Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Storm Pattern Comes Back; Forecasters Eye Rain/Snow Mixes

Friday evening update: Forecasters have pretty much discounted any chance of significant snow for the Twin Cities for Sunday/Monday.

Time to start tracking two more snow possibilities before the season is done. The winter season does have to end at some point, doesn't it?

The first event is scheduled to begin Thursday afternoon, and the second, bigger one is slated to arrive on Sunday. Here are the collective forecasts as of Wednesday evening.

A Look Into the Future with Paul Douglas

TMP would like to take this opportunity to thank Paul Douglas, Star Tribune weather columnist and CEO/Chief Meterologist for WeatherNation, for providing a glimpse into the future of weather forecasting and weather communication. If you're a weather consumer -- and who isn't? -- great things are ahead. Paul suggests we're at the cusp of major changes in the way weather is delivered. He sees increased personalization and greater use of multi-media (video, social media, interactive, etc.). More and more, weather information will come to you in an increasingly efficient, relevant way. Some day, Paul suggests, the weather for your 10 a.m. tee time on Friday will be plopped directly into your personal calendar. Amazing stuff... and we hope to share more in a future post. Many thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Paul!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Grades for the (Mostly) Unwanted Storm of March 22-23

Our standard disclaimer: 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 and we maintain forecast histories for each event. It might also be helpful to read our “Weather Watcher’s Bill of Rights” to get a sense of our perspective.

Over the last several weeks, it seems, the ferocity of a storm seems inversely related to the amount of media hype. This storm was no exception. For the progressive forecast by weather outlet for this storm, click here.

In general, the rain/sleet/snowstorm of March 22-23 was tough to forecast. Until about 12 hours before the onset of the storm, most forecasters believed the heaviest snow would fall well north of the Twin Cities and that the storm’s calling card would be a small, slushy nuisance accumulation. In the end, the inner core of the Twin Cities was significantly affected as evidenced by the huge number of accidents reported (although the highest amounts of snow did fall just north of the central cities).

The late change in the storm’s track clearly had forecasters scrambling and ensured that a top grade was not attainable (except in one case). In addition, it seemed that some forecasters embraced late model changes while others seemed to discount them.

Here are the grades for what many hope will be the last significant snow of the season:

WCCO: C+ From a presentation standpoint, we have issues with WCCO’s visual depiction of what a certain model says when the forecaster goes on to say he doesn’t believe it and that it just provides an idea. The fact is that television news is all about visuals and we think that if people see 6.9” printed out for the metro and 18” totals for parts of northern Minnesota that that’s what they’re going to take home with them. We think that viewers are far better served by the meteorologist creating a fresh, non-model produced graphic that reflects what he/she thinks will really happen. OK, off our soapbox. TMF readers, do you agree? Beyond the presentation matter, WCCO did pick up on the final twists and turns of the storm, correctly predicting 4-6 inches as of the 10 p.m. newscast. However, as with most other prognosticators, they underestimated the magnitude of the storm in the days leading up to the event.

KSTP: A- This was a very good performance by KSTP. They were the first to latch on to the possibility of more than 1-3 inches of snow (on Monday night) and they were steady in their predictions from that point on. And, they were generally accurate with predictions of 3-5 inches of snow for the south metro and 6-10 inches on the north side. Our one complaint with KSTP was that they dropped the use of their confidence ratings, a tool we thought would have served viewers particularly well in this storm, particularly given the high uncertainty of the timing of the changeover to snow.

FOX: B- FOX was generally in the middle of the pack on this one. They were in the 1-3” boat like most others until the final bell, when their final forecast was for 3-5 inches. To their credit, FOX made a clear and unequivocable case for the bad road conditions that would greet commuters in the morning.

KARE: D It’s always a little hard to assess KARE given the cautious way they state their predictions, but it seems pretty evident they never got a good handle on this storm. On Friday evening, when all other weathercasters were allowing for the possibility of accumulating snow, KARE said it was “looking like mostly rain Tuesday night into Wednesday.” On Tuesday’s evening, KARE predicted 1-3 inches, a prediction they stayed with through Wednesday night’s 10 p.m. forecast, a time at which virtually all other outlets predicted higher, and more accurate, amounts. It seemed to us that KARE was asleep at the wheel.

