Saturday, December 31, 2011

Forecasters See New Years Eve Snow

There appears to be growing consensus that a windy snow event will occur from tonight into tomorrow. The National Weather Service, with an issuance of a full-fledged Winter Storm Warning, is particularly bullish on this storm with a forecast of 3-5 inches of snow.

Here's how forecasters saw things as of Saturday mid-morning, approximately 12 hours before the expected onset of snow. (More recent updates in red font.)

WCCO: 2-5 inches (2-4 per 5 p.m. news)
KSTP: 1-3 inches
FOX: no info available (3-5 per late a.m. Ian Leonard tweet) (1-3 at 5 p.m.)
KARE: 1-4 inches (2-3 per 5 p.m. newscast)
NWS: 3-5 inches (2-4 at 5 p.m.)
Strib: 1-3 inches (upped to 2-5 late morning)
MPR: 1-2 inches (1-3 per 3:30 p.m. tweet) A slushy accumulation of less than one inch (2-4 at 5 p.m.)
Accuweather: A coating to an inch (1.9 inches as of 5 p.m.)
@NovakWeather: 4-7 inches

Some screenshots of morning forecasts:



Fox and Strib tweets at 11 a.m.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Grades for Non-Storm of Late December

If you run into one of our fine local meteorologists, give 'em some love. They're probably feeling as down as anyone about our utterly uneventful winter weather, and now the majority of them have to live with knowing they predicted accumulating snow for the Twin Cities that essentially never materialized. And commuters, warned that they'd likely need extra time because of weather delays, potentially lost a little shut eye based on the forecasts. This was, by most assessments, a bust-o-rama.

Our ever-subjective grades for the non-storm of late December are as follows:

WCCO: B WCCO was the least gung ho on accumulating snow for last night and this morning. While WCCO viewers weren't lead to believe there'd be much snow, they were also lead to believe there'd be at least a little.

KSTP: D Forecast of 1-2 inches of snow meant they were 1-2 inches off. They were also slow to remove any chance of accumulating snow from the forecast, providing for at least the possibility of some as recently as mid-morning.

FOX: D- Steve Frazier's unabashed love of the "snow meter" not withstanding, FOX seemed to predict 1.5 to 2.5 inches of snow.

KARE: D- KARE predicted 1 to 3 inches, with 3 inches being the exception. In fact, 1-, 2- and 3-inches were all the exceptions.

Strib and NWS: F Predicted 1-3 inches. Need we say more.

MPR: B- MPR was on the right track with this storm, predicting a coating to an inch for the urban core. But there was no coating to be seen, at least if you lived in the shadow of MSP airport, the official measuring station. If these were awards, we might give MPR an honorable mention.

@NovakWeather: F With the most ambitious snow forecast, TMF's advising meteorologist was off on this one. But we're pleased to hear he's already dusting himself off and read to battle for another day. Keep the faith, Tom.

The Weather Channel: C- Comparatively speaking, TWC fared somewhat better than the local weather gurus, but they still predicted around one inch of white stuff that never came. 

Accuweather: F Inaccuweather. Need we say more?

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts on our grades in the comments section below.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rare December Snow Seen Headed for Twin Cities tonight

To varying degrees, Twin Cities forecasters are calling for snow to arrive in the Twin Cities late this evening. One to three inches appears to be the most common prediction. However, two notable outliers include MPR (coating to one inch) and The Weather Channel (around one inch). As of Thursday evening, here's what the fearless prognosticators see coming:

WCCO: Noncommital. Seemed to suggest that accumulations would be south and southwest of Twin Cities.

KSTP: 1-2

FOX: 1.5 to 2.5 per official snow meter

KARE: 1-3 by morning (but most areas two)

Strib: 1-3

NWS: 1-3

MPR: Coating to 1"+ of snow possible by Friday noon along the I-94 corridor including the metro

The Weather Channel: Snowfall around one inch.

Accuweather: 1-3

@NovakWeather: 2+ inches, potentially closer to 4 to the southeast

A reminder that you can follow the Minnesota Forecaster on Twitter and Facebook.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pattern Change, Are You Out There?

Local weather geeks and other weather-interested parties are growing restless at the continued lack of "interesting" weather in the Twin Cities. Some have suggested there are inklings of at least some sort of pattern change coming up late during the week following xmas. But, obviously, that remains to be seen.

Use this space to discuss the continued search for systems that may drop more than .2 inches of snow on the Twin Cities.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Scanning the Skies Moving Into Mid-December ...

The TMF host will be out of town for the next week and vowing not to check the grid (or weather in Minnesota). Here's a space to discuss any interesting weather that may materialize over the coming week.

By the way, here's where I was. A big front came through and the last two days saw considerable beach erosion along the coast in Playa Del Carmen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A New Weather Grader in Town

For those interested in seeing how local forecasters perform in select areas of the country (including Minneapolis/St. Paul), there’s a new service that can tell you just that., which launched in Beta in late November, aims to assess the comparative accuracy of television forecasters and select other sources.

