, and SLC gets all of the snow, plus a dumping from the lake effect. Hell, when I lived in the eastern part of town, I was on 20th East. I would drive to work, there would be 4" or so, and it was snowing pretty nicely. I would get to State Street, 2 1/2 miles away, and there might be a dusting of snow, and it would be a rain snow mix. Basically around here, a smart person takes a weather report as more of a general temp and clear/cloudy skies thing with a potential for possible rain. I've seen days that had a 100% chance not get a drop.

People don't actually realize how tough weather prediction is. Maybe instead of pretty weather people on the news, we need some geeks...
 
2014-05-20 02:18:12 PM  

bmckenna: ds_4815: It should be noted that, in 1950, forecast skill of 70% was considered to be a perfect forecast... now look where we are (or at least were, as of 8 years ago).

[stu-in-flag.net image 850x693]
/Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.
//Slightly-bitter meteorologist

If I did 60% or even 80% of my job right like your graph shows, my company would fire me in a week.


Jesus, WHATEVER you do for a living, you are making an apples and orthopedic shoes comparison here.
 
2014-05-20 02:20:09 PM  

Ambitwistor: Luthien's Tempest: /Maybe if the NWS can convince the military that they need it for their forecasts, but that it has to belong to NWS for "reasons"...

The military doesn't even fund its own weather HPC at that level.  All of FNMOC's HPC put together is 270 TF (660 TF projected FY15), while the new NWS supercomputer is spec'd at ~2000 TF.


That wasn't really intended seriously. But since it seems some days that if a few politicians can be convinced it is a military necessity (whether or not it is), then it can be added to the budget without a problem...

MJMaloney187: Weatherpersons in Houston are absolutely terrible. (yeah, Chita is smokin' hot, but so what - so's the soccer mom at Kroger.) They spend half their air-time trying to get me to like them on facebook and follow them on twitter. Not only that, every one of them must live in a condo downtown because they're just overjoyed about it being sunny with 0% chance of rain for weeks and weeks at a time. I wouldn't wish a drought on my biggest enemy, but not the Houston weather-tards, they love that it never rains. Aw, hells bells, now my blood is boiling.


That makes no sense to me, being a weather person who dislikes rain, that is. I love the rain. That's the properly interesting weather, imo.
 
2014-05-20 02:20:55 PM  
All the forecasts in the world can't help if Mother Nature decides to flip you off and throw something else at you.

I used to dislike weather forecasts and get annoyed that they were wrong. But then I realized that its a chaotic system with alot of variables to predict. A storm traveling east can be fine in one state but the next state has something else going on which can make the storm change. Plus some rain cells are small enough to rain on your town while they said that the state will be partly cloudy.

And storms like Sandy which went out to the ocean and made almost a right angle turn right back to the east coast.
 
2014-05-20 02:25:53 PM  
Good to see I haven't lost my touch.

/friends with way too many people with B.S. and/or doctorates in meterology
//seriously, it's always too easy.
 
2014-05-20 02:28:31 PM  
Still doesn't make up for dumb-ass local TV stations who over-hype the upcoming chance of rain/snow in order to have more "exciting" weather forecasts.
 
2014-05-20 02:29:53 PM  

Mikey1969: People don't actually realize how tough weather prediction is. Maybe instead of pretty weather people on the news, we need some geeks...


I've got an interview at a Montana TV station in two days, and I've got a face for radio, so we'll see if you get your wish.
 
2014-05-20 02:31:15 PM  

DontMakeMeComeBackThere: Still doesn't make up for dumb-ass local TV stations who over-hype the upcoming chance of rain/snow in order to have more "exciting" weather forecasts.


That's probably a major source of people's hatred of weather predictions. People get tired hearing 'We're all going to die' every storm from some reporters.
 
2014-05-20 02:48:25 PM  

ds_4815: Mikey1969: People don't actually realize how tough weather prediction is. Maybe instead of pretty weather people on the news, we need some geeks...

I've got an interview at a Montana TV station in two days, and I've got a face for radio, so we'll see if you get your wish.


Oooh, good luck. Even if it does mean you're stuck in Montana.
 
2014-05-20 02:52:27 PM  

bmckenna: Good to see I haven't lost my touch.

/friends with way too many people with B.S. and/or doctorates in meterology
//seriously, it's always too easy.


Your friends secretly hate you and are plotting your demise. ;)

One of my buddies was pulling this earlier today. I'll get my payback, next time we're together, I'm driving (I have a lead foot, a Mustang (my husband's), and am learning to drive stick. I am also all immigranty and drive nothing like the locals. Fun times to be had by all).
 
2014-05-20 02:57:51 PM  

ds_4815: Mikey1969: People don't actually realize how tough weather prediction is. Maybe instead of pretty weather people on the news, we need some geeks...

I've got an interview at a Montana TV station in two days, and I've got a face for radio, so we'll see if you get your wish.


Montana's gorgeous. I'm big on not being around a lot of people, so I could totally go for something like that.

Good luck.
 
2014-05-20 03:04:45 PM  
So when do you think they can do a 20 day forecast?
 
2014-05-20 03:09:38 PM  

DontMakeMeComeBackThere: Still doesn't make up for dumb-ass local TV stations who over-hype the upcoming chance of rain/snow in order to have more "exciting" weather forecasts.


