All sources of weather information aren’t the same

Quantity over Quality

I actually wrote this blog post originally 2 years ago before a rumored snow storm. It’s worth a redo and update even today.

People love weather there is no denying this and to appease people’s ever-increasing hunger for weather information everybody wants to offer you a forecast. In the information age that weather information is available everywhere, which in many ways is a good thing that you can get your weather information on various platforms. Those platforms include TV, Internet, Mobile Apps, Radio, Cable, Satellite and even print. Yet even within those platforms there are choices. These are distribution platforms of weather content, the problems arise in the source of this weather content on those platforms.  The average person doesn’t know how to make a forecast. To fill this void companies are mass producing weather information to distribute it to the masses on as a many platforms as possible. Since it’s impossible & impractical to hire the staff and expertise to make “quality” forecasts across so many platforms they turn to automation from computer models to provide the “quantity” of forecasts needed. The results are lots of forecasts made cheaply and often times with no quality control. Because some outlets use different models and update at different times you end up with wide-ranging forecasts across many platforms. This results in a whole bunch of very inaccurate forecasts due to the over-reliance on computer models and the lack of quality control. The biggest offenders right now are the stock weather apps for your smartphone. Which as my good friend James Spann calls “The Crap App Dilemma”.

Weather Models
I love computer models they are great tools for forecasting the weather, but they are not a forecast in and of  themselves. Meteorologists call weather models numerical guidance for a reason because they are there to help “guide” you in making a forecast. They are like tools in your toolbox to build a good forecast they don’t and shouldn’t do it for you. What’s that saying?,

if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

Listen there are times the models do very well and can make a good forecast but just like there are a million fast food places to grab a bite to eat. If you want a quality meal that’s good for you, you go to a sit down restaurant with an actual chef or you cook it at home. It’s a simple quality vs. quantity approach.

Being Local

Like politics all-weather is local! This is why the local meteorologists will always be superior to these mass-produced computer generated forecasts. I as a local forecaster have 22 counties I focus on in North and South Carolina on a everyday basis. I know every nook and cranny of this area, along with the activities going on in my community. These national forecasters are trying to crank out forecasts worldwide, how much time do you think they spend on the Charlotte forecast let alone the forecast for Huntersville, Lenoir, Waxhaw, Shelby, Boone, Kannapolis or your neighborhood? I know this area better than some computer or a person sitting at a desk 100’s or 1000’s of miles away. I also have the luxury of walking outside my house in South Charlotte and seeing if my forecast is working out or if I need to adjust on current trends. I also am driving, running, working, playing and in general dealing with the same weather my audience is because I live here too. I can relate to what’s going on because I’m here and not 100’s of miles away.

Being accountable & the myth of the always wrong weather person

You have probably told the joke or heard it about weather forecasters. “I wish I had a job where I could get paid to be wrong all the time!” You haven’t heard it nearly as much as me but funny thing about that is when I ask people where they get their forecast from when they say that joke. Their responses are usually, they don’t know or they say not me. I’ll tell you this if you think that the weather forecast is always wrong it’s time for you to get a new source of weather information. I strive to be the most accurate Meteorologist I can be and over the past 14 years have gotten many more forecasts right than wrong. I actually track my accuracy to keep myself honest and my 24 hour forecasts for temperatures and precipitation has been accurate 94.86% of the time for 2012, but I still blow a forecast occasionally. When I do blow the forecast guess what? You get to email me, Tweet me, Facebook me, call me and even yell at me in The Harris Teeter and give me hell. Plus I’ll actually e-mail you back, Reply on twitter or comment on Facebook to you, I’m accountable for my forecast. Try that with the guy making the forecast in Atlanta, Boston,State College or India! I say this because I take being accurate very seriously and often times I’m harder on myself when I don’t get the forecast exactly correct way more than anybody will ever know. So if you would not go to a doctor that never cured you or a mechanic that never fixes your car. Why in the world would you still watch or go to a source of weather information that is always wrong? You have choices people exercise them.

More engagement and less weather spam

The beauty of the information age and Social Media is you can engage more with the people and products you use. The weather forecast is the product and I am the person who brings it to you…..my customer. Engage with me and ask me for a specific forecast for your kid’s soccer game or the beach trip this weekend. I’ll respond within a reasonable amount of time and give you a quality forecast that you can use. Or just follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, My Blog, YouTube or wcnc.com and then turn on the TV at 4, 5 6&11. You’ll be able to have a two-way conversation with the guy who’s on your TV and get what you need…. a quality weather forecast. I too send out a large quantity of weather content, but I can give you quality. Stay clear of the weather spam you see online, on cable and on your phone. Much like lots of spam & junk mail out there they look appealing and promise you the world.  Yet in the end you’re stuck on a mailing list or with a virus. I say this all because of my passion for what I do and just enjoy people getting the best weather information possible. Don’t settle for anything less.