Sunday, December 14, 2014

Who Causes Weather Hysteria?

Got a kick out of this comment made on a Facebook Friend's feed:

"Just want to thank you douche bags for the storm of the fucking century bullshit that worried my girlfriend so bad we blew our Christmas money on supplies for the long term power outage and huge flooding. Next time wait and check facts before causing mass hysteria."

How many of you did the same thing? I had a feeling they were overblowing (pardon the pun) the storm forecast although I couldn't be sure. After the storm had done its thing for a day or two a lot of people seemed pretty annoyed at being given what seemed to be a hyped forecast.

Some fingers were pointed at the Weather Service. Some of that may be justified, but I also realize the W.S. has to consider worst case scenarios. If they'd given a milder forecast many of these same people would be pointing the finger for not telling us how bad it turned out being.

Then there's the media. They tend to hype things because people pay attention to hyped up stuff. They don't pay much attention to boring events.

I didn't really think of forecasts as any kind of a conspiracy until I was listening to Amy Goodman and Democracy Now on Friday. Amy and her show try to make a point whenever there's any kind of storm to link it to global warming, as they did this time with the latest Philippine typhoon and, you guessed it, our storm of the last few days.

Remember, this was after it was mostly over and had shown itself to not be too big a deal. Yet there she was trying to tag our storm as an unusual severe weather event linked to climate change. That made me realize if there's anyone with a reason for hyping weather events it would be the Believers of man made climate change.

As far as the Facebook comment, I thought it funny, although we probably should have made some preparations just in case. I am glad to see the guy and his girlfriend blew their Christmas money on something potentially useful as opposed to wasting it on xmas.


At 7:45 AM, Blogger Mitch Trachtenberg said...

The weather channels make more money when more people tune in. There's your conspiracy, Fred.

At 7:51 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

There you go! Funny thing is, the actual Weather Channel we get with Dish Network doesn't generally cover the west coast. Didn't see all that much mention of our latest storm on it, either. Not sure why. It seems mostly focused on the east coast.

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It flooded just a few hours south in Healdsburg. The weather service forecasts clearly said that the storm had shifted south and would impact Mendocino, Sonoma, the bay area and the south bay area harder than humboldt.

Science isn't perfect when it comes to weather, but it's pretty darn close. You just have to learn to READ between the lines a bit. Or just read

At 8:08 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

I'm impressed with how sometimes they can predict rainfall. They're not always right but sometimes when they say there will be about an inch of rain, we get around an inch of rain.

They don't seem to do so well with temperatures. The last couple summers it seemed they were off up to ten degrees sometimes. I believe I wrote about it here in one instance.

They'd been forecasting low about ten degrees for a week or so. I got up one morning and it was already over 60, yet the forecast was for temps in the mid to high 50s and we'd been having temps up towards 70 for a few days.

I quipped at the time, if you're having temps in the 70s, and it's already 60 or more in the morning, wouldn't you fudge on your models and add a few degrees to the forecast to get it closer to being right?

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great article! thanks Fred, glad to know you dont fall for all the media Hype, puff

At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would suggest downloading at least 2 or 3 weather apps or finding multiple weather websites and using them as TOOLS, not TVs.

The American obsession with having easy answers thrown at them without having to think is getting old. Since 4 out of 5 people value superstition over science and reason, I'm not terribly surpised. Just dissapointed.

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous brian said...

The media!!!!! P.S. Amy Goodman is a joke and not a very good one. She's the Sean Hannity of the left.

At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Bolithio said...

Well, even if the storm underwhelmed, if your not prepared around here for a big storm or a big earthquake you are taking a big risk.

At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you! Reason and science will prevail!

At 9:32 AM, Anonymous liberal jon said...

I had no idea this (being dismayed with the lack of stormitude) was even a thing until I got my hair cut this weekend.

Step one for that facebook poster would be, as Bolitio says, to understand in a non-panicy way we are always under threat here and everywhere. That is step one. Step two, understand like Fred and others do that the media does have to make money and calling something Rainmeggedon is going to get clicks.

Step three is to understand as many above indicate that professionals are doing their best to balance informing the public (including those whose lives depend on knowing this - like our fisherpeople).

Step four, realize that the weather is now inherently political. [Fred, someone speaks and thinks like a libertarian and votes (in 2014) like a conservative, makes this not issue about the media and a government agency.]

One can follow all those steps to avoid future panic/misreading of "media" OR one can simply turn off their TV/radio and understand that forecasts are just that. All-in-all I was well served by the warnings. I was alerted to a week of unusual weather about a week ahead of time by headlines in the TS and LoCO and the warnings of unusual weather came as expected. I think the flood metrics on the top of LoCO were a pretty good feature.

also Amy Goodman = Sean Hannity. That is rich brian and it goes a long way to explain your politics.

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

"I would suggest downloading at least 2 or 3 weather apps or finding multiple weather websites and using them as TOOLS, not TVs."

I have to keep an eye on the weather since I work outside. My main sources are, for the general forecast, and doppler radar via for more current and specific info regarding rain.

You can't really use general forecasts for work purposes as they can say showers or rain, but it could rain from midnight to 5am then clear up. Doppler radar gives you the best idea of what is happening and where, but even it isn't perfect. The bottom line is you often have to do what people have done through the millenia: open up the door, look outside and see if it looks like it's gonna rain.

I think it was Friday it looked as if the rain had passed through. When I came home from work I checked doppler and it looked like showers would be coming through the area again. From the looks of radar I thought we'd get at least a few good showers. They never happened.

At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The US media over hypes everything. I also read the English language foreign media to get a "balanced" picture. You'd be amazed by what never appears in the US media or that it takes days if not a week to appear in the US media.


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