How Winter forecasts are really made?January 22nd, 2011 | Bill Kirk
There have been 395 record low temperatures tied or broken so far in January across the U.S. with some notable extremes. It's hard to call this "record cold" but +51F (10C) was a new all time January record low in Waimea, Hawaii on January 5th. Even the big city Honolulu, Hawaii broke a record at +56F (13C) but take that down a 100 degrees for the real cold stuff like -51F (-46C) in Central Alaska, -47F (-44C) in Dickinson North Dakota breaking the 117 year record or -46F (-43C) yesterday in International Falls, Minnesota breaking an 82 year old record. So how are Winter forecasts really made? The secret revealed!
While many think the U.S. National Weather Service makes their winter forecasts with an army of ground hogs, woolly worms, dart boards, crystal balls, or how many nuts the squirrels are collecting in Autumn, it's actually a bit LESS scientific than that! If you're expecting a blog detailing how vorticity equations, fluid/thermodynamics, Coriolis forces are used in government weather forecasting computer models - stop here! You'll be disappointed. If you need some Saturday morning comic relief since it's so RIDICULOUSLY COLD OUTSIDE - read on. Here's a hint:
So there's a new weather forecaster at the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Washington D.C. about to make the official Winter outlook for the U.S. Meanwhile, About 2,000 miles (3219 KM) away in Montana there's a new Indian Chief about to make his official Winter outlook for the tribe. Being a modern Chief he isn't all that skilled in weather prediction like his Sioux Indian predecessors. But he looks to the sky and draws a blank and has no clue what the Winter will bring. But like any good forecaster he decides to play it safe and tells the tribe to prepare for a cold Winter. The tribe begins collecting wood in preparation.
Meanwhile back in Washington D.C. our new meteorologist struggles with the Winter outlook as one set of data says warm, another cold, another snowy and another wet. So erring on the side of caution he leans toward a cool Winter - better safe than sorry.
Phone Rings at the NWS Headquarters.
It's the Indian Chief. Playing it safe the Chief asks the Weather Service forecaster what he thinks about the Winter? The forecaster asks, well what are the Indians doing? Chief responds they're collecting a lot of wood for Winter. Forecaster replies - looks like it could be a cold Winter!
Indian Chief goes back to his tribe, "we better collect more wood as the Winter could be really cold."
A week later the Chief calls his friend at the Weather Service and asks "Does it still look like a cold Winter?"
Forecaster "YES...it's going to be a very cold Winter indeed!"
The Chief again goes back to his tribe and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find.
Two weeks later the Chief calls his forecaster friend again. "Are you certain the Winter is going to be very cold?"
"ABSOLUTELY...It's looking more and more likely it is going to be one of the coldest Winters we've ever seen!!!"
The Chief responds "How can you be so sure?"
"Well, the Indians are collecting firewood like there's no tomorrow!" :)
Hope you have enough firewood in your area as the next couple weeks bring sub-zero Fahrenheit temperatures to much of the Northern U.S. and Canada.
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