Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Please Talk Amongst Yourselves....

The TMF office went south to take a break from the Minnesota climate. And really, can you blame us? This means TMF fans and other weather observers will have to use this space to document whatever forecasts they see and hear about it. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Forecaster Grades for February 2011 Monster Storm

We know that the grade is the pop culture hook, but we think as much or more attention should be paid to the overall analysis and the forecast process. The grades we provide are not scientific. However, they represent our best effort to assess the performance of Twin City weather outlets. Our grades are based on established grading criteria (read ‘em!) and we maintain forecast histories for each event.

As the storm evolved in the past week, we consulted daily with Tom Novak, a Minnesota-based meteorologist, who provided an objective, professional assessment of information generated by various weather models, the same ones available to all meteorologists. We are deeply indebted to the significant chunks of time that Tom spent with us. His excellent work may be followed on Twitter at @NovakWeather.

Generally speaking, the snowstorm of Feb. 20-21 performed more or less as expected by the local forecasters based on final pre-storm predictions. It came in a little later than expected, struggled initially to penetrate the northern suburbs, and experienced an extended lull before today’s unexpectedly lengthy coups de grace, but in the end it was more or less what was promised, particularly in the central metro (i.e., MSP airport), where we focus our grading. The final two-day snowfall total at MSP was 13.4 inches (as of this writing, anyway; we think it’s done), which fit pretty squarely into all forecaster ranges. So to the casual observer and in the big picture, the forecast of an epic snowstorm rang true.

However, upon closer examination of the details of each forecaster’s prediction and their assessment of the storm in the days leading up to it, significant differences are noted. These differences are reflected in the grades and discussion below. (The complete history of each forecaster’s prediction for the storm can be found here.)

The specter of the weekend snowstorm crossed WCCO’s radar as early as Monday night. Their weather graphic depicted “snow late” for Sunday, but there was no audio mention of it. It was essentially the same on Tuesday when the graphic depiction read “snow south,” but again there was minimal, if any, elaboration on the possibility of a significant storm. By Wednesday, WCCO gave the storm a bit more respect, mentioning that “one model says 7” but most keep it far enough south.” By Thursday, WCCO saw a possible mix and by Friday it was laying out all the model outputs, which “suggested snow amounts of 2, 4, 9, 11 and 15 inches.” By Friday afternoon and evening, WCCO was on board the big bus.

All things considered, WCCO’s performance was average. We were disappointed that they didn’t use social media to provide timely updates and felt an additional webcast or two were in order during the day on Saturday. And while WCCO certainly can’t be accused of anything less than full disclosure with its mention of the various model-produced snow amounts throughout the forecast period, we think the impression that’s left with viewers is one of confusion when so many amounts are thrown out without real perspective or insight. We’d have preferred to see more of a professional stand taken. C+

This was a true championship performance for KSTP. They nailed this snowstorm from start (more than a week out) to finish, generally maintaining their forecast conviction when slight changes in weather models caused others to literally go south with their predictions. In fact, this was a critical point in the process: at midweek, our consulting meteorologist did not see the justification for bringing the storm south as many predicted. KSTP earned the prize money by maintaining its belief in the ultimate path and character of the storm.

And on the communication front – if you haven’t noticed by now, we’re big on using all the information tools available today to keep the audience informed even when they’re not in front of a TV at 6 and 10 – KSTP really shined, fully exploiting the ability of Twitter, Facebook and webcasts to provide information in a far more timely and interactive way than virtually all other local weather outlets. We also appreciated KSTP’s imaginative use of graphics to reflect confidence levels in various snowfall outcomes.

