Friday, 21 November 2008

Warm winter?

I'm not sure why I even read the news-story comments on ADN and Minor-News. I think its because I want to remember that there are idiots out there. Very, very vocal idiots. For example, whenever a weather related story comes up, you have people pop out of the wood work to go `Hey Al Gore, where's your global warming now, HMMMMMMM?!?` Like the fact that they put on a sweater that morning proves that carbon dioxide doesn't absorb the infrared wavelengths. Anyhow.

So, I mention this because the ADN did a story about `Can Alaska believe the forecast? NATIONAL OUTLOOK: Government predicts a warmer winter for us.` Actually, it was an AP story they picked up and put the title on. As normal, people are out talking about how the `gubmint dunno nothing 'bou nothin'. Even the title of the story suggests the newspaper thinks it knows better than a team of dedicated Alaska Climatologists.

So, to discuss this, I've put the 3 month outlook off to the side. The deepening areas of colour reflect the probability of deviations from statistical average temperatures. This is what prompted the story. They publish these on a regular basis, and most of the time updates don't seem to merit a story. I think the drought data is why AP wrote it, and ADN just picked it up to fill space.

On any normal given `average` day, the odds of below average, above average, or average might be something like 20%-20%-60% (numbers I've just invented, because I'm too lazy to look up the real numbers). The bars represent one event becoming more probable on average - such as 40% chance of above average, 10% chance of below, and 50% of average (Again, numbers I just invented. I do recall that the opposite category shrinks faster than N).

So when I read comments like Denseyler's
The rest of the states having equal chances of being warmer or cooler than normal??? Now there's a forecast!!!!!!
I have to roll my eyes a bit. Yes, it is a forecast. It's an important one, too. Climatically, it represents a normal distribution of above and below average temperatures, which is important to know.

People forget that NOAA doesn't just exist to tell them how warm it'll get on their way to work. It also informs farmers on what to expect from the following year, it informs the Navy and Coast Guard about important weather events and trends, it provides information for what might be happening with wildlife... the list goes on. It's easy to remember that one day the forecasters said it'd be sunny, and it was cloudy all day. It's easy to forget the other 360 days out of the year they were spot on.

So, sorry ADN, and sorry commentator. I'm going to listen more to the meteorologists on this one.

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