I’m waiting with bated breath for the final hurricane season forecast. First they’ll remind us that hurricane season isn’t over until the end of Nov. although we all know that if nothing is happening by mid October, nothing is going to happen. And then they’ll predict a below normal season. duhhhhhhh.
What I wonder about is why they bother to make predictions at all. I understand that the complexity of forecasting weather even a few days out is high so making a forecast 6 months out is crazy. Crazy to make the forecast and crazy for anybody to pay any attention to it. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they do it. What are we supposed to do when they forecast an above average season, or a below average season, or even an average season. Do I go out and buy 2 generators for an above average season or more batteries or what? You’re either prepared for a storm or your not. I can’t see how you’d prepare any differently for a forecasted bad season.
This year’s predictions were particularly interesting since this is the second year in a row that above average seasons were predicted – in fact this one was projected to be the worst on record. Why it’s most interesting is that the forecasters were challenged openly after missing the 2006 season so badly – another record bad season predicted; another below average actual. They had a definite scientific reason why this season would be bad and why the previous season had not been. It was the el Nino, La Nina thing. The 2006 year was La Nina and even though they had forecast a horrible hurricane season, in hindsight they realized just why they had missed it. And since El Nino is the opposite of La Nina, it was scientifically clear that this season was really going to be the worst. What I enjoy is how they can make these statements so positively and just can’t bring themselves to say, “hell, we don’t know”. What hubris.
So why do they do it? Some possibilities are:
1. The American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Service have a pre season pool. The forecaster who wins the pool gets to pick the names for next season’s storms. If the winner has a large family, then he projects a big season so all his relatives can get a storm named for them.
2. The budgets at the NWS and AMS are based on the forecast. There’s no upside at all to predicting a quiet season since it probably means a budget cut and no overtime.
3. There’s a big Fantasy Hurricane league that we don’t know about and you can’t play if there’s not enough storms in the forecast. I only offer this possibility because I’ve noted that the number of hurricanes forecast has increased over the years as the success of Fantasy sports games has grown.
4. Women lib groups got pissed off that hurricanes all had female names. So when males names were added, the name pool doubled and it became necessary to increase the forecast to accommodate that fact.
To make the missed forecasts a little less noticeable, they started naming weather systems that would have gone unnoticed in the past. Have you noticed how many storms form or at least seem to be forming, are named, and then just go away? I think the first storm of this season that got noticed was a â€œCâ€ name. The â€œAâ€ and â€œBâ€ storms only existed an hour or so. Enough to name them for the 5 PM news and cancel them by the 8 AM news the next morning. Deep down inside, I believe some storms really never existed at all but the bad forecast is so embarrassing that the predictors need some face saving cover. You’ll notice that they form one day over an area in the middle of nowhere, far from any shipping lanes, and then, as if by magic, they go away. How about when they point out a storm area in the Caribbean and then to show you a center of rotation where none exists. You are looking at the radar track and see absolutely no sign of a center of rotation but they are pointing one out about a jillion miles from the storm. In Florida we’re further treated to the scene of an intrepid reporter on the beach in full weather gear while the natives are swimming and surfing. I’m not making that up. We’ve reached the point where normal, Florida afternoon rain storms are tracked as intensely as hurricanes were 50 years ago. Back then, each hurricane season you acquired a hurricane tracking map and then plotted each storm yourself based on new coordinates given out by the weather service twice a day. That was it. When a storm really looked like it was tracking your way, you started calling around to find out who’s turn it was to have the hurricane party.
But the thing to remember is that the same guys (scientists) who are doing the hurricane forecasting, are among those scientists pimping the global warming scare. Of course they have developed computer models that show exactly how things will look 50 years from now. Same modelers, using the same data that forecast hurricanes. Or for that matter, next week’s weather. Of course the local weather has the advantage of good historical averages and the advantage of saying there’s a 20% chance of something happening. Who can argue with that. Here in Fla, even when it’s raining hard and wide, the forecaster will be giving it an 80% chance of rain. Or when there’s not a cloud in the sky for 500 miles in every direction, they give it a 20% chance of rain. We’ve had a cold front dropping temperatures 5 days out for about a month now. Eventually we’ll actually have one and as we all know it will be in October or November. Same modelers, same data. And I suspect the same motive – no problem, no budget; big problem, big budget and lots of face time on the tube.