No kidding - and they hype it all night and put it at the end of the newscast so you have to wait through all the tripe.  HATE broadcast news.

best to go straight to the source: http://www.weather.gov/
 
2014-05-20 03:12:11 PM  

Smeggy Smurf: So why is it that looking at the radar and out the window still works better than relying on the weatherguesser on TV?


Looking out the window doesn't help as much if you're going to be out for the whole day, and you need to know if it's going to rain on the way back.
 
2014-05-20 03:26:27 PM  
I think some weathermen still exaggerate.

3.bp.blogspot.com
 
2014-05-20 03:32:49 PM  

Lamberts Ho Man: Forecasts have improved greatly in terms of temperature, cloud cover, and "binary" precipitation forecasts - ie. it's going to snow or rain vs. not.  But they're still pretty terrible at predicting how much precipitation we're going to get out of a system.  I don't think we've had a single storm all winter that's gotten close to even the lower bound of the predicted range.  2 weeks ago was typical - called for 5" to 10" with locally heavier amounts.  Maybe got 2" or 3" out of it.


Here in DC, they pretty much low-balled a lot of the storms this past season, but then again, I'd say that
weather report accuracy overall is lower than average.  ISTR weather reports in NJ/NY being a lot more
consistently accurate when I lived up there.
 
2014-05-20 03:46:15 PM  
Took long enough for someone to post that picture...


/heh long...
 
2014-05-20 03:51:05 PM  
I find it hilarious that a lot of internet filters disallow Wunderground.com just because of a little domestic terrorist group had a similar name.  Fark.com usually works though.. odd that.

The recent site 'improvement' tries to hide most of the useful features but I like the new temperature graph.
 
2014-05-20 04:42:25 PM  

Lamberts Ho Man: DontMakeMeComeBackThere: Still doesn't make up for dumb-ass local TV stations who over-hype the upcoming chance of rain/snow in order to have more "exciting" weather forecasts.

No kidding - and they hype it all night and put it at the end of the newscast so you have to wait through all the tripe.  HATE broadcast news.

best to go straight to the source: http://www.weather.gov/


Read the forecast discussion, and you can write the script for the TV guy.
 
2014-05-20 06:32:33 PM  

Luthien's Tempest: Lamberts Ho Man: Forecasts have improved greatly in terms of temperature, cloud cover, and "binary" precipitation forecasts - ie. it's going to snow or rain vs. not.  But they're still pretty terrible at predicting how much precipitation we're going to get out of a system.  I don't think we've had a single storm all winter that's gotten close to even the lower bound of the predicted range.  2 weeks ago was typical - called for 5" to 10" with locally heavier amounts.  Maybe got 2" or 3" out of it.

If we're talking snow here (just going by the "winter" part), they're harder than just rain predictions. Because, to get a snowfall amount, not only do you have to have a sense of how much moisture will fall from the sky but also what the snow-water equivalent will be. Steadily, though, all parts of forecasting are getting better.


Snow accumulation forecasts are notoriously difficult. A small shift in the storm track can mean the difference between a foot of snow and an inch of slush at a given location while the larger-scale forecast remains fairly accurate.
 
2014-05-20 06:52:48 PM  
The TOR:CON index over at weather.com has been chillingly accurate around here, and in many other parts of Tornado Alley.
 
2014-05-20 10:30:18 PM  

bmckenna: Good to see I haven't lost my touch.

/friends with way too many people with B.S. and/or doctorates in meterology
//seriously, it's always too easy.


Hell I'll sometimes do the same thing and I have degrees in it.  Granted I'm also easy to troll on the subject so I kinda deserve it.
 
2014-05-20 10:31:23 PM  

bmckenna: ds_4815: It should be noted that, in 1950, forecast skill of 70% was considered to be a perfect forecast... now look where we are (or at least were, as of 8 years ago).

[stu-in-flag.net image 850x693]
/Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.
//Slightly-bitter meteorologist

If I did 60% or even 80% of my job right like your graph shows, my company would fire me in a week.


Your job sounds easily done.
 
2014-05-20 10:55:42 PM  

bmckenna: ds_4815: It should be noted that, in 1950, forecast skill of 70% was considered to be a perfect forecast... now look where we are (or at least were, as of 8 years ago).

[stu-in-flag.net image 850x693]
/Imagine what we could do if we had a goddamned decent budget for computing power etc.
//Slightly-bitter meteorologist

If I did 60% or even 80% of my job right like your graph shows, my company would fire me in a week.


Ladies and gentlemen, the Dunning Kruger effect.
 
2014-05-21 01:39:47 PM  
Out here in Cal our local guy has been pretty bad all winter. I think it's more of the local "happy, happy, joy, joy" culture. All winter there was a chance of rain next week. Then next week. Then he'd practically cream his pants when there was a front rolling in and would predict large amounts of precipitation. We'd get small or modest amounts.

I understand it's not easy modeling all the different data points, I just feel like he's being dishonest with the long range stuff. I only pay attention to the 72 hour forecast. He seems to get those right. Lately his week long forecasts have been promising a warm weekend on Monday and by Wednesday those numbers have dropped. It's looking pretty good for this weekend though, yay!
 
2014-05-21 03:09:43 PM  

SafetyThird: I understand it's not easy modeling all the different data points, I just feel like he's being dishonest with the long range stuff. I only pay attention to the 72 hour forecast. He seems to get those right.


I'm not even sure most meteorologists want to give anything more than a 72-hour forecast as it is. Pressure by the station suits who don't quite get how meteorology works seems to be responsible for the now-standard 5-day, and sometimes 7-day forecasts.
 
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