Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Because 25 Day Forecasts Weren't Already Suspect

There isn't much else that can be said.  AccuWeather, which released a 25 day forecast last April to criticism, skepticism, and mixed reviews from numerous people in and out of the weather community, has upped the forecasting ante with a 45 day forecast.

Yeah.  A month and a half.  In fact, you can check out the forecast for you as far out as the latter third of September.  In yesterday's forecast, September 4th suggested 1.1" of rain and scattered thunderstorms.  I'll probably revisit this, either point and laugh or call the broken clock theory into play, when we hit September 5th.

Given the tendencies found in a couple of studies, the exact parts of this forecast may not ultimately be right but patterns may pan out reasonably well within a month. As AccuWeather's Alex Sonsnowski wisely put it in the beginning of the article "people should not use long-range forecasts as a strict guide but rather look at how weather patterns evolve."

Of course, the unfortunate reality is that AccuWeather's press folk then try to surmise that "a lot of information can be gathered" based off of a 45 day forecast for Labor Day, which is nearly 30 days out, by looking at their expected high in relation to normal and records.

No's typically warm on Labor Day!

So what about this whole 45 day forecast it going to change the game of forecasting? Consider me...and others...skeptical.  Capital Weather nails the meteorological hammer very well, so there's no need for me to take the dead horse to the glue factory in that regard.  They also effectively hammer the "gimmick over substance" angle, so there's no need to go there either.

But, I will say this.  If your 25 day forecast still is less than stellar in its day-to-day performance, why even set yourself up for ridicule with a 45 day forecast?  What would be the rationale?

It's possible their average user isn't meteorologically savvy. That don't care about accuracy...they'd rather have an idea of what it *may* do six weeks out, assume that's the golden gospel truth, and run with it while those details are prone to change 30-40 times in those six weeks. The "Joe Average" out there that doesn't follow the weather with more than a cursory "what's it going to do today" or "the weatherman sucks because he forecasted storms and it isn't storming here" (when it is storming 10 miles away) may be more apt to put stock into these type of gimmick forecasts.

Granted, forecast accuracy is improving...but it's not anywhere near where it should be to put much, if any, confidence in a super-extended forecast.  The scientific community has a long, arduous road ahead to get the accuracy of days ten and beyond to match what we can generally predict within five days (most of the time).

The business of weather continues a slow downward spiral of hype and sensationalism, with screamers getting louder and hypemongers hyping more frequently. Trends like this...or naming everything that's attached to a cloud...are the unfortunate reality and probably will be for a while.

That said, no matter what happens in the industry of weather forecasting, at least one forecast, one day a year, will always be 100 percent accurate for some in Western Pennsylvania.