From: Lin Kerns <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Sat, February 26, 2011 1:31:17 PM
Subject: Re: [californiadisasters] Re: Admin Read: Stop Shooting the Messenger
Disagree on the weather folks in the east. After living most of my life in the midwest/south and then spending 5 years in SoCal, my weather geekiness zoned in on one very differing factor in weather prediction. That factor was mentioned briefly by Kim in his initial email on the subject--that weather systems entering the coastal ranges are very hard to predict, thanks to the topography. Storm systems are like fires in that no two are alike; and add into the mix the terrain, which is like no other part of the US and you've got a squirming tiger that appears to have a mind of its own. Not only do you have orographic lifting, which is like a rebound effect with the precipitation, but you have a system interacting with the jetstream and any pressure systems in the area that cannot discern the gentle rise of land.
Once that system crosses the Rockies, the weather becomes easier to predict based upon any number of interactions that occur. For example, a system moves into the midwest and encounters Gulf moisture, but even the added mass of contributing factors does not hinder good forecasting. Our weather centers have become very efficient over the years, thanks to technology and those predictable, well understood interactions that occur and have occurred for hundreds of years. Weather prediction in the rest of the country is almost mathematical. I would say we are at the 80% point on accuracy, which is far better than what it was when I was a kid.
When I first moved to CA, I was hard on the forecasters, too, but once I understood the random mix of elements involved, I became more appreciative. Give 'em a break--just ignore the brash tv front people who bounce across the screen, all Hollywood, and remember the real work of those hard working meteorologists behind the scenes.
1. I know from my (not extremely current) exposure that the TV weather
people in the East are not fundamentally different, but even so, here in CA,
the weather is such, and the people are such, that the levels of hype here
are much greater than elsewhere. I mean, seriously, if we have a half-inch
of rain, all the TV stations have "Live Storm Watch" coverage at least on
par with the coverage your lot give to a true blizzard.
If we get snow into the populated areas Saturday, I can pretty much
guarantee we'll have live continuing, pre-emptive news coverage. (But of
course, that hasn't happened since 1949, so it really would be news.)
2. NWS does, in fact, provide "spot forecasts" when/where needed, e.g. for
commanders of major fires. (I don't know the circumstances under which that
sort of service can be obtained.)
Via the Web, I can get a "pinpoint forecast" which is allegedly for about a
one-mile square around the coordinates I enter. (The actual present
readings, though, are from about 15 miles away in my case.)
----- Original Message -----
From: "Daithi" <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 10:08 PM
Subject: [californiadisasters] Re: Admin Read: Stop Shooting the Messenger
I will fully agree about not shooting the messenger. NWS does the best they
can with the available data and usually their best is very good but weather
is still not an exact science.
TV weather people sometimes do seem to get a bit overexcited about a storm
as a big story.
As to the private weather services I was a EMA director for 27 years and my
city subscribed to a private weather service. What was the benefit to us?
NWS provides forecast for larger general areas so has larger ranges for
arrival times of the storm and precipitation e.g. "The storm will reach
eastern Massachusetts between 4pm and 10pm and bring 6 to 12 inches of new
Government agencies may have DPW workers who work 7 to 3 every day. We need
to know whether to send people home and have them come back at 10 or keep
them on duty paying overtime the whole time. If you send them home they
might not get back through the snow. Keep 200 truck drivers on overtime
with no snow and you have spent a lot of money and you don't need them until
an hour before the storm to start your salt laydown. The private services
can localize more and provide narrower windows for storm start, better
estimates of accumulation and precipitation rate. I know my DPW people
thought the private service was money well spent to save the city money.
Funny story about forecast errors. Several years ago I was at a NWS
training session for EMA directors from coastal Massachusetts. A big
t-storm arrived just before the start time and then the head warning
meteorologist for the region arrived soaked to the skin, no rainjacket, no
umbrella. He arrived laughing about himself getting caught in the rain and
made the point about not being perfect.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, Kim Noyes <kimnoyes@...> wrote:
> 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
> This could not be further from the truth.
> Weather forecasting will always be suffused with a significant degree of
> 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
> 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
> It is a fact of nature that the transverse ranges of Southern California
> 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
> 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
> 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
> I feel we've belabored the issue of weather forecasts that don't pan out
> 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
> 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
> damaging Southern California earthquake not preceded by a Level A alert.
> Kim Patrick Noyes
> Check out http://groups.yahoo.com/group/californiadisasters/
> Read our blog at http://eclecticarcania.blogspot.com/
> Visit me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/derkimster
> Visit my Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/kimusinteruptus
> We have an Ebay store at http://stores.ebay.com/K-K-Earthwerks
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