Browse Month

December 2016

What’s in a name? Winter Storm Watch/Warning/Advisory

Summary:

The map is showing purple! And pink! And blue! Winter weather is on the way! Here are the areas under a Winter Storm Watch, a Winter Weather Warning, and a Winter Weather Advisory.

Opinion:

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! I’m just a person who looks up their forecast on the phone and sees snow and gets concerned. What is a Winter Storm Watch? How is it different from an Advisory? That’s great that there’s a difference, but I’ll be damned if I know what that difference is.

Stop posting those stupid multi-colored maps thinking what you’re doing is making any bit of difference. Make a snow accumulation map. Inform people on timing and intensity. Will there be ice, too? How much? When? How bad will the roads be?

Maps like the one above are mostly useless to the general public. Add information that people can actually understand and use to plan.

Of course, this is all part of the “we have too many ways to say it will snow” conversation, which I am all for consolidating all these Watches/Warnings/Advisories into something that’s much easier to ingest. But that’s another topic for another day.

The polar vortex: just roll with it

http://glossary.ametsoc.org/wiki/Polar_vortex

Summary:

Every winter since “polar vortex” has become a mainstream term, there have been many debates on social media as to what exactly the polar vortex is, how to classify “pieces” of it that break off and surge into the lower latitudes, and where exactly the polar vortex “lives” in the different levels of the atmosphere. Ask several meteorologists what it is, and more often than not you will get different answers.

Opinion:

Just as “derecho” is now misused during summer convection, “polar vortex” has been taken over by mainstream media to mean “really cold air be coming”. But hey now, that’s not what the polar vortex is! Like derecho, we need to let go of the more strict, by-the-books definition for the polar vortex. It’s a catchy term that the public and weather community alike can instantly associate to strong cold. If anything, that helps weather communication.

I used to be a stickler for following the strict definitions. Then I learned that once a certain meaning of a term has gone mainstream, there is no going back. We can’t correct how “polar vortex” is used, and it might be for the better. No layman cares about what’s happening at 500mb, and even fewer care about what’s happening at 50mb.

(Image SOURCE)

Countering Breitbart is noble, but you are giving them what they want

https://weather.com/news/news/breitbart-misleads-americans-climate-change

Summary:

Breitbart (a site that I recommend you never visit ever) used a Weather Channel video about La NiƱa as evidence that the Earth is not warming. The Weather Channel rebutted by making another video condemning the Breitbart article, saying the data is cherry-picked, and that they misrepresented data from a short-term trend to claim that global warming isn’t real. In fact, the long-term temperature data indicates that the Earth continues to warm.

Opinion:

Do you think that ANYONE who reads Breitbart and takes it seriously will care at all about a Weather Channel rebuttal? It’s more of a “clear conscience” move by The Weather Channel that everyone who already knows the Breitbart article is a load of crap will praise. And praise it they have. It was probably a waste of time, though. I doubt many, if any, opinions about global warming will be changed based on the rebuttal.

Instead, stop giving Breitbart the attention that they are seeking. The Weather Channel’s article links directly to the Breitbart article. All you are doing is giving them more views. I will never link to an article that I don’t want people to read, and I certainly do not want to give Breitbart the satisfaction that I or anyone gave them more views. DO NOT VISIT BREITBART’S WEB SITE.

This is the same song and dance that Trump used to his advantage to become President-elect of the United States. Adapt and change your game plan on reporting fake news and false articles. Conventional fact-checking doesn’t work anymore. Either ignore that the Breitbart article even exists, or find a different way to confront the beast.

Temperature anomaly maps on social media

Note: The tweets used are just examples of what many are posting on social media. This post is not intended to single out these tweets specifically; they were just the ones that caught my eye this morning since they were back-to-back.

Summary:

From your weather enthusiast Facebook page to nationally-renowned meteorologists, everyone is starting to talk about the upcoming cold shot that will impact much of the United States next week. COLD. IS. COMING.

Opinion:

But what audience are these images and comments trying to reach? Does this audience understand how these anomaly maps translate into sensible weather? Sure, it looks pretty and it’s eye-grabbing when blues and purples take over the country, but how does it prepare me for the weather beyond “it will be colder than normal”? Are we talking lows in the 20s, 10s, etc.? Does someone in Mobile or Atlanta need to get their winter coat out?

I’m probably being nitpicky with this one, but I think posting actual forecast lows/highs would be more productive because it would be easier for most people to understand. Maybe I’m just looking at it from the wrong angle? To me it’s part of the bigger argument that meteorologists face with reforming weather communication, which is generally steering more toward focusing on the weather’s impact. You can tell me “it will be cold,” or you can tell me “it will be cold, with lows in the 10s and 20s.” I have no way of telling what “it will be cold” means without more context, but letting me know what the actual temperatures will be is much more useful.

One could say that it’s too far out into the future to provide actual numbers, and I could understand that. But it would be better to say “temperatures could get as cold as [range]” than the more vague things that are being communicated.