Friday, February 25, 2011

[californiadisasters] Admin Read: Stop Shooting the Messenger

Achtung Gruppe!

This has been on my mind for awhile and I have been waiting for the right time to speak and the right words to share.

There has been a lot of talk here on this list for some time about SoCal weather forecasts that don't pan out and disparaging remarks about the performance of the forecasters.

The attitude seems to be that the forecasters are incompetent fools who failed at their otherwise easy jobs.

These comments seem to be based upon the false assumption that weather forecasting is easy and is an exact science if in the hands of competent forecasters.

This could not be further from the truth.

Weather forecasting will always be suffused with a significant degree of uncertainty.

More so in a region bordered by ocean to the west from whence the weather comes and upon which there are few weather reporting stations which are essential to accurate weather forecasts.

In fact, west of our coastline the only weather reporting stations are on buoys and weather reports from ships.

Our weather forecasters are for the most part intelligent and well-educated people doing the very best they can with what they have to work.

Remember, too, that they have to hedge their bets and error on the side of caution and if in doubt over-forecast as opposed to under-forecast.

Nobody gets hurt from being overly alarmed and overly cautious about the weather but they certainly can be harmed from being inadequately warned and under-prepared.

It is a fact of nature that the transverse ranges of Southern California are not only a geographical boundary but seem to function as a sort of meteorological boundary as well.

Weak to marginal storms coming from the north seem to not hold their own south of this east-west trend of mountains which are the metaphoric "crumpled up fender" of the Pacific Plate colliding with the North American Plate at the Big Bend in the San Andreas Fault Zone.

Only the more vigorous storms coming from the north or storms coming more from the west or southwest (in other words, subtropical moisture) seem to make it to Southern California to drop significant rain.

While it is true that not a few LA TV market news outlets employ "bimbage" to read the weather as "eye candy" to attract the age 18-36 male demographic, even these silicone-implanted talking heads are reading forecasts created elsewhere by professional weather-forecasting agencies staffed by real weather forecasters.

The one fault with the current system that I find is that often these private weather agencies such as The Weather Channel, in contrast to NOAA's  National Weather Service, are based outside the local area and lack a long experience with the nuances and complexities of our local weather. 

I would trust a forecast by NWS Los Angeles/Oxnard way more than anything from The Weather Channel or any news outlet employing a private weather forecasting agency not based in California to generate their TV weather forecast.

I feel we've belabored the issue of weather forecasts that don't pan out and how much the local weather forecasters suck to the point of beating a dead horse so let's cool it, gang.

Acknowledging on the DISCUSSION list something to the effect that "thank god that mega-storm didn't pan out or bad things would have happened" is fine but let's stop cheap-shoting our local weather forecasters.

We certainly don't pick on Cal-Tech for not warning us every time there is a damaging Southern California earthquake not preceded by a Level A alert.

Kim Patrick Noyes

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