Since early this week we’ve been talking about a possible snowstorm for Sunday and Monday. The latest forecast isn’t exactly what we had in mind.
So what went wrong? Thursday evening I posted about the storm on my blog. The purpose of the post was the explain the uncertainty that was a bit high for this storm.
But, before we get too excited, this storm is fraught with caution flags.
By Friday morning, our computer models had trended much more bullish on the storm potential. My concerns about the piece of the polar vortex over Canada squashing this storm south were soothed and it appeared that this storm wouldn’t have much of an issue coming north.
By late in the day the rug was pulled out from under this storm. Our computer models began an abrupt shift south (after coming north Thursday night) and the it was time to stick a fork in this one.
While we had been talking about the “potential” for a snowstorm for a few days that potential was interpreted as certainty by many. Ridiculous forecasts of over a foot of snow had spread like wildfire across social media including a fake forecast that was photoshopped on a WFXT-TV graphic from Boston.
On our station Facebook page we had a number of comments asking where the 12″-18″ of snow went to? Huh? We never even thought that this storm could drop that much snow never mind forecast that much snow. I don’t even know where that came from.
Social media has allowed bad weather information to go viral. Bad “meteorologists” have a platform to spread bad information. Some merchants of hype that normally were only able to peddle their bad meteorology a few times a week on broadcast TV now have a platform to forecast nonsense 24/7. Teenagers with snazzy looking Facebook pages and a rudimentary knowledge of Photoshop can also produce some pretty fancy looking snowfall maps. Responsible graphics and forecasts don’t get many shares – the bogus or outrageous ones get plenty.
I’ve also noticed how hard it is to provide context to responsible forecasts on social media. Most people don’t read a post and go straight for the graphic. Some just swipe the graphic and then retweet it or repost it without the corresponding text. Without the description or caption many of the graphics TV meteorologists put on social media can be dangerous. A computer model run with snow totals can quickly become “your” forecast even if you write that it’s not what you’re forecasting and only one model.
So was this forecast a bust? In some respects yes but in some respects not really. Posting that odds of a significant snow are somewhat greater than 50/50 doesn’t imply that it’s an absolute lock. We forecasted 4″-7″ of snow on Friday when it appeared that we’d get some impact from this storm. At the time, that was based on the best available information. Here’s what Brad said about the forecast Friday night at 11 p.m.
Watch why I’m so concerned about this forecast. We’ll stop the clock at 6:00 in the morning watch where the northern fringe is – right in northern Connecticut. There’s going to be a really sharp cut off between practically nothing to the north and really substantial snow to the south so you’re going to want to stay with the forecast through the weekend and we will keep you fully apprised of the situation.
We do the best we can. We get a lot right and we get some wrong. We put up a lot of caution flags with this forecast and it looks like those were warranted.