Star Tribune: B The interesting situation with the Strib column this past week was that the regular blogger was on vacation during much of the time the storm was evolving, leaving one to wonder what might have otherwise been predicted in the days preceding of the storm. Nonetheless, the Strib’s blog was generally in the weather forecaster mainstream until yesterday evening, when readers were put on alert that there was an unmistakable change occurring. We give credit to the Strib for putting out the timeliest update (6:30 p.m.) of the important forecast change, one that seemed to turn the storm from a nuisance storm to something with considerably greater impact. The updated snow estimate of 4-8 inches was generally on target.

MPR: B- As we’ve mentioned before, evaluations of MPR must take into consideration that for the most part it’s a one-man operation. It also emphasizes statewide weather given the nature of its readers and listeners. So we’re never sure whether to include it with our grading. That said, MPR blended with most other weather outlets for this storm. We applaud the alert as to the general escalation of snow totals; however, it was issued at 11:10 p.m., likely a little late for most people to plan accordingly.

NWS: B+ It’s challenging to assign a grade for the NWS this time around. The weather discussions and early forecasts suggested that the storm would be more than a nuisance. They called for a 70 percent chance of snow as early as Friday evening and included accumulation totals of one sort or another from that time forward. This was all good. However, they were late in issuing warnings and advisories. And the eventual declaration of a Winter Storm Warning when there was never a prior Winter Storm Watch can’t be the way they draw things up at the NWS. Then again other media outlets aren’t burdened with the duty to declare watches and warnings.

Agree or disagree with our forecaster grades? Let us know what you think (that includes our beloved forecasters whose performance we judge).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Late-Changing Models Have Some Local Forecasters Upping Snow Totals

As of 10:30 p.m., most forecasters had adjusted their predicted snowfall totals a little higher. KARE continues to stand out from the rest with the prediction of 1-3 inches. The majority of forecasters are now predicting 4-7 inches of snow.

It seems that we may have a situation on our hands. In what seems to be a fast-evolving storm scenario, some local weathercasters are scurrying to up their forecast snow totals in light of new data.

As of 7 p.m., KARE was predicting 1-3 inches at the low end and the Strib was predicting 4-8." Here were the latest forecasts (the progressive forecast can be viewed here):

A mighty colorful late winter/early spring radar looks like a work of art.
WCCO: 4-6 inches (updated from 2-4 inches)
KSTP: 3-5" south metro to 6-10" north metro
FOX: 3-5 inches (updated from 2-4 inches)
KARE: 1-3" of slushy snow
Strib: 4-7 inches (from 4-8 inches)
NWS: 4-7 inches (from 3-6 inches)

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive updates on the changing forecasts as they come straight from the forecasters' mouths.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Forecasters Generally Tight-Lipped on Possibility of One More Snow Event Next Tuesday/Wednesday

It looks like there may be one more snow in the works for next week. However, local forecasters are not getting too specific with possibilities at this point. We're beginning another recap on this possible snow event. KSTP suggests that "accumulating snow is not out of the question," whereas KARE notes that, "it's looking like mostly rain at this point."

The predictions for the week's warm up are now complete. A quick glance reveals that the Strib's predictions stand out for two reasons: 1) the forecast temperatures often rose and fell considerably in successive days, and 2) in two instances, forecast highs for four days in advance were 10 and 13 degrees above the actual temperatures recorded. The remaining forecasts, without benefit of number crunching, appear to be fairly solid and closely batched together.

Seems to us that for any future analysis of temperatures we should simply go with a 3-day out or 4-day forecast. In general, it seems that all outlets are bunched together inside of three days and are typically close to the mark with the increasing model agreement.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Change of Pace

As we wait to see which weathercaster performed best in predicting the current warmup and whether or not there may be a possible snow event next week to monitor, we thought we'd mention a few interesting weathercasting sites. is a fellow "forecast grader" that evaluates national forecasting services. It's far more sophisticated than TMF and the grading system is much more exact than the simple letter grades we assign. It's clearly geared for a different audience than ours, but it's an interesting site and one that's probably worthy of your review nonetheless.

