The title derives from William Shakespeare’s quote from Romeo and Juliet “What’s in a name?” There’s more to the forecast than most people realize, and lately some forecasts are pretty much just a name with no real science behind it. I thought I’d change gears a bit and NOT talk about local weather today. It’s pretty quiet after all.
So when I forecast I look at a lot of different sources. I do look at the National Weather Service for information, but that is just one component of my forecast. I also use various websites to forecast. Most of these contain model information that is readily available to anyone. I use one from Penn State that has a lot of the models all on one page. I used to use one from Unisys all the time, but I haven’t used it lately. I use the National Hurricane Center website for most of my hurricane information. I also use the Weather Prediction Center (part of NOAA) for looking at rainfall estimates and surface maps. On top of that I use our local models that are available through a vendor. We call our main model Future Trak. Here is today’s example of that:
While I mainly use Future Trak for rain and clouds. It can also forecast temperatures, rainfall, humidity, and other variables. I put the forecast together before the shows. Then I get all my graphics ready before air. Some days it is an easy forecast (though that hasn’t been the case for a while). Many days the forecast is complicated or tricky. Lately the problem has been that the models have had different opinions on how to handle the humidity in the region. Some have gone with showers each day. Some have had drier forecasts. The geography of this region makes the forecast tough at times as well. There is of course the ocean which is one of the biggest drivers of weather. Also there are many large waterways in the region. There are 2 large Peninsulas (Eastern Shore and the Peninsula). And finally the mountains are not that far off to our west. That can induce drying as downsloping occurs. A slight change in the wind around here can completely change a forecast. Tides are also tricky and have become more of a factor in forecasting. Lately we have had a lot of problems with heavy rain falling during high tides. This has led to more flooding that usual.
While the forecast is tricky at times. The communication of it is also a challenge. You can see on the map above that we cover a large area. We cover from Hatteras NC up to Reedville and Wallops Island, VA. We forecast as far west as Emporia and Toano. The heart of the area (Hampton Roads metro) is the main area of focus, but we try to include as much info for others as we can. I am always careful with my wording, but some days the message can be misunderstood. On top of talking about weather, I also have to type a lot of weather. We have forecasts on our website (wavy.com/weather). Also we do a forecast for facebook and twitter several times a day. We used to do a phone forecast recording, but now almost everyone has a smart phone and/or computer. So we don’t do that anymore. Also, I am on every 10 minutes from 4:30am until 9:00am in the morning (WAVY TV 10 then FOX 43). Some recorded weather even plays past that during the Today Show. So folks have plenty of chances to see the forecast.
One big problem that is emerging is that many folks get their forecasts from the internet, and they don’t realize where it comes from. Especially with the prominence of facebook and twitter. During some big events (and not so big events) anyone with access to the internet can post their 2 cents about the forecast. Some folks post more than that and give a full blown forecast. These forecasts can be about systems that are 6-10 days away. These forecasts are always apt to change, but many folks don’t understand that. The problem is that this can detract from our message, and can confuse a lot of people. If there is severe weather headed this way and people are confused about it, then one day it could even lead to a loss of life. That’s worst case yes, but still a possibility. Here is an article that outlines some recent examples of internet forecasts. Be Careful Who You Trust….. You may recognize the pictures.
So in this changing world, it will be interesting to see how the forecasts change. It’s possible someday that all meteorologists will be required to have a license. I have a seal from the American Meteorological Society, but it isn’t required. Honestly though, that doesn’t guarantee a good forecast either. It takes a lot of practice. Recognizing weather patterns is the biggest key to success in this area. I’ve seen a lot, but I’m always still learning. Anyway, I hope you’ll learn to appreciate all that goes into a meteorologist’s message, and hopefully you’ll try to track down where your information comes from.
Meteorologist: Jeremy Wheeler