Right or Wrong, They Still Have a Job Have you ever wished that you would have become a weather forecaster? There was a time in my life that I thought it would be a fun profession. “Back in my …
Right or Wrong, They Still Have a Job
Have you ever wished that you would have become a weather forecaster? There was a time in my life that I thought it would be a fun profession. “Back in my day” we had a guy named Jerome Kraehling, better known as “Bud,” who was a weatherman for WCCO. He was the “go to” in our house for all things weather. Even with as much respect as Bud had in the confines of the Schommer household, I remember mom saying, “those weathermen are wrong most the time” and yet, we still planned our activities on “those weathermen’s predictions.” A lot has changed in respect to meteorology, especially regarding technology. If you are old enough, you remember when Doppler Radar first became a thing in the 1980’s or in 1992 when computers were first used to draw surface analysis. Nowadays, the sciences of Climatology, Atmospheric Chemistry, and Atmospheric Physics experience breakthroughs on a regular basis. With all these “improvements,” there is one thing that has not changed. Weathermen, better known now as Meteorologists, because big titles are more impressive, are still wrong most of the time, or at least it seems that way. It is not just men, either. Being wrong about the weather is no longer gender specific.
Here is a more recent example of a day lost by many because they listened to the weather forecast. On Sunday, May 23rd, the forecast on every radio, television and online media option called for sun in the morning with storms all afternoon and into the evening. We were led to believe that planning anything outdoors should include an umbrella or a raincoat. Outdoors anything would be futile, and we should just batten down the hatches and hunker down as REO Speedwagon sang, “Ride the Storm Out.” The meteorologists were wrong. Not only did it not storm, except for a couple sprinkles around 1:30pm, anything resembling rain was non-existent. The sun was high and bright with a light breeze, making it a great spring day to participate in outdoor activities. Had my lovely bride and I accepted the forecasters advice, we would been at home instead of watching the Hastings Hawks defeat the Miesville Mudhens. As it were, the words of my mom rang true once again and we, or at least I, enjoyed baseball game number 18 of this early spring. If I need to be completely honest, I would have sat through a storm of the monsoon category to watch that game.
Fast-forward to Thursday, May 27th where the forecast was for 100% chance of rain. They got this prediction 100% correct. The rain fell by the bucket load and there did not appear to be an end in sight. At least on this day, it looked as if all those fancy, high-tech gadgets the National Weather Service invested their money on was maybe worth it. The NWS is funded under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which are both agencies of the United States Federal Government, so their $1,000,000,000 budget is really our money. That is one-billion dollars. You would think that with that kind of budget, they would be able to get it right more often than not, right?
According to the weather website “SciJinks.gov,” a seven-day forecast can accurately predict the weather about eighty percent of the time. A five-day forecast accurately predicts the weather approximately ninety percent of the time. “Accurately… about” and “accurately… approximately” has me questioning the accuracy of those statement. The fact that the website, which is also funded by the NOAA, is of the .gov variety and in many ways is a way to “toot their own horn,” makes me question the validity of said information. It is one of those “maybe, maybe not” type things. Are there some ‘hijinks’ going on at ‘Scinjinks?’ You can make your own mind up on that one. Maybe they are correct more often than incorrect? Their failures in accuracy may just be an illusion. Certainly, their level of scientific knowledge and experience betters mine 100-fold or more. All I know is of the two days I picked within a five-day period; the forecast was wrong 50% of the time. Maybe that is just how statistics work?
My Uncle George (Burr) was the numbers guy for Hudson Sprayers for many years. You could rattle off five numbers, all five digits long and before you hit the equal sign on the calculator, he could give you the total sum. While this was impressive, the way he lived and treated others impressed me more. To me, his word was golden, and I have several “Uncle George-isms” in my personal vernacular. One such phrase that has stood the test of time is, “figures don’t lie, but liars sure can figure.” The basis of this simply meant, if you do not lie, you will not have to try to remember what you said, so, tell the truth always. It also could be taken as; any statistic can be manipulated to illustrate the outcome that the statistician desires. If I want to “prove” a theory or hypothesis and want the “proof” to lean towards my own personal beliefs, stacking the survey deck is easy to do. Sticking with “forecasters are wrong more than right,” if I took a survey of restauranteurs who closed their patios on May 23rd because it was going to rain, the fact that they lost revenue may be reflected in their answers. If I also include people who canceled their outdoor activities on that same day because of the weather reports, these folks might be a tad disgruntled as well. As taught in any college level stats class, 73.6% to 85% of statistics are false or misleading. The numbers do not lie, but they tell a lot of half-truths and THAT is a fact. As spring comes to an end and summer is just around the bend, my advice is pay less attention to the weather forecasts and have as much fun as you can. Make memories with your family and friends because we do not know when the opportunities will end. Get Out and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.