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.