On Thursday evening, a time when the television weather outlets were calling for mixed precipitation or otherwise minimizing accumulations, KSTP was steadfast, calling for the heaviest amounts to fall in a band through the Twin Cities metro. Had you planned your weekend on Thursday night and only watched the television weather outlets, KSTP gave you the best idea of what was to eventually unfold. A+

The friendly folks at Fox weather have seen better days. On Monday night, there was no mention of the possibility of snow. They got on board by Tuesday, noting “a decent system for Monday.” But by Thursday evening’s 5 p.m. news they were off the bus, telling us there was “not a great chance of a big snow.” As the storm began to grow in potential over the weekend – and if you didn’t happen to catch a FOX television news segment – the Fox website was not much help, showing outdated weather forecasts at a time when the situation was rapidly changing. Not good. Fox cleaned up nicely toward the end with a solid forecast that was a touch more specific than others’ and with ranges (referring to the span of the ranges) that we thought were reasonable. D+

We like the KARE forecasters, we really do. But gosh it’s hard to pin them down. Their philosophy, which was on full display for this storm, is very noncommittal, so much so that KARE anchor Mike Pomeranz even poked fun at it. The conservative approach is also reflected in the station’s decision to have an extended outlook that’s two days shorter than other weather outlets, although they seem to stray from that when weekends are at the end of the horizon.

KARE recognized the possibility of accumulating snow last Tuesday, leaving us to wonder what they would have forecast had they been able to make a call on the storm last Monday, when it was already on the radar of others. On Wednesday night, the time that seems to have separated the men from the boys on this forecast, KARE foresaw the heaviest snow falling south of I-90. By Friday evening, when all others were saying 5-10 and 6-12, KARE continued with a guarded prediction, telling us, “Over half a foot of snow not looking all that improbable.”

No tweets emanated from @KARE11wx (Twitter) after Friday morning, which is hard to understand. We were also disappointed with the KARE’s WeatherNow cable segment, which was often a step slow, yet is portrayed as a timely weather source. C

Star Tribune
It’s clear to us that weather bloggers have an advantage over their television brethren, at least those who choose not to use their station’s website as a means for explaining things in more detail (a no-brainer to us). The Star Tribune blog update is typically prepared after the 10 p.m. news shows and often works with more recent data, so it’s generally a better source of timely information.

The Strib’s performance was hot and cold, echoing its own reference to the “on-again, off-again” storm. The Strib properly recognized the storm’s potential last Monday. And while they never completely let go of the idea – suggesting that “we’re still not out of the woods yet” – there was a statement that the “storm appeared to be fizzling.” By Wednesday afternoon, the Strib declared “eye-opening” changes, beginning to see the potential for a plowable storm, but called a foot “doubtful.”

As the storm moved closer on Thursday and Friday, the Strib anticipated the heaviest snow falling to the north of the metro, which did not happen. Beyond that, particularly on Saturday blog entries, there was information that seemed to contradict itself and confuse us.

Still, the Strib’s grade is buoyed by its commitment to keeping us informed on a timely basis, although its forecast was not top-notch this time around. B-

We don’t always include MPR’s weather blog in our grading because their blog is generally not updated on weekends. But since they were on top of the storm with solid coverage, we wanted to include them in our grades.

MPR identified the possibility of accumulating snow as far back as last Monday and reiterated the possibility on Wednesday. They were generally on target and always provided a solid plate of information for true weather junkies.

However, the one aspect of MPR’s forecasting performance that puzzled us was the two-and-a-half day lag between updates on snow prospects during a time other weather outlets were updating fast and furiously. If MPR is your chosen weather source, you had to be frustrated by the dearth of information at a time when you needed it most.

We also thought that MPR’s whopping range of 10-20 inches was too wide, at least for grading purposes (which may not count for much) of focusing on a single location. However, for the purpose of predicting metro-wide accumulations, it ended up being a fair reflection of the variance across the area. B

The NWS was very solid with this storm, identifying the possibility early on and maintaining a general steadiness of prediction. Their ultimate forecast of snow totals for the metro was right on and their range was very narrow (12-14 inches). As TMF didn't chronicle all the related NWS commentary (saving that, instead, for all the local forecasters), our review is brief. A
Agree? Disagree? Wondering why we wrote a master’s thesis? Let us know your thoughts.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Great Snow Weigh-In

The cover-up is well underway.
Note: If you're new to The Minnesota Forecaster, know that we assign forecaster grades after each snow event is over. For the current snowstorm, we anticipate assigning grades, along with a thoughtful discussion, late Monday. Check back to see how your favorite forecaster fared. Or, if you're afraid you'll forget to check on this all-important information (haha), follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook to make sure you receive your very own heads up.

Use the comments section of this post to report what's going on in your neck of the increasingly snow-covered woods -- or just to kvetch or delight in nature's special delivery today.

