You're only as good as your last forecast...
This is the third part of my review of winter, covering February. For the introduction to this series and my review of December see Part I: The path to Nomageddon. And for the second installment covering January, see Part II: One shining moment. Now onto February...
On the heels of our Commutageddon forecasting triumph came the Midwest blizzard that crippled Chicago. That storm did not have much of an impact on our area. We next started looking at a storm that would ultimately give the area a dusting to an inch in a few of the southern suburbs on February 6.
We also advertised a break in the stormy pattern around Valentine’s Day. Snow haters and warm lovers were about to have their day. The war of words between snow lovers and haters intensified at the mention of warm and the decreasing potential of meaningful snow.
Snowhurricane gave the forecast a shouted boo, snowluver avowed a hatred for D.C., Kruz and rumbly45 showed elation with the latter posting “This has been the best post I’ve read on CWG in a long time! Excellent.”
Weatherfreak1994 countered with “I REALLY hate snow haters.”
GtownG pretty much summarized my feeling about the snowlovers and snow haters posting battle, “For me, I am glad that we have both snow lovers and snow haters that contribute to this blog. It is what makes it so much fun and interesting to read during the winter. I love to read the ups and downs of everyone’s emotions and how the weather is such an integral part of affecting someone’s demeanor and outlook.”
Meteorological winter season ended with a thud and bust, maybe not a complete bust, but still a bust. On February 16, I mentioned that the European model was showing a possible winter weather event despite the overall pattern being a less than optimal one for snow. The models ratcheted up the threat during the next couple of days. On the Feb. 18 the CWG headline read “Snow chance early Tuesday, but big uncertainty.”
The forecast uncertainty was on two fronts. The band of heavier precipitation was going to be narrow and the placement was varying from model to model and run to run. The uncertainty about the timing of how quickly the cold air would move into the region was another concern as the models were forecasting daytime temperatures might be in the mid-to-upper 60s on Monday.
One reader, in response to my uncertainty about the storm posted “why this forecast is so challenging and fraught with uncertainty. Why is this phrase even here? What forecast this winter has NOT been so?” He was right - but the uncertainty with this storm ultimately bit us when we had to make a snow accumulation forecast.
On Sunday, we started talking about the potential for some accumulations as the models trended toward a snowier look but still were only calling for an inch in the city and 1 to 3 inches to the north and west. Kruz’s comment was right on, “no models will verify this thing until prolly sometime tomorrow as the 1st low is overhead.”
By Monday morning, temperatures started to fall as the cold air near the surface moved in more quickly than forecast and the 7 a.m. model runs were cold and snowy. The models trended colder and the CWG issued an accumulation map for the storm.
My contributions to the team for this storm were not the greatest as I suggested to Jason that he pull his 1-3 inch and 2-4 inch contours southward leading to a worse forecast than he had. Of course, once the CWG had issued its forecast the next run of the NAM started backing off on its bullish snow forecast being both drier and warmer than its previous run.
When I posted a brief comment to that effect, one reader posted, “Wes Junker is a big snow downer. Always likes to keep things in perspective. Every time he adds insight I can only think of the Price is Right Loser sound effect. Ba-Ba-baaa-bummmmm!” With that model run, the NAM finally got the forecast right. Unfortunately, the GFS stayed aggressive and CWG stayed with its forecast. After the storm, it was Nomageddon deja vu, with CWG writing a recap of the storm explaining why the snowfall amounts were less than forecast.
With the bust, came some criticism. Commenter Kruz wrote “When you live by the models (model hug), you die by them along with your credibility. The trend should’ve been your friend, not stupid models!” Another wrote “I’m glad airline pilots make fewer mistakes than weather people.” And another: “weather forecasting is the only job where you can be wrong 90 percent of the time and still keep your job.” I’ve sure heard that last comment a time or two.
My wife was right, to the general public. you’re only as good as your last good forecast. Successes are quickly forgotten. Forecasters have to develop a thick skin.
Overall, during the year there were many more positive posts about the CWG efforts than negative ones. This year was a disappointment to many snow lovers but there were a lot of storms to chase from model run to model run. That’s a good thing for a winter weather expert as no chance of storms means no articles.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed since joining the CWG is that we work as a team. All of us share a passion for weather including our loyal every day readers and commenters. I plan on returning for another winter. Hopefully, next year’s forecasts will be easier but we’ll still have plenty to track.