Another interesting site, thought it's not a forecast "evaluator," is It provides one heck of an amount of information in an interesting graphic format. What's particularly interesting about it is that you can choose weather information from a variety of models, including NOAA, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute (seriously, this is not a Minnesota joke) and World Weather Online, (See the upper right portion of the page to select a different weather model). Perhaps some of you have an idea which underlying models form the consensus for each of the weather sources.

One model from WeatherSpark reflects a rain/snow/sleet mix for next week.

Finally, if the long wait for the snow to melt is leaving you in need of a little comic relief, we offer up this television weather meteorologist.

Enjoy the dribbling sounds of spring.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tracking the Mid-March Warmup

We're beginning to track the warm-up expected this week. You can play along at home and review our spreadsheet with the progressive forecasts for each forecaster here. The Strib seems a bit more bullish on the warm-up for Tuesday and Wednesday than other weather outlets.

Last night's snow provided a fresh canvas at TMF headquarters.
Also, if we can sensitively play "The Japanese Forecaster" for a moment, it's interesting to note that the earthquake was not in a location that was considered as favorable for "the big one" as other places in Japan. Here's an interesting article from the Washington Post that discusses how the earthquake left scientists humbled at the unpredictability of it all. And you thought Midwestern snowstorms were challenging to predict!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Humble Words From Paul Douglas

Many readers of TMF likely follow Paul Douglas's weather blog on the Star Tribune. Paul has received a great deal of heat lately from his forecast for the recent storm as well as for some controversial long-range forecasts. In what we consider to be a humble, honest effort to gather the thoughts of his readers, Paul's current blog entry solicits their input. In addition to posting any comments directly on his blog, we offer this space to collect the thoughts of our valued TMF readers. We will be sure he is made aware of any comments you may leave.

The following is the full text of Paul's self-described mea culpa taken directly from the blog:

Mea Culpa. In my highly unscientific and statistically-meaningless poll of a few dozen people yesterday, fully 78% were "relieved" that the storm never materialized. The other 22% (apparent snow-lovers, still not quite content with the 79+" snow we've received) gave me an earful. "What happened to the 12" you PROMISED me Paul?" Huh?

On this blog I've been posting the latest model predictions looking out a week or more, knowing full well that some of these long-range guestimates are iffy. I went out of my way to remind (everyone) that confidence levels were low, I tried to explain, "here's what the models are saying." "Here's a look into the future, warts and all." Maybe that's the wrong approach. I'm starting to wonder if I should do a better job of editing the models and not putting everything out there. Long range forecasting is the meteorological equivalent of making sausage - you probably don't want to see the process, if you can help it. Dozens of models to choose from, some work better than others in certain scenarios, sometimes they all disagree. On occasion they're all wrong - which was pretty much the case with this last "storm".

I suspect that the physics in the models (especially the GFS, which is the only American model that goes out beyond 84 hours) has a tougher time dealing with the transition from a wintry regime to a springlike pattern, which is what's underway right now. I can't prove that, but I've heard enough complaining (from other meteorologists) that leads me to believe that a March model run is probably more unreliable than a January model solution. I did try to give a blow by blow account of what the models were predicting (for better or worse), and a few days ago it really did look like we could be in for a major snowfall. But since Monday the models (including the GFS and the NAM/WRF) began to pull back, pushing the track farther east, and we gradually dropped our predictions, to the point we were calling for "an inch or two" as of Tuesday. No excuses - this last system was not handled well. It's easy to blame the models, but it's our responsibilty as meteorologists to monitor and vet those models, throw out the dubious model runs - and through a combination of gut feel, historical context and experience zero in on the right solution, weeding out the "correct" model.

The GFS model nailed the major snowstorms back in December and February (which probably gave me a false sense of security and confidence). This time around the models were almost worthless. So I'm wrestling with this: do I continue to post what the models are predicting (come what may), or do more judicious editing, and only post what I think may REALLY unfold looking out 5-15 days? My gut is telling me to still share as much (raw data) as possible - get it out there and let you see what the guidance is saying, but do a better job of attaching a "confidence level" to those models. When all the models agree our confidence tends to go up, and for a time late last week all the models were hinting at over 6", maybe a foot for parts of southeastern MN. They were (all) wrong, in 20/20 hindsight. That's what's so frustrating about this last system. That's the thing about weather forecasting. You nail a couple of major storms, your confidence level goes up, and then Mother Nature kicks you in the Doppler. A painful learning curve.

