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.


One Comments

  • Ryan McKinnon

    December 2, 2016

    I think you bring up a good point. I’m a weather enthusiast from Atlanta and ever since snowmageddon, I feel we don’t shoot the facts out because if you are wrong, you will know it. Weather forecasting is not for the faint of heart. Your going to miss sometimes. But it shouldn’t stop us from shooting the facts as we see them unfold.

    Reply

Leave a Reply