If you haven’t heard about the 2-3 feet of snow that might come to the plains and midwest, here’s what you need to know…
I think we can all agree there is currently a “Fake News” outbreak right now. It’s hard to distinguish what is reality and what is not reality.
The “fake news” outbreak is starting to spread into the world of meteorology. I’ll come back to that in a second.
But first, the image above is a computer model image showing 1-3 feet for the northern plains and midwest regions through March 1st. This image was posted by a page on social media Sunday and went viral in rapid fashion.
That’s a tell people believe it, or want to.
It wouldn’t get shared otherwise. Would you share someting you don’t believe in?
That said, you might be wondering, is this image actually going to happen in the real world? Are the northern plains and midwest going to see 1-3 fee through March 1st?
Here’s my take on it: I would rate this scenario unlikely.
But… not impossible (more on that in a bit).
Fake Forecasts? No. Imaginary Forecasts? Yes
I’ve heard the term “Fake Forecasts” to describe these out of control weather model images being tossed around. However, considering no one can 100% predict the future, there are no such thing as “fake forecasts”.
It’s anyone’s game. The future will do what it wants. A better word to describe these crazy model images are what I call “Imaginary Forecasts”.
Imaginary Forecasts are forecasts that have a very heavy bias load associated with them via the forecaster’s motives. They could happen, but are most likely a fairy tale.
Three common reasons that Imaginary Forecasts develop are:
1.) The forecaster wants a snowstorm, therefore, favors all data supporting that snowstorm via confirmation bias.
2.) The forecaster is engineering a weapons-grade hype storm that will help his or her forecast spread on social media like wild fire. (Which will get them more advertising clicks, likes, etc.)
3.) They are doing neither 1 nor 2 but rather taking a massive forecasting risk.
I have no problem with any of these scenarios as the internet is free speech. Hype is absolutely necessary in some scenarios. And crazy storms are fun to talk about!
However, if your part of the general public, all of this noise may confuse you. We have entered an age where distinguishing truthful stuff from untruthful biased stuff can be quite a challenge.
Let’s be simplistic here and say that out of 10 winters, you may see a scenario like the weather models map play out once or twice. Right off the bat, we are left with 2 out of 10 odds (20%).
On top of that, we are relying on a computer model going out 2 weeks into the future. Relying on one model image from one model type from one model run is a recipe for a big forecasting disaster 9 times out of 10.
Those two alone are lowering your odds of a succesful forecast even more.
Here’s an image developed by the National Weather Service called the “Pachinko Effect”. It shows how the physics packages in models aren’t 100% accurate. They can begin to make unrealistic decisions overtime.
The Chaos Theory
Models are affected by something called the Chaos Theory.
The Chaos Theory says that if a butterfly flaps its wings in California, it could cause air disturbances that grow and grow overtime, affecting everything else.
A couple weeks later, it could have theoretically changed the weather patterns enough to cause a thunderstorm in the Ozarks of Missouri.
Perhaps the butterfly could have flapped it’s wings twice and caused the 30″ snowstorm that suppose to hit the northern plains turn into a 6″ snowstorm.
I’m being really simplistic here, but it’s way easier to see the Chaos Theory’s effects this way.
Researchers and technology have not yet found away to make weather computer models immune to this. They have gotten significantly better at minimizing it’s effects with storms less than 7 days out.
Capturing a “crisp, clean picture” of anything past a week out is making a deal with the devil. The model image above shows a “crisp, clean picture”. It’s so crisp it has snow amounts shown for counties down to the decimal.
Therefore, it is important to be aware of these Imaginary Forecasts being posted on social media.
What To Trust and What Not To Trust
Human bias removal and forecasting techniques still are important in forecasts today.
Models usually only forecast large broad features moderately well past about 5-7 days out. This includes large scale weather patterns. Specific snow amounts are extremely hard to predict this far out, especially when using one image from an out of control weather model.
If this scenario does happen to the T, it would be one of those 1 out of 10 or 20 times it happens.
If you want to know how I decipher a good forecast from a bad forecast online, you can read my blog post here on how to spot a clickbait trap.
With all of that said, I am predicting a significant uptick in activity for the central U.S. for lots of rain, wind, and snow to come late February into March. The northern and central plains/midwest look to recieve well above normal rain and snowfall.
This all starts Friday 2-24-17 as a winter storm looks to zip through the northern and central U.S.
But there are still no obvious consistent signals for specific snow amounts, storm strength, number of storms, and location. I’d be making a deal with the devil if I forecasted them.
When there are good signals, I’ll let you know.
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