A sample "Leaderboard" of Minneapolis/St. Paul forecasters from

The site features a number of interesting features including the ability of individuals to post their own forecasts and have them analyzed alongside the pros. The site also develops a “most probable forecast” that’s derived from the performance of “hot” forecasters.

According to Dave Chung, co-founder at Weatherist, the goal is to bring accountability to the weather forecasting industry and to provide a critical voice for consumers in an industry that has never had one. We applaud Weatherist’s ambitious goal and hope it’s successful.

If you’re curious to see an approach that’s far more scientific than ours, do check it out. And, as a new startup, is interested in gathering as much feedback as possible. Feel free to leave your comments below.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grades for the Dec. 3-4 Snow Event

Here is our assessment of the Dec. 3-4 storm along with a few thoughts.

We think if most forecasters are honest with themselves, they’d say that this storm slightly exceeded predictions and had more energy in the second half of the storm than many expected. Although our perspective is intensely Twin Cities-focused, the storm was generally well predicted from an overall regional perspective with regard to storm timing and general trends.

Forecast Summary
As of Friday evening, approximately 24 hours before storm onset, the vast majority of forecasters predicted 1-3 inches. The only exceptions were the national forecasters, who predicted less. For our assessment purposes, we base the majority of our grading on forecasts made 24 hours before a storm. Once the storm is underway, it becomes more an exercise in nowcasting, which is an art in and of itself.

The Result
Snowfall at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport was 4.4 inches and from a graphic provided by the National Weather Service, the best assessment would be to call this a 2-5 or 3-5 inch storm, depending on how wide you want you want to define the metro area.

On the whole, we’d tend to give most forecasters a B with perhaps an A-/B+ to the National Weather Service who noted the possibility of 3-5 inches on Saturday morning, when all other forecasting outlets remained at 1-3 inches. Accuweather would rate a D for predicting .8 inches of snow.

A Note on Self Aggrandizement
Nobody can fault forecasters for making mistakes. They’re human and meteorology is an inexact science. While we try to provide a record of their predictions (against actual results), we also emphasize the communication aspect of weather forecasting and how forecast presentations fall on the eyes and ears of the average viewer drawing “reasonable man” conclusions to what they’ve heard.

While it doesn’t thrill us to watch a forecast where the met manages to avoid saying something that shows a connection to the viewer such as “if you watched us earlier, you know that we thought there’d only be one more inch to fall… but obviously, we ended up receiving more than that,” we can live with that. But what we find credibility-damaging is when the met falls over himself (or herself, should that be the case) patting himself on the back when in reality he missed the forecast!

On Saturday night, Fox9’s Steve Frazier commented over and over how the storm played out exactly as he’d expected (he even excused himself for patting himself on the back numerous times on the forecast). His presentation included snowfall amounts that he admitted were gathered when snow was still falling steadily and were likely to go higher. He noted that a measurement at the Fox 9 studio in Eden Prairie (where one would expect totals to be lower than in places like the airport, St. Paul and points east) revealed that about three inches of snow had fallen. The amounts he displayed reflected a 1-3 range of snow across the metro area. Blithely ignoring his comment that the totals were likely to go higher, he went on to use the incomplete estimates to make his case that he nailed his 1-3 inch forecast.

Minutes after his presentation, an official measurement from the airport came in at 4.2 inches, providing indisputable proof that Frazier’s 1-3 inch conclusion was off. Ensuing snowfall reports suggested that a truer metro-wide forecast would have been something like 2-4 or 2-5 inches. We find his presentation – sloppy at best and disingenuous at worst – the kind of thing that doesn’t sit well with viewers who watch faithfully.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

One to Three Seems To Be the Consensus

Note: As of Saturday morning, some forecasters were revising expected snowfall amounts. The NWS now calls for 3-5 inches, WCCO now calls for 2-4 inches, while KARE, Strib and KSTP remain at 1-3 inches. MPR (6:30 a.m. update) says Twin Cities remain on the northern fringe of the snow band (indicated as 2-6 inches) with northern suburbs like Blaine expecting one inch. Accuweather still calling for "a bit of snow" totaling .8 inches.

Most Twin Cities weather prognosticators were singing the same tune on Friday evening, about 24 hours before the expected onset of what appears to be a relatively minor snow event. Here's a summary we put together from the mid-evening news segments.

WCCO: 1-3 (but used model showing no snow)
FOX: 1-3
KARE 1-3
NWS: 1-3
Strib: no update since last night
MPR: "For the Twin Cities metro, snow will be heaviest toward Lakeville, where three inches look to be a good bet for now."
Novak: 1-3
Weather Underground: 1-4
Accuweather: .9 inches "Less than an inch" Saturday and another "less than an inch" Saturday night.

Check on us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.