TMF has established a running total for the storm as it accumulates in St. Paul.

Curious to know our John Q. Public consumer philosophy on weather watching? Take a read.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Forecasters, Place Your Bets!

If you were to ask Twin City forecasters, "Is this your final answer?" they'd have to say "Yes." But they'd probably do so with at least a little trepidation. Most forecasters are predicting an historical snowfall, one that rivals the massive December storm. The ever-expanding snowfall forecast continues to the very end ... or the very beginning of the storm.

The guns of winter are again locked and loaded. Here are the final pre-snowfall predictions for our fearless forecasters as of late Saturday night: (If you're new to The Minnesota Forecaster, note that after each snow event we assign a grade to each forecaster's performance. Grading criteria include more than just forecast performance the night before a storm.)

WCCO: 8 to 15 inches (13.3 for metro) Bullseye in western MN)
KSTP: 12 to 20 inches, metro in the bullseye
Fox: 10 to 14 inches (15 to 17 in south suburbs)
KARE: 10 to 15 inches, bullseye to the west
Strib: 12 to 18 inches
NWS: 12 to 14 inches
MPR: 10 to 20 inches

If you'd like to see the historical forecast of this storm by weather outlet (a key factor in our grading), check here. Check back for updates or follow us on Twitter and Facebook in the event we have anything else interesting to say.

In the meantime, get ready to shovel!

Bet the House Money: Big Snowstorm on the Way Per Forecasters

During the day Saturday, most forecasters upped their snowfall estimates for tomorrow's snow event, although a few lowered them slightly by late in the afternoon. As of late afternoon/early evening, here's what the forecasters were thinking (totals in red are the most recent; the strikethrough font provides some historical perspective ).

We'll provide a cleaned-up, final, pre-storm post after the late news.

Screen capture from KSTP's Sat. a.m. weather webcast.
WCCO: 8-12 10-13
KSTP: 10-15 9-14 6-13 (even more just south of metro)
Fox: 10-14 8 to 12 (14 in some spots)
KARE: 8-14 6-10
Strib: 8-14 12-16 10-15 7 to 12 inches (highest amounts in northwest metro)
NWS: 10-14 10-13
MPR: 10-17 6-12

If you'd like to see the historical progression of forecasts for this storm (by forecaster), check here. Check back for updates or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest on how the forecasters see this evolving "snow event."

Chicago Forecaster's Assessment of Minnesota Snow

Tom Skilling, a well respected meteorologist from WGN in Chicago, posted the total snowfall forecast for Sunday's snow event from one of his favorite weather models (the RPM - Rapid Precision Mesoscale). It appears to show the Twin Cities in the 16-20" range (certainly within the 12-16" range).

Friday, February 18, 2011

Confidence on the Increase for Major Sunday Snowstorm

Approximately 24 hours before the anticipated arrival of a major snowstorm,  forecaster consensus was growing that the Twin Cities is in for a big hit.

More snow? (photo courtesy Fuzzy Mutt Photos)
Virtually all weathercasters predicted at least five inches of snow. Any threat of mixed precipitation now appears relegated to well south of the Twin Cities. On the conservative end, KARE has acknowledged that "a half foot is not looking all that improbable." Others think accumulations will be closer to 10 inches, and in some cases, closer to a foot. Most forecasters anticipated the biggest snow amounts to fall south of the metro, though the Strib's blog suggests the heaviest amounts will be north of the metro.

Here's the latest summary of what the weather outlets were thinking (a complete, historical record of predictions for this storm can be found here).

WCCO: 5-10+
KSTP: 6+ inches very likely (and probably conservative) for MSP
Fox: 6 to 10 inches. Thinks it may be closer to 10.
KARE: "A half foot not looking all that improbable."
Strib: 7 to 12 inches; highest amounts in north metro
NWS: 5 to 10 inches
MPR: 6 to 12 inches

Check back for updates or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest on how the forecasters see this evolving "snow event."

Winter Storm Watch Issued by National Weather Service

The National Weather Service says that 5 to 10 inches of snow is possible from late Saturday night to late Sunday night. We'll watch for the updates of other weather outlets as they come in later this afternoon and tonight.

