TULSA - When I give a weather talk to a school or civic group, I always budget my time so there is an opportunity for questions.
One of the most frequent questions is; How do you forecast the weather? From 3rd graders to senior citizens, they want an explanation that is difficult to summarize in a few short sentences.
I think nearly every forecaster has his or her own technique. How I forecast has changed as new technology came along.
In the old days, we had one computer model to analyze. It was called the Limited Fine Mesh, or LFM. Looking back it seemed so cutting edge and advanced, but compared to today's data it was horse and buggy stuff.
In the late 70s the new LFM predicted a storm coming up the east coast and a big snow event happening. While meteorologists did not initially embrace this new fangled computer generated atmospheric model, it "predicted" a major snowstorm in New England in early February.
Turns out, the local meteorologists were wrong and the LFM was correct, and after that record-breaking snow event many more were believers in using this data to supplement their forecasts.
Some have asked me how much is what we "think" will happen and how much is the data telling us what to forecast. Well the data is simply guidance, and what you look at, how long you analyze the various model runs is going to be different for every meteorologist.
When I began forecasting, almost 30 years ago, I had no gut or “gut feeling.” Now both have expanded. For many beginning forecasters you have more confidence in the data and tend to forecast whatever the weather models say.
The science of meteorology has advanced so much in the past few years. The primitive tools and techniques have improved. The LFM as we knew it then has died and many more data sets are generated and considered in a forecast.
The fact that forecasts are occasionally wrong, this happens much less often than those 20 years ago. The forecast you see on the nightly news are usually right, the ones you remember are when they are wrong.
After you have been forecasting for a while you start to notice things about computer generated weather data and models, some are biased.
Some of the models are more aggressive, some often too wet, some too cold. It’s important to notice
the trends and which has a better handle on the current situation.
That is when experience allows you to trust your own discernment.
I like to look back at the last couple of model runs to see if what they predicted what actually happened and what is currently happening.
I review what I forecasted the past few days and use that as part of my decision making process. One of the best tips my old boss gave me was to not forget to go outside and look up. The computers are amazing, but a good meteorologist needs to know how to read the skies as well as the maps.
I would say for me it is about 80% data and 20% gut feeling and experience. Sometimes I do not believe the conclusions of the computer models. I like to look at the overnight and early morning computer models from home before I get in, then rough out a forecast. Then I look over the latest data and "tweak" those early numbers.
I can forecast whatever I want, but know that if the forecast was wrong, I can learn something from that, and use that experience to make me a better forecaster next time.
(The bragging part) For the past five years an independent company called, WeatheRate, has looked over what we forecast for highs, lows, winds, sky cover, and precipitation. They also log what 6, 8, and the Fox station forecasts. Then this is compared to what actually happened. We have out forecasted the others for the past five years.
This does not mean we are always correct. As hard as we try, this is not going to happen in my lifetime, but we are more correct than the others. (Okay, the bragging part is over)
In April the contest ends for the previous 12 months. I'll let you know if we win or if we lose. But my "gut feeling" is we will win this again.
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Severe Weather Safety
Tornadoes are Mother Nature's most violent storms. They can produce winds that can reach 300 miles per hour, and they can produce damage paths as wide as a mile and as long as 50 miles.
Another storm season is here, and that means it's time to make sure you and your family are ready for the storms that will head our way.
What you need to do to prepare before the a thunderstorm, how to stay safe during the storm and then once the storm passes what you need to know.
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Bartlesville High School is no longer on lockdown after police say a suspicious backpack found in the hallway contained only school supplies.
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