A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Inexact Science of Meteorology

The final week of the year promises to be a very strenuous one. So far it began with a sizable nor’easter which 48 hours before wasn’t suppose to happen at all. I spent the better part of Monday — the day after the storm — digging out my driveway while trying my best not to let the 50mph wind gusts grab the plastic snow pusher out of my hands. This was the hardest work I’ve done since, oh, since October when I was laid off.

The storm's coming or not coming was foretold all last week. The first few days of the shortened work or unwork week (depending on your employment status) was filled with reports of, “Well, the models can’t agree on which track the storm will take, but we’ll keep an eye on it and update our reports as we get closer to the weekend.” Still others held out hope that there would be a white Christmas with minimal accumulation.

Alas, Christmas Eve arrived and many meteorologists concluded that there was only a 25% chance that the storm would develop into a major snow event. The public at large took this to mean that it was safe to travel hundreds of miles throughout the northeast to grandma’s house for the day and not have to worry about adverse conditions returning home on the day after Christmas. Little did civilization know was that the US Weather Service had a belated Christmas gift for everyone to unwrap.

And lo, it came to pass late on Christmas Day that the weather forecasters began to tell us, “Hey, remember that 25% chance we were talking about yesterday? Well, it turns out we under calculated that percentage by about, plus or minus, give-or-take, 75%! Oh yeah, by the way, Merry Christmas!”

Suddenly the northeast was being told that the dusting we might get was now a major event with accumulations up to 20 inches. And, oh yeah, there would be blizzard conditions present just to rub salt into the wound. I spent the better part of Christmas night trying to get more details about the storm.

My usual source for weather forecasts was too busy televising wall-to-wall professional basketball games on Christmas Day. There wouldn’t be any forecast forthcoming on this channel until the wee hours of Sunday morning, if that. In desperation, I switched to the local Fox affiliate who was, miracle of miracles, actually broadcasting an evening news program. The show started promisingly with an extended opening segment featuring their meteorologist, John Bolaris, calling for a major storm, with details in “a few minutes”. Hold that a timely thought for a paragraph or so.

I should note at this point that Philadelphia and John Bolaris have a checkered history. When he worked for another local network affiliate some years ago, he scared the bejesus out of everyone with his prediction of a storm of the century. His affiliate hyped this storm as if it were the end of the world, but ultimately the weather gods smiled on southeastern Pennsylvania and the storm never materialized. Bolaris wasn’t so lucky; he received endless hate mail and one unfortunate incident of assault by urination as a result of his histrionics. Eventually, he felt it wise to leave town for a job in the Big Apple for a few years.

So now here was his moment of redemption on Christmas Day 2010. Once again he was calling for a big storm, but now he was at the mercy of his show’s producers who believe that “a few minutes” could actually mean anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes to perhaps never. I waited and waited for the details he promised at the top of the hour.

I sat through a video essay on the plight of the homeless in Philadelphia, which was very nice; it should win an Emmy. I tapped my fingers impatiently during a computer tech segment, and nodded off during a piece on the local mob. Honestly, I don’t give a damn how the local Mafia dons celebrated the holidays; the only thing I do want to know about them is if they are hiring or not. Bring back Bolaris, damnit! I know this guy’s work and when he promises a major storm he doesn’t eff around!

Finally, Bolaris was allowed to come back and give me all the what, when and wherefores of the next day’s storm. This time Bolaris had better luck with his prediction and this storm did develop as promised. So it turns out that meteorology is not the exact science we have been led to believe that it is. All the Doppler Radar systems and computer models in the world aren’t always 100% accurate. I guess that’s why they hedge their bets and call it “forecasting”.

(Thank you for reading. Please remember the coming spring should bring temperate conditions with chances of sunshine and occasional showers; the summer will be hot, humid, and sunny, with occasional showers; while autumn will be temperate conditions with chances of sunshine and wind...or maybe not.)


Anonymous Janey said...

John Bolaris is a fucking idiot!

HAPPY 2011!!


December 29, 2010 at 7:33 AM  

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