If you're new to The Minnesota Forecaster (TMF), know that we stay on top of the Twin Cities forecasters (not necessarily the storm) so that you can see the collective thinking of the weather trust in one sitting. After each storm, we provide grades on the forecast performance of each weather outlet in town.

Check back for updates or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest on how the forecasters see this evolving "snow event."

Forecasters Vexed by Elusive Rain/Snow Line for Late Weekend Storm

Twin Cities forecasters are grappling with an enemy their brethren on the east coast know all too well: the dreaded rain/snow line. The ever-capricious weather models continue to make life a challenge for our collective local weather braintrust.

As of Thursday night, there's little agreement among the weather outlets except that it will likely precipitate -- and in considerable amounts -- in the latter part of the upcoming weekend. Approximately 48 to 60 hours before the expected arrival of the storm, here's how things stood:

WCCO: Looking more and more like snow. Models suggest 2 to 15 inches
KSTP: Mix to snow. Possibly 6 to 12 inches
FOX: 2 to 4 inches of snow.... mostly Monday morning into afternoon
KARE: Rain to snow to rain. No amounts mentioned
Strib: Potential for 2-4 inches
NWS: 60 percent chance of snow and freezing rain; no amounts mentioned

The rolling forecast over time by weather outlet can be viewed here. Cute, pithy updates will be provided via Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Forecasters Dismiss Friday Snow, Look to Monday for Potentially Plowable Event

Twin Cities forecasters are now focusing on a possible snow event for late Sunday and Monday. Evidently, the weather models are not yet conforming (nice to see they aren't giving in to peer pressure), and forecasts, accordingly, are rather across the board. KSTP has been the most aggressive with this storm, presently saying that the heaviest snow may end up right over the metro. FOX is the first to throw out possible snow amounts. WCCO and KARE seem to the most skeptical about the storm, thinking most of it will remain to the south.

As of Wednesday evening, here's what the local weather mavens had to say about what might happen late Sunday and Monday:

WCCO: Expect most of snow to fall south of MSP
KSTP: Think the heaviest snow may end up right over the metro
FOX: Possibility of 3-5 sloppy inches ... unless it stays warm and remains rain
KARE: Expect heaviest snow to fall south, perhaps across the I-90 corridor
Strib: Looking more likely for enough to shovel and plow
NWS: 50 percent chance of snow Sunday night and Monday
MPR: Indications are that a rain/snow mix will move in Sunday night

You can track the evolving forecast of the possible snow, by forecaster, here.

As always, follow TMF on Twitter and Facebook to learn of any changes in changes in the weathercasters' forecasts.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tracking Possible Snow Events for Friday and Sunday/Monday

The focus of TMF moves to what may happen this Friday and again late in the weekend. As of Monday night, most forecasters see the possibility of a messy Friday, with a relatively small amount of rain/snow/slush. A potentially bigger storm for late in the weekend seems a possibility according to most forecasters. At this point, KSTP (who foresees a snowier pattern change coming from late in the weekend through next week), Star Tribune, and the National Weather Service seem the most bullish on the possibility of significant snow. One notable exception, however, was Fox, which did not mention the possibility of any rain or snow for Sunday or Monday.

A rundown of the collective forecasts for each of these events can be found here.

Follow TMF on Twitter and Facebook to learn of any changes in changes in the weathercasters' forecasts.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Who Saw 48 Coming???

Today's nearly record-setting warmth (48 was three degrees off the record) surprised everyone, including the local forecasters. We're not meteorologists at TMF, but today's warmth seemed even more amazing because of the significant snow pack.

Here were the high temperatures forecast for Sunday as of Saturday night. The temperatures in parentheses were Sunday's forecast highs as of Friday night. All forecasters -- to varying degrees (no pun intended, but if it makes you laugh we'll take credit) -- latched on to the late-developing trend, but not nearly enough.

A pop quiz grade on today's temperatures, using a scale of A (within two degrees), B (within four degrees), C (within six degrees), D (within eight degrees) and F (more than eight degrees), follows:

WCCO: D 41 (38)
KSTP: D* 40 (36)
FOX: D 41 (38)
KARE: C 43 (39)
Strib: F 38 (36)
NWS: D 40 (38)

*One interesting note. A Facebook post last night from social media guru KSTP's Chikage Windler read as follows:
I'm forecasting a high of 40...but one computer model was going upper 40s earlier and just updated with a forecast high of 51 for the Metro!!! Not buying it, b/c of the deep snow pack, but could possibly see low to mid 40s.
Our friendly advice to Chikage: Buy that model!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Seven Days Out -- Is That a Storm They See?

