Monday, November 11, 2013

So, About That Coastal That's Not Going To Hit Us

Some merchants of hype were arguably at their worst last week with the paper storm that is not going to materialize for the East Coast. A storm will develop but it's Bermuda's problem, not yours.

This is why we shouldn't stress modeling details more than a week out, nor should we hype them.

The Weather Channel had hyped up the possibility of a "crippling" snowstorm when the below post, since edited, was first made on November 6th.  The edited post is certainly much milder than the reference of crippling snow...but the original reference to "crippling" snowstorm was based on a GFS model run for more than a week out that had shown little consistency.  This is one of those instances I wish I had saved that initial picture of what TWC posted.

Granted, I expect guys like Henry Margusity, who has made a career out of speculative forecasting and borderline hype, to jump in on storm threats. Initially, though, Henry was pretty timid with the threat and wisely was cautious.

That tune changed a couple of days later after a few Euro runs.

Another one that "normally" is a hypemonger, Joe Bastardi, was relatively tame. Supertyphoon Haiyan had him tied up but his posts were mostly model graphics showing the model and what it had, not really getting into a speculative forecast except for this tweet out on November 5th:

By Bastardi standards, that's tame...and a pretty decent tweet.

Now that we're within 72 hours of the storm and the models have largely shot the storm threat away for everyone except Bermuda, what can be garnered from the antics of the last few days?

In the case of The Weather Channel, I don't blame any specific meteorologist for fanning the flames of this. It's not Cantore's fault, it's not Forbes' fault, nor the fault of any one meteorologist on camera. Is it a definite marketing ploy? Absolutely. Are their social media people at fault for the initial 'crippling' post? Given it was posted on Facebook, pretty sure that they own some responsibility in it.

I'm not as miffed about someone like Margusity, who has a reputation as being a meteorological speculator, throwing stuff down. When it comes to a more mainstream outlet like The Weather Channel, however, the channel should know better than posting any hype that far out. Granted, the "correction" shows someone at TWC figured out they should hedge their bets somewhat and edit the Facebook post to reflect the possibility of snow, as opposed to the possibility of crippling snow, but that cat was effectively let out of the bag once the post button was clicked.

I don't feel it's hard to differentiate between talking about the possibility of a storm and the specifics behind it. Despite it being a fine line, a fair chunk of mainstream forecasters do a good job of airing on the side of caution despite "raising awareness" about the possibility of a storm. A number of folks do hype...and some are pretty awful at it. However, there are those "hype" moments that should be pointed out, called out, and when wrong given the Nelson Muntz treatment.

To TWC's marketing and social media folks, a hearty "ha ha" should go your way. Hopefully with the next paper storm, a bit more prudence is exercised lest you decide to burn a name off of the list of winter storms that still fails to catch on in popular weather vernacular.