Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene: In Her Own Words

It all started when my boss informed me that the U.S. hadn’t sampled our cyclonic wrath in three years. Indeed, the last of our brethren to strike the Big 48 was Ike, who pushed Texas around in 2008. But since then, nada.

“Irene,” he uttered in hushed tones, “the world’s most powerful country has all but forgotten about us. We can’t have this. Would you consider becoming a major hurricane?”

I considered the tall task. Did I really want to drag myself through the little Caribbean islands and the always-risky voyage through the Bermuda Triangle? I’d heard of so many brothers and sisters who got sheared to bits there or were otherwise destined to “merely affect shipping lanes,” a euphemistic death sentence that no hurricane worthy of its salt ever wants to hear. And besides, were I to choose a path of widespread destruction, I’d bring dishonor to my pacific name.

As I began to mull things over, calls came in to the corporate office in our secret location on the coast of West Africa (where we also do much of our manufacturing). A CNN media relations rep pleaded with our CEO. “Bachman’s gaffes get us a little attention and the “Libya thing” helped, but we really need a megastorm to get us back on the cable radar.” Evidently, he was desperate. “Look, we’ll even give you the foreboding death march music to lead in and out of the story – the music we usually leave for deaths and wars.”

I was tempted, but I was still on the fence. Who really wanted to endure the suffocating detailed analysis and examination that would go with the territory? After all, I wasn’t about to run for president.

Then came Jim Cantore, the Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel, who could make a sprinkle sound torrential. He asked to speak with me personally. He told me in no uncertain terms that as long as I could show a little potential – “just give us a little purple convection south of the Carolinas” were his words – he’d make me a star.

And so I took the dive. I signed the papers in a humid conference room on August 14, and by the next day, I was kicked off into the Atlantic in the dark of night and into the great unknown, a lonely tropical wave set on making something of myself. I played Joe Jackson’s “Steppin Out” over and over in my head to psych myself up.

Early on, I established a singular goal: Gain the glory for myself (and the cable stations) but spare the good people of any real, extensive damage. To accomplish this I’d need to exhibit both atmospheric prowess and a magician’s deception.

Initially, the trek westward was uneventful. After cruising past the Cape Verde Islands, I was slow to develop thunderstorms and showers in my proximity. At that juncture, the weather geeks called me unorganized and “broad in appearance” – to which I always wanted to say, “Well, I am a broad!” All kidding aside, however, broadness was a distinguishing quality of mine that would stay with me to my dying days.

By August 19, I started exhibiting what meteorologists call a convective structure, which basically meant I was ready to rock and roll as a tropical force. The next day, they flew an aircraft into my inner core and found I had a circulation. I had arrived, and I was getting some serious attention. Soon after, they started calling me by my official first name.

Initially, the experts had me slated to take my talents to South Beach. But while passing the island of Saint Croix, I decided a curve northward might allow me – with the help of CNN and TWC – to terrorize the millions in the big megalopolis.

Now that I was on the big stage, I had to get dolled up. To this point, I’d been chastised for having a “ragged eye” and so I improved my appearance. For a short time at least, I wore the classic look of a well-defined eye with “good outflow on all sides.” I even caused a little havoc on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but that was mainly for show.
I’d accomplished the goal of looking menacing, which, in so many ways, was all I ever really wanted.

The pressures and trappings that go with being a major hurricane can be overwhelming. Once you begin to ascend the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, there’s really only one place to go. The media pressure to become a Cat 4 or Cat 5 can be immense. Katrina, while good for our industry, raised the bar impossibly high.

I followed orders to a tee, maintaining a dead-on track to New York and forcing the city to take extreme and unprecedented precautionary measures. This kept the doomsday scenario alive – and television ratings high. I’d already achieved a modicum of success, and regardless of what happened from this point forward, the boss would be thrilled.

Sadly, I began to lose interest and commenced a slow limp to the finish line. I was praised for my impressive wingspan, even compared in size to the state of Arizona. But my girth not withstanding, there was little gas left in the tank. For all intents and purposes, my own batteries died, ironically enough, as I approached New York’s Battery Park.

In all, I’d made three landfalls and caused considerable inland flooding, a rather estimable accomplishment. However, the media trashed me, saying I never delivered on my forecasted wallop. That’s what happens when you’re unfairly compared to truly legendary hurricanes.

Still, it’s amazing how quickly they forget about you. By Sunday afternoon, mere hours after I’d arrived in New York, Cantore called headquarters, asking, “Who else can you send us?”

But I’ll always hold on to one thing: If you can scare them in New York, you can scare them anywhere.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

How Will Hurricane Irene Affect Minnesota?