Looking ahead to the end of next week, there is talk of a possible rain or snow event. Here’s the latest forecast for next Thursday/Friday as of Friday night:

WCCO: Shows a high of 31 and a chance of mixed precipitation. No comments actually made on the air.

KSTP: From the KSTP weather blog: “Late week storm? It's far out and not high confidence, but there could be a system that pushes into Minnesota Thursday through Saturday.  At this point, looks pretty light for the Metro - with light rain/maybe ending as light snow (only going 20% chance)....but Northern MN could get some decent snow out of it in the Friday-Saturday timeframe. Bears watching at the very least.”

Fox: Website shows a chance of mixed precipitation.

KARE: Next Thursday/Friday not covered in their extended outlook

Strib: Light rain/snow mix possible late on Thursday. Friday: Mostly cloudy with light snow, maybe light accumulations.

NWS: Thursday night: A 20 percent chance of light freezing rain and snow. Friday: Cloudy with a 40 percent chance of rain.

MPR: The GFS model is tracking a low pressure system through Iowa by next Thursday/Friday. Right now it looks warm enough for the system to begin as rain in southern Minnesota and the metro, but maybe snow in central and northern MN. There may be a transition to all snow Friday, but it's way too early to tell.

The medium range forecast models are not nearly good enough temporality or spatially to pinpoint rain/snow areas a week out, and sometimes even 24 hours out! The state of the science of meteorology only allows us to say there might be rain and or snow in a week...and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you a bill of goods.

Follow TMF on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Grades for the Feb. 5-7 Yawner of a Snow Event

A big storm it was never meant to be, but depending on which weather outlet you followed late last week you may have expected more snow that what actually fell at MSP over the last three days. About a half an inch of snow fell. As always, the progressive forecast provides the objective basis for our subjective assessments. Read on for grades:

FOX: A- As of Thursday night, Fox's weekend forecast of mere "nuisance flurries" seemed out of step with the others. But it was essentially true. Had Fox not joined the snow wagon with a forecast of 1-2 inches on Friday night (thought they noted it would likely be closer to an inch), they'd have aced this little baby.

Strib: C- The Strib was the first, and ultimately only outlet, to mention the possibility of 3 inches for the metro. It also held on to a forecast of more than one inch longer than the others.

KARE: B+ We always find it difficult to grade KARE because their forecasts are always couched in general terms like "there may be some light accumulations." However, they never seemed to predict any real accumulation for the Twin Cities, so they weren't far off.

KSTP: C+ Through Friday morning, KSTP included "inches" in their forecast and generally seemed to hang on to a forecast of appreciable snow longer than others except for the Strib. However, by Friday night, they latched on to the trend of snow staying mainly south.

WCCO: A- WCCO was generally good with this forecast. Their Friday night forecast of a "dusting to an inch" was on target.

NWS: A It was hard to find fault with the National Weather Service this time around. They never mentioned accumulations and never expressed the possibility that this weekend's snow would amount to much.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

From the TMF Soapbox: A Weather Watcher's Bill of Rights

While TMF doesn’t presuppose it’s speaking for the weather watchers of the world, let alone those residing in the country’s second coldest state, we’d like to set a few expectations for Minnesota’s weathercasters. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

1. Use social media for all it’s worth. It doesn’t take an expert futurist to see that local television news broadcasts – indeed the concept of watching the news at a particular time of day on a big screen – are going the way of the dinosaur. Providing timely information in an electronic space is both “good weather” and, alas, good marketing. In our market, we’ve noticed that KSTP has escalated its commitment to providing timely, online updates with new video forecasts that are announced through tweets and Facebook updates. This makes good sense: Why should we have to stay up to watch a forecast when a new has already been developed. There are forecasters in our area, such as NovakWeather, who provide their services solely through non-traditional media.