A humbling profession, yes. Mea culpa and all due apologies to snow-lovers. Commuters caught a break this time around. Time to go back to eating my tasty crow souffle.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Forecaster Grades for the March 8-9 Snow Event (Non-Event?)

Our standard disclaimer: 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 and we maintain forecast histories for each event. It might also be helpful to read our “Weather Watcher’s Bill of Rights” to get a sense of our perspective.

In recent memory, it’s hard to recall a snowstorm that was advertised so early and with such ferocity. It’s also hard to recall a storm that felt so short in comparison to initial expectations.

Last Tuesday evening (March 1), most weather outlets identified the possibility of a big storm. From Thursday to the first part of Friday, “storm hype” was in full force (see below). Shortly after that, forecasters began to sense that the storm was tracking to the southeast and not likely to make a direct hit on MSP. However, even after adjustments were made to the initial “whopper” forecast, the storm was still an underachiever in comparison to final forecasts. And while TMF does not specifically evaluate forecaster performance in locations outside the Twin Cities metro, it seems clear that “the big hit” never really hit anyone.

Prior to the grading section, we wanted to take a more detailed look back at the so-called hype. Several forecasters, particularly in the last few days, have seemed to distance themselves from the hype produced by “some other forecasters.” We reviewed the progressive forecasts and, depending on how you define hype and what you perceive to be a prediction vs. a “mention of possibility,” it seems that the “other forecasters” were more or less everyone. Here’s “the height of the hype” from each weather outlet.

WCCO: One model said 12-16
KSTP: Could spread 6-12 inches our way
Fox: 10-15 inches
KARE: Looking very much like the other big storms this winter
Strib: 13+ inches
MPR: This is a perfect track to dump heavy snow in MN, including the metro

In the end, the snow event of March 8-9 totalled exactly one inch of snow at the MSP airport.

Here is our forecaster review and grades:

MPR was very deliberate in the timing of its first issuance of snowfall estimates. In fact, MPR included 225 words on its Monday morning blog post devoted to discussion of their snowfall prediction policy (24-48 hours prior to an event). It spoke to readers in a clear, down-to-earth manner.

We were disappointed with the rather long time (three days) without at least a short update on the MPR blog during a time when prospects for a major storm were changing and new information was available.

Early on Sunday morning, MPR said there was an 80% chance of a plowable event that included the Twin Cities. Obviously, this did not transpire. That said, MPR was the first to mention a lower range of snow totals and also emphasized the low end of 1-4-inch prediction before the storm started. Our grade for MPR is a B-.

Conservatism was king for this storm. The less early hype given to the storm, the better the grade, in our minds. KARE’s policy of not providing snowfall accumulation estimates until 24 hours prior to a storm served them well this time around.

KARE made an exception to its extended outlook policy (which generally seems to be five days, except in the case of weekends) by mentioning the storm a week out. They commented on the similarity of the look of the as-of-yet-unformed storm to the big storms of this winter, thereby suggesting a big one might be on the way.

KARE’s first snow totals after the general “few inches” were for 3 to 5 inches. Their final 2-4 inch snowfall prediction for the metro (which we extrapolate to mean 3 inches for airport) was high and still a significant variance for this sized storm. We give KARE a grade of B-.

KSTP was an early rider on the big-snow wagon with the prospect of a foot mentioned in a blog entry on Wednesday evening. However, their cause was helped out to a degree by their use of confidence ratings (something regular TMF readers know that we’re big on). On Thursday, they gave a 10 (on a 10-scale for confidence) to the possibility of “measureable snow” with this snow event (which happened, though a mini-ruler was sufficient). Their 7 on the same scale for a “plowable snow” reflected a strong conviction, yet not a certainty. However, just as surely as a .300 hitter in baseball gets a hit, their prediction was wrong. (Think about that one….)

