Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Hype Machine

My good friend, classmate and colleague Evan Duffey posted a wonderful piece on this morning. He has given me permission to repost it here. There are a lot of excellent points he makes about how big storms get blown way out of proportion through hear-say and media hype. Take a look:

Storm under-performs, public and media hype make it worse

For those of you wondering why you children's classes were canceled, or what happened to the 18"+ of snow you were expecting because your neighbors told you it would happen, I have your answer. The storm grew to massive size and intensity - in a special place I call overexcited media and populace. The storm, while no pushover, is not that epic, and should never have been treated as so.

In talking to fellow Meteorologist and blogger Andrew Montreuil, he agrees he is upset at how this storm got hyped up.

While the storm will probably leave a decent impact on the area, talk of 18", 2 feet, etc. have been floating around either word of mouth or the internet. My max total event given during the entire even was 14".

Which brings me to a point I would like to bring up. A MAX snowfall accumulation is not what we expect, it's more then what we expect. When a meteorologist puts up a snowfall range, even I put a little extra on that top number just in case the unexpected occurs. Sadly the public takes this number as what they are going to get. For all of you interested in weather, try to remember this when reading forecasts and discussions.

Now to the meat - why did this storm under-perform even Meteorologists predictions for a storm? I hinted at the reason in a comment I made a few days ago, in my first post about the storm. I said "I think the upper limits of snowfall are possible only if warm, dry air doesn't work its way in too far North." This is pretty much what happened.


Radar overnight revealed a large dry slot was working into the storm. Dry-slots are almost always destructive to storms, taking away some of their thermodynamic strength, and obviously precipitation is hard pressed to be found in an area called a dry slot.

Blogger Drew Montreuil was involved in a Q&A session recently, and one of them really brings to light a lot about the forecast and expectations. Here is the quote:

...just in my day today I have overhead people talking about how we are supposed to get 2 feet of snow and such. These are over exaggerations. Often times, forecasts for big storms seem to take a life of their own. People mishear or misread things and, like a massive game of telephone, things get blown out of proportion. Another common mistake I see all the time is people assuming the high end of a snow prediction will be what happens. If there is a forecast for 6-12", but only 5" really is a decent forecast. But the hype before hand makes it seem like a bust.

To answer the question directly...I could see this "busting" slightly, yes. There are some indications drier air may work in quicker than what was earlier thought. This could bring the snow to an end a bit quicker, and keep us more in the 4-7" range instead of 6-10". Its a developing situation, and one can never be too sure they have the forecast nailed until the event actually happens...

Hopefully your day isn't too upset by the hype and over forecast of this winter storm, and please don't blame meteorologists. We aren't all that wrong.

1 comment:

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