Do You Recognize Weather Hype When You See It?

telephone-game

 

Here is an excellent article describing how science gives way to hype via social media. Thanks to Geoff Fox for tweeting this link to my attention.

 

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Monday’s System Still Trending South

ECMWF model forecast for 7 A.M. EST Monday

ECMWF model forecast for 7 A.M. EST Monday

Did you fall victim to the hype again about the big storm that was going to clobber us with a ton of snow on Monday?  Come in close……..if you promise not to tell anyone, I’m going to let you in on a little secret (again):  No one can accurately & consistently forecast snow amounts a week in advance.

Models are still trending Monday’s system further south, so as expected, anticipated snow amounts are continuing to change. Right now looks like southern New England will see snow amounts between a dusting and 2″ or so, with the higher amounts toward the south coast. Many areas north of I-84 looking at a dusting/less than an inch Sunday night/early Monday. The northern CT hills & Berkshires might actually see more snow Sunday with the cold front passage that from the system going by to our south Monday.  NY City/Long Island still have 2″-5″ possible unless the trend to the south continues. Some light snow or flurries around Sunday as the cold front drops down from the north. Most of what falls in southern CT, RI, NYC/Long Island will be between Sunday evening and early Monday. Snow ends most areas by Monday morning.

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A Near Miss?

00Z ECMWF Forecast for 7 A.M. EST March 1

00Z ECMWF Forecast for 7 A.M. EST March 1

Update on the massive storm that the hypers have indicated will hammer the northeast March 1-2, bringing untold hardship to millions (see previous post).  Last night’s run of the ECMWF has it much weaker and centered between Cuba and the Bahamas.  That’s only about 1500 miles from here.  I wonder if those original posts are still being shared, liked, and retweeted? Last night’s Euro is pictured left.  I had to zoom it back to the Continental scale so the “storm” was still in the frame.

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Are You Buying Into The Hype?

TV newscasts used to be the biggest offenders when it came to hyping weather events. Not so much the meteorologists, as the surrounding elements of the show.  I don’t have to document the silliness here – you’ve seen it.  (My favorite is when they have the reporter standing outside somewhere and it’s dry and they say something like “if it was actually snowing right now, this traffic would be really bad”).  The constant “teases” and insinuations of pending doom before and after the actual weather segment, etc.

I believe now, however, the TV hype machine has been dethroned by social media.  Turns out that many people (most?) actually like the hype.  Although I have been waging war with hype for years in an effort to get straightforward weather information out, it seems to be a losing battle.  There are more sources of weather information now than ever.  There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly, and everything in between.  Sensational weather posts (SOMETIMES IN ALL CAPS!) are shared and retweeted ad infinitum.  We have websites and Facebook weather pages now being run by teenagers that sometimes receive thousands of new likes overnight after an especially alarming forecast!  I have never been asked more about storms that are supposedly threatening us more than a week later than I am now.  My answer is the same as it has always been.  You can lose sleep about threatening weather that’s more than a week out.  I’ll be sleeping like a baby.

Social media has lit up recently with a buzz about the mega storm that’s going to hammer us in early March.  Let’s take a look at some of the modeling:

00Z ECMWF Forecast For 7 AM EST March 1

00Z ECMWF Forecast For 7 AM EST March 1

To the left is last night’s run of the European model.  The Euro is now, apparently, a household word (almost as famous as the polar vortex), but don’t get me going.  Side note: Until a couple years ago when I mentioned the European model, many people thought of Claudia Schiffer.  Last night’s Euro depicted a major east coast storm threatening millions. But this is over a week away.  The chance of that storm actually materializing in that location at that time is small.  It would be like pressing the pause button on your DVR right when the placekicker’s foot makes contact with the football on a 65 yard field goal attempt and trying to predict exactly where the ball will land (not if it will be good or not, which is 50/50).  To put it another way, forecasting the weather is similar to watching the blobs in a lava lamp and predicting where each one will be and what shape they will be in, an hour later.  It’s fluid dynamics and there’s a lot that can change/go wrong.  In fact, extended range forecasting actually includes reviewing numerous “ensemble members” of each model, not just the “operational run” that usually gets posted.  Each of these members has a slightly different solution to the same problem – but lets not get tangled in the weeds here.