Still, on Saturday morning, KSTP reported that “someone in the Midwest will get nailed.” We interpret “nailed” to be upwards of 6-12 inches in this context, that did not happen. KSTP’s final prediction of an average metrowide accumulation 3 inches was considerably high.

While KSTP’s use of social media and confidence ratings continues to set the standard, its forecast this time around was lacking in accuracy. We gave them a D+.

WCCO’s effort on this storm brought attention to the use of “tossing out” model numbers. It’s our feeling that if a forecaster, particularly a television forecaster, voices possible snowfall amounts in any way – as an actual prediction or as a possible output from a model run – the attention span-challenged viewer is going to walk away remember one thing: the largest snowfall amount they heard. On Thursday evening, WCCO cited that one model spit out 12-16” and another 15.5”. Related to that, we got a kick out of the Saturday 6 p.m. weathercast when Mike Fairbourne refused to answer the anchor’s request to provide weather model information and snowfall projections. Fairbourne responded, in his typically gentle way, “I’m not tipping my hand. It’s still three days away!”

Like most other weather outlets, WCCO overrated the storm even after the storm’s likely movement to the southeast was widely accepted. They suggested the snowfall would be a plowable event as recently as Saturday night. Our grade for WCCO is D.

FOX was a little slow out of the gate on this one. Last Tuesday evening, it was the only station to not mention the possibility of snow in its extended forecast for Sunday through Tuesday (recall that in addition to the just-ended snow, several inches of snow also fell on Sunday). Yet they ended up riding the same roller coaster as everyone else, suggesting 10-15 inches of snow at one point on Friday. FOX’s grade is a D.

Star Tribune
The old saying, “You live by the sword, you die by the sword,” seems appropriate in this case. When you throw out 13”+ in writing and it actually happens, you’re a rock star. When it doesn’t, you become the object of considerable criticism.

Partly given the forecaster’s early and large “prediction” and partly because the Star Tribune chose to feature the weather blog’s brassy and flatline “13+ inches of snow next week” headline on its highly visible home page, an expectation level was set for an entire metropolitan area, if not a region. And while the Strib presentation was sprinkled with disclaimers such as “this is a forecast; forecasts are often wrong” it somehow got lost in the context of predictions that some Strib readers called outrageous.

Clearly, this was not a winning forecast, nor did it seem to be handled in a particularly responsible fashion from a journalistic point of view. Our grade for the Strib is an D-.

We track the NWS by simply noting the text forecast rather than getting into the official NWS discussion. However, based on the straight day-to-day forecasts, the NWS was steady. However, it also suffered from snow overprediction, forecasting 3-4 inches as of Monday afternoon. The NWS grade is a B.

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Final Predictions for Wednesday Snow Event (Nonevent?)

There's nothing to say about Wednesday's possible snow event that hasn't already been said -- except for maybe to say that expected snowfall amounts continue to decline. As of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, with snow generally expected to begin falling around midnight, here are the final forecasts. The full, lengthy history of forecasts on this storm that began nearly a week ago can be viewed here.

WCCO: "Several inches" (no specific numbers given for metro)
KSTP: 1-5 inches
FOX: 1-3 inches
KARE: 2-4 inches
Strib: 1-3 inches
MPR: 1-4 inches
NWS: About 2 inches

TMF will issue forecaster its objective, subjective grades shortly after the snow has concluded. If you'd like to be notified when they come out, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?

The long-watched storm and we mean the LONG watched storm is finally on its preliminary approach into the region. As of Monday mid-evening, most forecasters still expected a glancing blow, and several continued to diminish the possibilities.

Thanks to one of our astute readers (see comment below) for noting a rather interesting graphic depiction on WCCO's 10 p.m. weathercast.

One hell of a tight snow gradient
We assume that Chris Shaffer, like the rest of us, is a little snow fatigued at this point and forget to add a 4-6" bucket. (And yes, we know that we make a ton of typos here at TMF so we show this in good fun.)

Here are the forecast details as of Monday evening. Full details here.

