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cyclonic happiness

Public Ignorance Of Weather And Forecasting.

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I thought I'd start this thread as I feel like I'm constantly fighting a loosing battle with the rest of society to convince them that forecasting is both valuable and reasonably accurate.

I was having a hot debate today with my workmates that what they were calling 'snow' was really in fact just rain that had been shredded by the wind and was blowing in all sorts of directions whilst being back-lit by the sun.

I told them that both the lower and upper atmosphere temperatures were waaaaay too high for snow to fall and they just kept on and on about "look for yourself!!! it's snowing, I can see it with my own two eyes!".

This carried on for a while until I bet them £10 each to prove it by going out to their cars and look for snowflakes on the glass or in the raindrops, at that point they all seemed to shut up :D

Later that day a couple of customers came in and the same topic came back up (yawn!) but the customers wheeled out an expression which contradicts itself on so many levels I can't believe they even have the nerve to use it, anyway they said .........."If I want to know what the weather is going to do, I look out of the window".

SERIOUSLY????! For a start, isn't 'forecasting' to do with the future and not just with what's happening at that specific moment??

So, by their reckoning, they knew that the 1987 storm was coming because they looked out of the window in the morning???

No, they didn't know, but they still have the nerve to blame the forecasters because they 'dared' to have a go at it?

Funny thing is, because I'm interested in the weather, they are constantly asking me what's going to happen next in the hope that I'll fail spectacularly (and I did in the past, but not any more lol :D) but now I reply "just have a look out of the window why don't you?" whilst I get off work early to avoid the impending floods or blizzards.

I just wanted to get you guys' take on the subject being as you're all in the same boat as me?

I'd love to hear a proffesional's take on it too if any of you are interested?

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Interesting thread, weather is definitely always a talking point but people come from very different angles and levels of knowledge with it, will be interesting to read people's thoughts :)

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i wish joe public realized how lucky they are, that more often than not this country ends up avoiding heavy snow when its forecast in these models,which usually downgrades, so instead of whining on if there is 2 inches of snow which happens once or twice a year and causes them "big problems" on their journey to work, they should be told that the snow is not going to happen, and realize that they got lucky, imagine snow was as common as rain how would they cope then ?

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There's loads of stuff on the web about Lorenz, meteorology and chaos theory. Like here http://www.aip.org/history/climate/chaos.htm and here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Norton_Lorenz

I'm buggered if I can get my head around it, but it strikes me that, like CH, I agree that not only is this a tremendously difficult area but I feel strongly that those who can't be bothered to put in the time themselves and study any subject pass the blame of failure onto those that do.'' It's all your fault'' and ''let someone else do it'' seem to be the watch words.

We don't blame firefighters for house fires. Why blame meteorologists for the enormity of dynamics beyond our control?

Kind regards,

Mike.

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I was having a hot debate today with my workmates that what they were calling 'snow' was really in fact just rain that had been shredded by the wind and was blowing in all sorts of directions whilst being back-lit by the sun.

I told them that both the lower and upper atmosphere temperatures were waaaaay too high for snow to fall and they just kept on and on about "look for yourself!!! it's snowing, I can see it with my own two eyes!".

I used to make that mistake when I was much younger- though even with experience, it can be tricky to tell whether precipitation is falling as rain or sleet past a lamp post or in bright sunshine.

I remember a couple of elderly people at Morecambe claiming that the showers in a sunshine-and-showers setup periodically come in off the Irish Sea because of changes in the tide. Another classic is the view that snow often struggles to lie for long near coastal fringes because of the "salty sea air".

Most of the people that I've provided weather forecasts to over the years have been quite understanding about uncertainty and difficulty in getting it right all the time, but I've probably been quite lucky with my social circles there, and in addition, I have the time to explain concepts like probability and uncertainty to people who don't fully grasp them in relation to my weather predictions. Of course most media and TV forecasts are done within strict time/space constraints and so those concepts cannot be explained to people, which makes it far harder to strike the right balance between detail and confusion. I do find, though, that some people sometimes just "skim-watch/read" weather forecasts and get completely the wrong impression of what is being forecast- with those people you are damned if you do and damned if you don't!

