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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Glass-Is-Half-Empty Weather Forecast Images

Consumer advisory: In its popular 7-day forecast web page, the National Weather Service assigns a weather image to each day and night ahead that often views the weather-glass as half empty. As a former U.S. president might have complained, Those stormy pictures are often big hat, no cattle. That is why this blog as a public service has grafted two Seasonal Affective Disorder lights like bookends around the sorry sequence of weather images above. Note that 40% and 50% chances of rain receive decidedly rainy images. We might, of course, just as well be looking at 60% and 50% chances of dry weather.

Even more inspirational for the umbrella trade is the torrential rainy image at left, where the chances of no rain are 70%. Perhaps the Weather Service in its image choice is emphasizing the intensity rather than the chance of ill weather. On the other hand, if there is a 100% chance of only a 15 minute downpour, will the NWS serve up a tsunami image?

To date, this blogger has failed to resolve these troubling questions. Perhaps his friend, Dr. Roberto—an often reluctant economic forecaster—is right when he says: “Although weather forecasting is more reliable than many of our other predictive arts, the Weather Service like the rest of us may have much to hedge about, especially in covering for themselves should bad news prove worse.”


Anonymous said...

I think it's in one of Raymond Chandler's novels that he points out that even though San Francisco Bay averages only three feet deep over its area a dozen or so people manage to drown in it every year. Would we be comfortable with a Weather Service icon for sunshine on a nice day with only a 40% chance of DEADLY TORNADOES? Tough call...

Anonymous said...

In a nation of people finding it increasingly difficult to put six words together in conversation, we should be grateful for the one daily register to prompt us for topical intensity.

Though they could spice things up:

showers arriving later like Native Americans riding in to make peace.... or, hailstones like "softening up" Normandy on D-Day... sunburn like your aunt's way-to-hot lasagna...the pollen will carry away the last of your sanity.

Anonymous said...