WCCO: 2-4 inches (down from 3 to 5 inches yesterday)
KSTP: 2-4 inches (down from 50/50 chance of 4-6 yesterday)
FOX: 2-4 inches (3 to 6 yesterday)
KARE: 2-4 inches
Strib: 3-5 inches
MPR: 1-4 inches
NWS: 3-4 inches

The "Big One" Seen Increasingly Unlikely by Local Weather Prognosticators

The storm that's been better advertised than Geico insurance (but sadly without all the humor) is almost here ... assuming it's still coming, that is. Forecasters, in some cases grudgingly, provided snowfall estimates for a possible snow event on Tuesday night and Wednesday. (And, oh by the way, a much less heralded two inches of snow seemingly made it under the radar on Sunday night.)

As of Sunday night, here's how the menu looked for the potential serving of snow beginning Tuesday night:

WCCO: "Maybe 3 to 5 inches"
KSTP: 10 on a 1-10 confidence scale for measurable; 5 on a 10-scale for plowable (4-6 inches)
FOX: 3 to 6 inches
KARE: "Maybe a few inches."
Strib: 2-4 inches in metro
MPR: Too early to call
NWS: Snow likely Tuesday night. Snow, could be heavy at times, on Wednesday.

The progressive history of the forecasts for this storm can be found here.

Periodically, TMF posts poll questions to the right of the page. We're particularly interested in your vote on this question.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Caution is the Word

Local weather prognosticators sounded particularly cautious today in assessing next week's snow chances after their favorite, trusted weather models threw them a major curve in the last 24-48 hours. Most forecasters fell silent when it came to making specific snowfall accumulation forecasts. An exchange between WCCO's Mike Fairbourne and weekend anchor Dennis Douda on the Six seemed to capture the climate (no pun intended) pretty accurately. Douda pushed Fairbourne to toss out possible snow amounts, asking, "So what do the models say?" Fairbourne held firm like a veteran CIA agent. "I'm not tipping my hand," said the veteran weathercaster. "It's still three days away." (By 10 p.m., Fairbourne provided a bit more information; see below.)

As of Saturday night, here's where the newly cautious (prudent?) forecasters stood with respect to a potential midweek storm:

WCCO: "Looks like a shovelable, plowable event."
KSTP: Expects bull's eye of storm to miss Minneapolis to the southeast.
FOX: Thinking closer to the low end of a 3-6" range.
KARE: "We're not going to miss it, but it won't be 10+ inches."
Strib: Potential for 2-5" metro
MPR: No update 
NWS: Snow likely Tuesday night and Wednesday

The progressive history of the forecasts for this storm can be found here.

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If They Were Betting Men (and Women) ...

I was struck by something that FOX’s Erik Maitland said this evening. He prefaced his snowfall prediction with, “If I were a betting man….” And that got me thinking. What IF he were a betting man? And what if forecasters had to put money on their own forecasts. Might it change the way they went about their work, specifically when it came to pronouncements regarding the timing and magnitude of snow predictions?

So picture a rather preposterous new reality sport called weather forecast gambling. It would all be pegged to a forecaster deciding the appropriate time to place a bet with an allotted amount of money (placing a bet, of course, would equate to issuing an official forecast). The idea would be that you hold off on placing your bet until you felt reasonably sure that you were making a good decision.

Here’s how it might work. A forecaster could win the most amount of money for a high-risk/high-reward proposition (i.e., successfully predicting an 8-inch snowfall seven days out); conversely, the least amount of money would be won if a snowfall forecast were made at about the time a snowfall was commencing. If the forecaster were unsuccessful with his/her bet, they’d lose their money. They’d have the option of playing it safe (i.e., waiting until the sure bet -- to the extent that exists in weather forecasting), taking a big risk (going "out on a limb") or going for something in between.

Obviously, this is very tongue-in-cheek (although if the NFL labor agreement doesn’t get settled, there’s going to be a lot of extra betting money sitting around), but it’s (somewhat) interesting to contemplate how differently forecasters might approach their communications with the public under a different set of rules.