2. Be consistent in the media you employ. The weather information provided on television or radio should match what’s posted on your website. There’s nothing worse than dialing up your favorite station's website only to see Friday’s forecast posted front and center when it’s Sunday. Worse yet, is when the site shows the morning forecast (which might not mention any possibility of storms) when an evening forecast has just been shown on TV that is markedly different.

3. Walk the talk. Keep information on your electronic media current. If you’re going to say “check out our website for the latest weather information whenever you’re on the go,” please live up to your end of the bargain.

4. Employ confidence ratings in your forecasts. Everyone knows that some forecasts are more slam dunks than others – or as the weather gurus might say sometimes there’s “model agreement” and sometimes there isn’t. The phrase, “I gotta tellya, this forecast has big bust potential,” are words we should hear a bit more often.

5. Dare to be different! It’s no secret that weathercasters (indeed, the public) has access to the same large universe of weather model information. We wouldn’t suggest that the Geico gecko could predict the weather, but it’s easy to become routine and formulaic in your approach. Use a hunch now and then, and stick yourself out. Sure, you may miss a forecast (and pay dearly on TMF – that’s a joke), but if you explain your reasoning, we admire it. For example, when studying the various forecasts for the long-range predictions of the first major cold wave, we noted that KSTP’s temperature prediction stood out like a sore thumb from the consensus. In the end, they had the best prediction by far.

6. Be creative. Present information in a fresh and unorthodox way. It’s more entertaining for the viewer or reader, and can be a better way to illustrate a concept. Our favorite weather site, the Capital Weather Gang, provides rather unique forecasts when snow is in the offing. Here’s an excellent example of a logical, yet uncommon, way to depict possible storm outcomes:

Here’s an excerpt from the blog entry:
Here are the current accumulation possibilities that will certainly evolve in the next several days:
30% chance: A dusting or less
30% chance: A dusting to 1"
20% chance: 1-5"
20% chance: 5"+

To us, this should be a standard tactic in communicating weather scenarios.

7. Give us the love all the time. Yes, the interest in weather is much higher when severe summer storms threaten and when mighty blizzards are aiming in our direction. You should be all over that, both because it affects the most people and because it reflects your presumed love and passion for weather. But if it’s 9 in the morning and a surprise, post-newscast storm has suddenly popped up that will threaten an outdoor lunch or a golf outing, get the word out! There’s real, practical value there, though it may not make for sexy headlines. Finally, weather doesn’t take the weekend off, and neither should weekend weather updates.           

8. Send your written forecasts past a proofreader. There’s no reason to think that a meteorologist specializing in science knowledge is necessarily going to be a good writer, but as long as information is provided through a literary medium, please check your spellings and the flow of your phrases and sentences. Ultimately, your business is detail-based and sloppiness in communication suggests potential sloppiness in the way you go about your job.

9. Present information every six hours (online). Why every six hours? Because that’s how often the key weather models are run. The schedule of television news broadcasts shouldn’t be the governing force behind how often you present information.

10. Spare the gimmicks. Do we really need to know that Johnny’s parents wrote in to find out the forecast for his birthday party in Glenwood on Saturday? In our mind, a better change of pace is to employ a small science presentation. KARE’s Sven Sundgaard’s “Simply Science” segment is a good example.

11. Forgo the misleading teases. Don't allow the news anchor to say, "Snow is coming our way tomorrow," and be left having to explain that distant Mankato or southern Minnesota may get a coating of snow. It’s insulting to us and puts the weathercaster in an instant uphill battle for credibility.

12. Tell us when you blew it. People dig honesty and it’s the best way to earn long-term credibility. If a forecast was missed, don’t skip over it or pretend it didn’t happen. Tell us why it happened – and that you’ll never make the mistake again. (Insert joking smiley face here.)

13. Accurate forecasts. Notice we put this one last? While ultimately, of course, this is what matters most, it’s really part of the whole way that a weather outlet should communicate with its followers. We believe that a well-explained and well-reasoned forecast is simply good communication. And that in the end, people may remember the way you communicate as much as the accuracy of your forecast. That’s our feeling, anyway.

Agree or disagree with these ideas? Please share your thoughts.