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Even today, I struggle to tell - the only way to know is by going outside. It's obvious when flakes are falling if there are icy splodges on car windows.

Another myth is that snow will not settle if the ground is wet.

i wish joe public realized how lucky they are, that more often than not this country ends up avoiding heavy snow when its forecast in these models,which usually downgrades, so instead of whining on if there is 2 inches of snow which happens once or twice a year and causes them "big problems" on their journey to work, they should be told that the snow is not going to happen, and realize that they got lucky, imagine snow was as common as rain how would they cope then ?

If snow was as common as rain in this country, then it's fair to assume that our winters would be much colder already, and we would have the necessary infrastructure in place to cope.

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I've lost count of how many times I've tried to explain to folks that it can never be too cold to snow!

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Try working in medicine, some of the comments people make about health conditions are hilarious! Try and inform them with evidence and you usually get shot down. There is just no telling some people!

TWS comment about salt in the air means we won't get snow on the coast is one i hear a lot. The thing is with coastal marginality etc it seems they are proved right but try explaining the science and you may as well talk to yourself!

I do feel though that sensational media reporting massively misinforms the general public. This reduces confidence in professional bodies such as the Metoffice who you can garuntee will get stick when we don't get blizzards and -20C temps this week!

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We are at one extreme of this science as we are more interested in it than 'the general public' (well I guess that's why we are here, not just the banter!??). 'Mr and Mrs Normal-In-The-Street' probably just want to know if they can do some outdoor event, washing, hobby, holiday etc and don't need any more detail than the media forecasts currently give. Weather hobbyists will always want more information+detail and hence why places like Netweather are so popular in our crazy UK climate.

Of course when things go wrong the general public love to have a moan (not just about the weather either) and newspapers, TV or commercial meteorological organisations come in for the flack. Mostly I think it's not warranted, as people outside our 'interest' just don't realise how difficult it is to forecast weather generally and even more so here in the UK with our maritime surroundings.

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i think an interesting debate here, and highlighted by this weekends model mash. The Metoffice issued a level 3 warning on Friday lunchtime that showed snow falling everywhere and intense cold with it .

Joe Bloggs public would have been reading this until 08.26 this morning when the new warning was issued.

The breakdown of the ramped and much expected model progression was showing from late Friday that there would be a change, however, the Met did not reflect this in it's general public forecasting.

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Aren't the cold warnings purely for temperatures though?

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Cold warnings are for an increased probability of snow and cold weather between a certain time period. It's obvious by the name that it's largely for cold weather.

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Aren't the cold warnings purely for temperatures though?

They did mention heavy snow showers pushing well inland on their previous guidance which was in place through the weekend. Just goes to show how close we were! This guidance was however taken completely out of context by the tabloids.

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I remember a couple of elderly people at Morecambe claiming that the showers in a sunshine-and-showers setup periodically come in off the Irish Sea because of changes in the tide.

not as outrageous as you may think!

There are a number of unpublished papers in the Met O from folk doing a thesis for one of their advanced forecast courses which do show a link.

The link is largely connected with sea breezes and their ability to produce showers even a thunderstorm. That has been linked to their intensity being higher if the tide is coming in rather than going out. Also if the tide is going out the incidence of sea breezes decrease anyway as, in some parts, it produces vast areas of sand. Perhaps that is where the idea stems from?

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The breakdown of the ramped and much expected model progression was showing from late Friday that there would be a change, however, the Met did not reflect this in it's general public forecasting.

As I've said before though, the big difference in what we talk about in the various threads here is that unlike the Met Office, as individuals we are not going to get slated in the national media when a 'BBQ summer' or 1963 Winter don't happen. The Met Office have the nations safety to consider, so can't just realise carte-blanche forecasts and warnings when the next run shows something, or not. There is a hell of a lot of responsibility resting on those guys shoulders!