Then again you could play "fantasy weather" and draft a forecaster ……

Friday, March 4, 2011

Forecasters Sing a Different Tune: Growing Consensus That Tues/Wed Storm is Trending South

Storm tracks giveth and storm tracks taketh away. That big snow you've heard about scheduled to arrive next week? It appears that it may not happen, at least not to the magnitude that many forecasters figured. As of this writing (late Friday night) forecasters who had predicted rather prodigious snow totals a mere 12 hours ago were backtracking

The rather sudden and unexpected change in the storm track (for a storm that has yet to form, no less) left many weather watchers (consumers) questioning the wisdom of forecasters putting forth snowfall estimates five to six days before possible onset. Approximately 130 comments were left on the Star Tribune weather site during the day on Friday, many debating that very issue.

Still, most forecasters weren't ready to pronounce chances for a big storm dead, quite yet. A record of the changing forecasts is compiled here. Here's where things stood as of Friday night:

WCCO: Latest model information now says 2 to 5 inches of snow for Tues/Wed. "That could still change next week."
KSTP: Last few hours track appears to be moving south. "There's even a scenario where we don't get much snow at all."
FOX: Now storm track would have heavy snow missing Twin Cities. "Accumulations may be hard to find on Wed."
KARE: Trend is to keep storm further south. "Doesn't mean we're going to miss it, though."
Strib: 3-6" of new snow for most of the metro by Wednesday night (1-2" coming on Monday)
MPR: No update 
NWS: 60-70% of snow Tuesday night and Wednesday

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Tracking the Forecasters as They Track the (Big?) Storm

The morning online edition of the Star Tribune highlighted snow prospects for next week.
Most forecasters continue to predict the possibility of a large snowstorm for the first part of next week. Details of the forecasts are compiled here. Here's the skinny as of Friday morning:

WCCO: Enough to shovel
KSTP: Could be 6-12 inches
FOX: "If we don't take a direct hit, we'll be close."
KARE: Mix of snow and freezing rain; could be significant snow accumulations
Strib: 13+ inches
MPR: Major snowstorm is possible next week
NWS: 60-70% of snow Tuesday night and Wednesday

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Updated Cumulative Grades: Will Anyone Break From the Pack?

TMF's subjective-but-objective grades of local weathercasters have -- so far at least -- come to a rather surprising conclusion: there ain't much difference between forecasters! Virtually all forecasters are carrying an average grade of C+ according to our cumulative grade sheet (and feel free to recalculate to see if we've erred in coming to this seemingly unlikely conclusion).

Things to consider:
No gradable event is assigned a greater weight than any other. So while many eyes may want to focus on big storms, we've haven't made such a distinction.

We tracked extended forecast temperatures for the early February cold wave but have to analyze the data and assign a grade.

Our sense is that future grades, particularly as we near severe storm season (wishful thinking at this point?), will be influenced considerably by each weather outlet's use of social media.

Thoughts? Comments? Or maybe a desire to buy a good grade by making a check out to TMF?

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Forecasters Honing in on Thursday Event and Possible Storm for Next Week

*Late Wednesday night update*
Thursday's forecast snow event: Several forecasters have downgraded snow prospects for Thursday as of late Wednesday night. WCCO, KSTP and the Strib are now calling for a dusting to less than an inch.

Wednesday evening update
Thursday's forecast snow event: As of Wednesday evening, virtually all forecasters are calling for 1-2 inches of snow on Thursday with the heavier amounts in the east metro.

Potential snow event for next Tuesday/Wednesday: All forecasters continue to watch for the possibility of a significant storm next week.

Tuesday evening update
As winter drones on and on and on, so do the forecasts of snow. Through Tuesday evening, most forecasters see some sort of snow event for Thursday while the majority are also eying what could be the third really big snow of the season that keeps giving early next week.

There is some variability in the snow forecast for Thursday. Most weather outlets are currently forecasting 1-2 inches. MPR is predicting 1-3 inches at this point while others see most of it falling to the south (KARE) or across the Wisconsin border (WCCO says the 1-2 inches is most likely across the border). KSTP mentioned the possibility of 3-5 inches just across the border.

The progressive forecast can be found here. Note that given the various "datelines" of each forecast, we've inserted the time of the obtained forecast to reflect that some weather outlets may be accessing more recent weather information than others.

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Props to everyone for talking among themselves and providing updates on what all the forecasters were saying while TMF was checking out the snow drifts in Cancun.