Misleading headline. It won't. But keeping with our mission of evaluating weather forecasters, this can be a space for comments about forecasting for Hurricane Irene.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Early Prognostications For State Fair Weather

Dave Dahl appears to be the first local forecaster to put out a forecast for the state fair. The following appeared on the KSTP weather blog in the late afternoon of Tuesday, August 16.
Highs will probably climb quickly through the 80s and into the 90s by the start of the Minnesota State Fair.  Right now it looks as though we'll have the average amount of rainy days during the Fair, which means we can plan on around 3 of the 12 days to be a little wet.
Thanks to the always-brave national weather outlets, we can report the following forecast for the opening day of the fair:
Intellicast: Sunny, 80 Sunny, 81
Accuweather: Sunny, 86 Sunny, 82
Anyone else have an educated guess on the state fair weather?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Does Minnesota Really Have the Most Jekyll and Hyde Weather?

We’ve been wearing our part-time weather consulting hat, working with ForecastAdvisor, a leading provider of information and accuracy assessment for the weather geek/enthusiast, to help present information that shines light on the most weather-changeable cities in the U.S. They've created an analysis of weather variability along with individual city listings that you might find interesting. The listing, which includes the Twin Cities, can be found here.

If you’re inclined to provide feedback on what you find there, we’d love to hear it:
  • Does the analysis make sense to you?
  • Do the results surprise you?
  • What other information would be interesting to know?

Thanks for any feedback!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Weekend Forecast Analysis for Aug. 6-7 - No Clear Winners

We did another extended weekend forecast analysis for this past weekend's weather (Aug. 6-7) as predicted on the night of Sunday, July 31. There were no clear winners for the forecast and what seems most noteworthy is that none of the weather outlets latched on to the 6-degree decrease in temps that occurred from Saturday to Sunday.

The forecasts:(Sat/Sun)
KARE: mid 80s nice/low 80s chance of t-storm
KSTP: 86/86, 30% each day
FOX: 86/86, chance t-storm Saturday night
WCCO: 86/85 (chance t-storm on Sunday)
NWS: 84/86, slight chance of t-storm each day
Accuweather: 84 nice/85 t-storm possible 83 partly cloudy/81 scatter t-storms
Intellicast: 82 partly cloudy/80 (scattered t-storm)
Strib: 85/84 scattered pm storms each day

What actually happened:
Saturday: Partly cloudy, high 88, t-storms
Sunday: Partly cloudy, high 82

Is Summer Over?

Minnesota heat lovers have reason to think that the good stuff is over. Thoughts?
Photo taken in the evening of Aug. 9.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Followers Beware: Tweets on Seemingly Inevitable Storms Often Wrong

This morning provided another reminder that, in our eyes at least, tweeting meteorologists are putting too much predictive emphasis on emerging radar echoes and, in their efforts to be precise, forgetting that storms die out, rebuild and change directions. At a minimum, they'd be wise to at least use more cautionary wording like "may" or "if it holds together" when discussing the movement of storms seemingly headed for the metro.

This morning, Sven Sundgaard detailed with seeming certainty the arrival of morning storms per the graphic below. With our hopelessly untrained eye, we looked at the radar shortly after 7 and wondered if that would actually happen. For one, the storms were a relatively long way away (though moving very quickly) and it seemed puzzling that one could speak with such certainty given the distance the storms still had to travel. For the fun of it, we tweeted close to 8 a.m. that we had our doubts. But it wasn't until close to 9 a.m. that Sven acknowledged that the storms indeed were going to miss the most of the metro.

Tweet issued at 7:07 a.m.

Amateur tweet at 7:59 a.m.
Tweet issued at 8:44 a..m.

Conversely, we did note that Jonathan Yuhas, whose tweets were off the mark during the day and evening of the U2 concert employed wording that acknowledged merely the possibility of storms arriving in the metro.

 It's baffling to us why many forecasters continue to make pronouncements of impending storms in such certain terms, particularly when storms are still a decent distance away. Why not use tweets to put us on alert and then communicate with more certainty when storms are truly on the doorstep. Doesn't that make more sense?

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Monday, August 1, 2011

The First of August Brings a Summer Bust

By this time, everyone knows that this was one of the bigger weather busts in a while. And, it was unanimous, so there's no point in comparing the performance of individual forecasters. No weather outlet suggested anything close to what happened today -- both in terms of forecast temperatures and the timing and coverage of the storms. It even seemed that the morning nowcasts somewhat missed the boat. When it became apparent that storms loomed with greater significance than expected, several forecasters anticipated a mid-morning arrival of the storms, when in fact it seemed they held back a bit to produce a stronger punch shortly after noon.

No mention of today's forecast evaluation could go without noting the irony of the coolest day in the last week being the one where an official heat advisory was issued. For that matter, it seems the NWS really should have issued a heat advisory for yesterday, when heat indexes were truly oppressive.

Any professional mets out there have any thoughts on what happened from an informed, meteorological perspective? Did the warm front take longer to come through? What materialized that wasn't anticipated by the beloved models?