12Z ECMWF Forecast for 7 AM EST March 1

12Z ECMWF Forecast for 7 AM EST March 1

To the left is the money shot.  This is the morning (operational) run of the Euro forecasting for the same time frame as the image above (7 AM EST March 1st).  Where’s the storm now? Oh, it’s about 500 miles further south.  This model run actually takes the storm out to sea sparing most of the northeast.  The GFS model also takes it out to sea.  Does this mean that’s what is going to happen?  I don’t know.  These models could trend it back in during the next few days or do something totally different.  The point is 500 mile fluctuations in weather systems on extended range models is commonplace.  This is why I don’t get too excited when someone tells me breathlessly about the big storm coming a little over a week from now – EVEN IF THEY TELL ME IN ALL CAPS!!!   It’s also why the Climate Prediction Center did not accurately forecast this Winter’s weather in advance and why I don’t lose sleep over someone’s climate model saying that global temperatures will rise several degrees during the next century.   Will a significant storm form within 36 hours of March 1st?  Probably.  Will it have an impact on New York?  Philadelphia?, Roanoke?, D.C.? Pittsburgh?  I don’t know.  Nobody does at this point.  But how many of the people who have been exposed to the buzz about this, or been tipped off by a friend that was, still think the northeast is due to be clobbered March 1st?  Who’s going to tell them that it’s no longer modeled that way?

That doesn’t generate likes or followers.

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Yesterday’s Snowfall

Snowfall Report Map CT 021814Here are the reported snowfall amounts from around Connecticut yesterday plotted on a map.  As low pressure developed over eastern Long Island, a warm front set up from the low, northward, between Hartford & Willimantic.  The band of heaviest snow set up along and just west of this boundary, which resulted in the heaviest snow near and just east of the I-91 corridor.

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Some Rain/Mix On The Way………

HRRR SnowfallA small, fast moving low will move across the region this afternoon with some (mostly) rain.  The northwest hills of CT could see a slushy coating to an inch or two of wet snow and the Berkshires 1″-3″ of wet snow.  Some higher amounts are possible in the northern Catskills and Green Mountains, but for most of us it’s about 1/4″-1/2″ of rain.  Can’t rule out some pockets of freezing rain across the interior.

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A Weighty Problem

Current water content of the snowpack

Current water content of the snowpack

Hopefully you have a strong roof. The water content of the snowpack across most of the region is between 2″-5″ right now. There will be rainfall Wednesday afternoon and Thursday night/Friday that will add to this weight. Also, watch out for refreeze tonight and Wednesday night if you are out or traveling.  In the image to the left, light blue shading represents 2″-4″ of water content in the existing snowpack.  The dark blue shading represents 4″-6″!  Amounts are lower across Cape Cod and coastal Rhode Island.

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Snow Update

Snowfall Prediction Today 021814Updated snow forecast today:  This system is a bit less organized than modeled 24 hours ago, so will lower snow forecast a bit (see map to left).  Snow staring in parts of CT now. Could end in NY City/western Long Island before lunch.  Should end in CT before evening rush and in MA & central New England by this evening. Still expect mixing/change to rain this P.M. for some places south & east of Hartford, CT.

Instead of one main slug of snow today, there are actually 2 different areas of precipitation.

Radar 6:21 A.M. EST

Radar 6:21 A.M. EST

The first area (#1 on image to the left) that is moving into CT and Long Island now will become enhanced and produce most of the accumulation today.  I think the area to the west (#2) will move mostly up to our northwest and not produce much accumulation in our region, thus the slightly lower snowfall forecast compared to yesterday at this time.

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Snow Tuesday

Snow Forecast 021914Looks like a 3″-7″ type snowfall Tuesday, except less near the shore where it changes to rain, and a tad more in the hills. Start time: 5-6 AM in NY City, generally after 7-8 AM in CT. It probably wouldn’t reach Boston/Providence until after 10-11 AM, however some light snow or flurries may come in on the ocean flow before that. Ends Tuesday evening. Milder weather to follow after Tuesday.

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The GFS is Bullish on Snow

GFS Forecast For 7 PM Saturday

GFS Forecast For 7 PM Saturday

Not going to change the forecast at this point, however the afternoon run of the GFS model is in and it continues to be quite bullish on snow for us tomorrow.  In fact, if this particular model run were to verify, we’d probably be looking at a 6″-12″ type event Saturday/Saturday night with strong wind.  I don’t usually change a forecast based on one intermediate run of one model, so will leave as is for now, but this should be monitored closely if you have travel plans tomorrow.

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