usbackroads information-predicting the weather, National Weather Service
Those of us that have held outdoor jobs become obsessive about weather predictions. The weather determines if a day working in the woods is a joy, or a miserable cold and wet slog through the forest. If the forecast is wrong and you forget to bring the rain gear that cold and wet day can also get dangerous due to hypothermia or wearing the wrong boots.
An easy way to tell if someone is an outdoors person is to ask them about the current weather forecast. They will know. It is something you never get out of system. While I was working in the woods we listened to the radio every morning. No, not for the news but for the weather forecast. Sometimes, we even waited for the forecast before going to work. In the Forest Service, the break was always taken around the 10:00 am fire and weather forecast if we were carrying radio's. Clearly, it becomes an obsession that one never sheds.
I will get my biases out up front. I like weathermen. Somewhere, in the 80's the Forest Service discovered that having a weatherman assigned to a Incident Command Team (Fire Teams in those days) was a good idea. Fire behavior is obviously influenced by the weather. The twins on a ICT are always the fire behavior analyst and the weatherman. The weatherman provides "spot" weather forecasts for very specific areas on the fire in some cases. Yes, those weathermen are supplied by the National Weather Service.
In my humble opinion, the public perception of science is colored by astronomy and physics. For much of the public that is SCIENCE. Rigid laws of science and theories that must be tested. I suppose that the natural world in the end operates on "rigid laws of science", but we know so little about how the natural world functions.
My professional Forestry education provided scientific information on what we KNEW about the natural world, but more importantly we also learned how little we really knew. So that was the reason for those statistics classes!! Back to probabilities. No wonder I have always liked weathermen.
With the internet you now have access to a wealth of weather information provided by the National Weather Service. So lets start on how you can be better informed on the weather.
Here is the link to the standard National Weather Service Forecast. Notice is gives you the forecast for the next week, complete with probabilities of rain. Current conditions and just below that radar and satellite images. And then down below additional forecasts and information. Additional forecasts?? Is the weather service NOT telling the complete story??
The Forecast. Here is the forecast for today as I write this blog:
Today: A slight chance of rain and snow showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 49. Breezy, with a west wind between 20 and 22 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
That is their best prediction (guess, for you cynics) of what will happen. I read the forecast, and here in the northwest tend to discount the three day plus prediction. Not throw it away, discount. It is subject to change that far out. I also look at the satellite photos to see what is out there in the north Pacific and headed my way.
It goes on for several paragraphs. Here is a copy of the partial discussion for the weather forecast above.
Today`s weather will be dominated by the approach and passage of a strong cold occluded front. At 2am this front appears to run north to south along the Cascades...and models appear to be handling the timing and location plausibly. The front is expected to quickly move across the forecast area this morning and well into Montana by mid afternoon. Thus...the forecast today will be characterized by a wet...breezy and mild pre-frontal regime this morning...followed by a raw...windy...gusty and showery post- frontal afternoon regime. Model soundings suggest this afternoon`s air mass will resemble Sunday afternoon`s unstable sounding...which features an active snow and graupel shower regime featuring isolated thunderstorms. Today`s best convective threat will be over the northern tier zones and orographically favorable panhandle mountains...but just about anywhere in the forecast area will be subject to at least a brief snow or snow/rain mix shower this afternoon as the cold cusp of the upper level trough transits the region after the morning frontal passage. Local minor to moderate snow accumulations are possible under any organized shower complexes...but forecasting the location of this sub- synoptic threat is currently beyond the state of the science...and if it occurs at all will likely be highly localized. Winter highlights have been removed from the western zones where the threat of steady pre-frontal snow has largely ended. Winter Storm warnings will continue for the mountains above 3000 feet in the northeast Washington and north Idaho panhandle mountains until the anticipated frontal passage around 18z(11am) today. the winds will be another significant issue to deal with today. pre-front southerly gusty winds will veer to southwest and increase in the wake of the front as a tight gradient forms feeding into lee side Rockies cyclogenesis and strong cold advection spills over the Cascades and breaks into the basin. The gradient winds does not appear too much beyond generally breezy to low end windy...however gust potential in the well mixed air mass this afternoon may easily approach 40+ mph on exposed terrain...especially if assisted by convective downdrafts. Wind Advisories for much of the area inherited from previous shifts will remain in effect today. This well mixed air mass will play havoc with high temperature forecasting...with some locations achieving maximum temperatures during the morning in the warm advection ahead of the front...then remaining steady or falling during the afternoon. Other locations will be influenced buy strong adiabatic mixing from aloft during the afternoon and may experience spikes up into the upper 40s or 50s even during the cold advective phase in the afternoon. Needless to say...today`s high temperature forecasts at any particular location are rather low confidence. Tonight things will quiet down with a between-systems weak upper level short wave ridge and a moderating surface pressure gradient. Still the flow regime continues to be moist and progressive...so while the valleys and basin will be generally quiet and cool...mountains and the panhandle will experience lingering overnight snow showers.
Well, that little simple two line weather forecast with a slight chance of rain is much more complicated in the forecast discussion. What appears to be a fairly run-of-the-mill forecast is actually an active weather day if your working outside. Wet in the morning and very windy in the afternoon. If I plan on fishing in my float tube I will take the rain in the morning over the wind in the afternoon.
These days you can also get detailed maps of weather RIGHT NOW. This is great if you are traveling and want to see what the weather will be doing two or three hours down the road. My favorite is Intellicast--Active Weather Map. This overlays a google map base showing current rain, freezing rain, and snow. You can use this information with pass camera's to see if it is worth going over the pass today!!
With today's weather information there is no reason for getting "caught" in the weather. Well, it still is not an EXACT science, but at least the odds are now in your favor. Weather an obsession for those of us that have to live in it.