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I've lost count of how many times I've tried to explain to folks that it can never be too cold to snow!

that one always winds me up, i usually reply with "well how do you explain the antarctic when its -70c then???"

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that one always winds me up, i usually reply with "well how do you explain the antarctic when its -70c then???"

I remember having egg on my face after this one. 2010 cold spell and temp was -8C! heavy showers incoming from the North East. I told everyone we were going to get loads of snow and had the usual "It's too cold to snow" comments. Then, as the showers made landfall they disappeared!

Someone on here explained why it happened but i can't for the life of me remember the science.

I felt reet daft i did!

sorry.gif

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not as outrageous as you may think!

There are a number of unpublished papers in the Met O from folk doing a thesis for one of their advanced forecast courses which do show a link.

The link is largely connected with sea breezes and their ability to produce showers even a thunderstorm. That has been linked to their intensity being higher if the tide is coming in rather than going out. Also if the tide is going out the incidence of sea breezes decrease anyway as, in some parts, it produces vast areas of sand. Perhaps that is where the idea stems from?

Thanks for that- some very interesting points, and I have to say that I was completely unaware of the possible link.

I can't be sure of where their idea came from- it might be founded on experience but it is also possible to come up with a theory through ignorance that, upon close inspection, isn't without merit.

I've heard the "too cold to snow" saying on scattered occasions before, although I recall a positive experience at Lancaster University when some people talked of it getting too cold for snow, and I explained about the association of cold weather with north and east winds, and thus generally dry weather for Lancaster due to shelter from the Pennines and Lake District, and they understood. The cold-dry association doesn't work very well for the eastern side of England though- I recently did a statistical analysis on Durham University's records and found a negative association between winter temperature and rainfall.

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Of course most media and TV forecasts are done within strict time/space constraints and so those concepts cannot be explained to people, which makes it far harder to strike the right balance between detail and confusion. I do find, though, that some people sometimes just "skim-watch/read" weather forecasts and get completely the wrong impression of what is being forecast- with those people you are damned if you do and damned if you don't!

Precisely this, much testing on the public shows that many people don't absorb the information in detailed forecasts, they just need to know the general info - it's going to be cold, rainy, windy etc. Indeed a fair number wouldn't be entirely sure where they live relative to the maps which is why I believe the BBC forecasts always include the names of towns and cities, even though this clutter reduces the amount of meteorological data that can be portrayed.

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I've heard the "too cold to snow" saying on scattered occasions before, although I recall a positive experience at Lancaster University when some people talked of it getting too cold for snow, and I explained about the association of cold weather with north and east winds, and thus generally dry weather for Lancaster due to shelter from the Pennines and Lake District, and they understood. The cold-dry association doesn't work very well for the eastern side of England though- I recently did a statistical analysis on Durham University's records and found a negative association between winter temperature and rainfall.

Depends. January 2010 and December 2010 were both below average here in terms of rainfall. December 2010 recorded less than 20mm.

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I've lost count of how many times I've tried to explain to folks that it can never be too cold to snow!

Your not the only one, i was listening to a few work colleagues talking about this the other day, i thought i wouldn't get involved and listen to there stupid theory. One was going on to say, well if its below freezing it will just be ice falling, :o

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When I tell people my hobby is weather watching and forecasting they think I'm a complete weirdo. They seem to think I stand looking at the clouds or with a thermometer to get the temperature. They seem to forget the maths crunching and physics involved.

This is why I found Netweather to be my second home from home. I can be with like minded people who share the same interest and know the hard work and stress involved with our chaotic weather.

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Does anyone get the "Oh you are a weather man, like on the tv" question? They don't seem to know either that there is a whole team involved in the background to come up with the forecasts and different levels of knowledge at hand. TV Forecasters are sometimes just a pretty friendly face to share with the public.

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