Flurries Are All She Wrote (or all she plans to write)

If you were still thinking hoping for a little Super Sunday Snow, fuhgeddaboudit. The forecasters, save for what appears to be an outdated forecast on the Star Tribune website, have removed the yellow flag. If you're a flurry fan, however, you may find yourself in heaven. Maybe.

Although it seems uneventful, we'll still provide a grade for the forecasting of this weekend's weather because that's what we do, and probably one of the reasons you come by to visit.

We're also working on drafting a "Weather Watcher's Bill of Rights," a Thomas Jefferson-quality document which we hope to post tomorrow.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Forecasters See Minimal Sunday Snow; Major Cold Next Week

By late Saturday night, the trend among most Twin City forecasters was to decrease the amount of snow that may fall from late Saturday into Monday. All outlets except for the Star Tribune expect any snow to amount to an inch or less. The Star Tribune predicted 1 to 3 inches. Here's a summary for the late weekend possibility of snow:

WCCO: Dusting to maybe an inch
KSTP: Expect to snow accumulations to be south of the metro
FOX: Possibility of 1 to 2 inches of snow by Monday morning but it would likely be closer to one inch.
KARE: Light snow from Saturday night through Monday. Could be some light accumulations.
Strib: 1 to 3 inches
NWS: 40-50% chance of snow by Sunday and Sunday night. No accumulations mentioned.

And now for the cold, which seems a can't-miss intrusion into our lives yet again based on all forecasts. The average predicted temperature for Monday through Friday is 11, 7, 9, 5 and 12. At this juncture, KARE seems the least down on the cold, with a fair amount of warmer variance than the other weather outlets through Wednesday of next week. If you'd like to see the progressive forecast by weather outlet on the predicted cold wave, click here. We'll continually monitor the cold forecast and see how the fearless forecasters perform on their mid- to long-range temperature forecasts.

The ever-friendly reminder that we're socially conscious ... or at least social media conscious. Follow TMF on Twitter and Facebook.

Forecasters Mixed on Possible Accumulating Snow for Saturday night into Sunday

TMF will provide a group forecaster summary on a possible snow event for Saturday night into Sunday later this evening. We're also in the process of chronicling the forecasters thinking with regard to a big cold wave next week. Check back later tonight.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bringing Out the Red Markers for the Jan. 31 Snowstorm

The 4.7 official inches of snow reported at MSP airport were right in line with what the majority of forecasters predicted. The generally high grades on this performance reflect the well-behaved storm. Our only quibble is that several forecasters did not see any snow coming on Thursday night, approximately 72 hours prior to the storm (which tends to undermine the credibility of a five-day extended forecast). Unfortunately, TMF was not able to gather all Thursday predictions (that likely didn't mention snow), so these grades are a little tenuous given some incomplete information. A detailing of the progressive forecast can be found here.

Here are the ever-subject-but-always-truth-intending grades for the storm of Jan. 31:

WCCO: A- Depending on one's definition of a "few inches," they latched on to the proper snowfall range beginning Friday night.
KSTP: B+ They brought up the possibility of snow as early as Wednesday night but felt the chances had decreased substantially by Thursday night. Still, they were ahead of most in recognizing the possibility of the snowstorm. However, they got a little too excited about snowfall prospects and the 4.7" was slightly below their range.
FOX: B No mention of snow until Friday evening. They nailed the ultimate snow range on Saturday p.m. but went a bit higher on Sunday night.
KARE: C+ Our recollection (so don't quote us on this) is that they did not forecast the possibility of snow before Friday. As is their custom, they didn't begin to assign numbers to the nebulous "light snow accumulations" until Sunday morning, which we feel is a little late in the game, particularly if you were to rely on them for planning activities, commutes, etc. Once they developed specifics, they were in the range.
Strib: B- The good news: they got the snow range right beginning Friday evening. The bad news: as recently as Thursday, they not only didn't predict any snow for Monday but even went so far as to declare, "No headline-grabbing storms are in sight the next 2 weeks, just a couple of clippers capable of a coating in the metro, maybe a few inches near Duluth." We find it irksome that there is no appropriate follow-up to that comment when the forecast clearly did a 180.
NWS: B+ Was a bit slow to identify the magnitude of the storm, calling for 2-3 inches on Saturday a.m. But in the end, they nailed the range.