April 14, 2007

On Denver's Weather And Global Warming/Climate Change

Anyone around these parts knows the fickle nature of Colorado weather. What transpired over the last 36 hours, however, really boggles the mind. Up to a foot of snow was forecast for Denver and surrounding areas by Friday morning, but when everyone woke up to a complete ly dry city--with nary a flake in sight--many reactions were like bestdestiny's:
I can accept a margin of error--say, 35%. But to be COMPLETELY wrong is just laughable.

But what's more, we're supposed to believe what climate scientists say is going to happen in 50 years, when they are frequently 100% wrong about what's going to happen in 12 hours? And further, we're supposed to significantly alter our whole economy to "forestall" the "grave consequences" of such predictions?
Viewer and listener outrage over such a missed forecast prompted a rare explanation/apology from network forecasters:
Over the past week, the 9NEWS Weather Team had been closely studying several forecast models to predict the track of this storm system. For the last four days, nearly all those weather models agreed that a developing low pressure system in Oregon would track southeast through Nevada and into northern Arizona before turning east and progressing along the New Mexico and Colorado state line.

By late Thursday evening, a few weather models were hinting that the storm could track slightly more south then had been predicted. By early Friday morning, it was obvious that the storm would track considerably farther south into New Mexico then any model had predicted.

9NEWS understands that our Thursday forecast for up to a foot of snow on Friday prompted major plans for preparation. The legislature cancelled its session so lawmakers would not have to drive through the snow. The Colorado Department of Transportation had 79 plows on the roads in the metro area ready to tackle the expected snowfall. And the airlines called for the pre-emptive cancellations of more than 90 flights to prevent planes, crews, and passengers from being stranded in a snowstorm. The flight cancellation decisions were made using the recommendations from the airlines' own staff of meteorologists.

During severe weather forecasters carry a heavier burden. Meteorologists understand that their predictions and models for blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes can help determine the safety of viewers. While the "weather guy" may catch a good amount of flack for making the wrong forecast, a conservative warning that may inconvenience people can help avoid danger.
No one doubts the meteorologists' sincerity--it is better to err on the side of caution.

What this situation reveals about the public's expectation of weather forecasters' ability to predict storms using scientific equipment and computer models, however, says a lot about how public perceptions have been changed by the constant MSM harping on impending global warming/climate change disaster, most notably argued by the profit prophet of doom himself, Al Gore.

Claims of global scientific consensus on the planet's future based on analysis of sophisticated computer models has implanted the expectation, almost certainty, of the ability to know the future. But in their explanations of why Denver's forecast failed, one network's meteorologists acknowledged the profound lack of exactness of the method:
A missed forecast to one might be calling for cold with snow but it turns out sunny and warm.

To another, a storm that was predicted to form and move into the state misses its mark by 100 miles, might also be a missed forecast.

Regardless, it is weather, and it will do what it does no matter how much technology is developed to try and predict it.

Meteorology is a science, and exciting, because you just never know what could happen -- the old saying, "never say never" comes to mind.

On a very basic level, predicting weather is like dropping a branch in a river and predicting exactly where that branch will be the next day or in several days from now. You have to calculate the current, the eddies, the bank flow, the curves in the bank, etc. Computer models take all of that information and try to calculate an outcome. But tiny mistakes in the data, or gaps in the data, can dramatically change the answer.
Indeed, anything is possible. They recognize that weather is inherently unpredictable, and instead can only deal with the qualifying language of possibilities, likelihoods, or chance. They say meteorology is a science--which it is--but also admit that it is exciting precisely because of the inability to gauge with 100% accuracy the whims of nature.

In fact, they also argue that the imprecise computer models are exactly that because they are never complete. All of the possible variables are not always present as "mistakes" or "gaps" in the data "can dramatically change the answer". If this is true for predicting weather up to 7 days in advance, it is exponentially more certain for any model dealing with innumerable data points, variables, etc. that would have to be incorporated in projecting weather 50 years from now.

Catastrophic events like Hurricane Katrina are highlighted precisely because an unlikely yet perfect combination of weather conditions aligned to produce a deadly megastorm that killed 1200 people and destroyed New Orleans. Denver's most recent blizzard had a precedent, but it was over 90 years ago. Denver endures snowfall annually, but only every few decades is it blasted by conditions such as we had in December.

Which is why even the "consensus" figures often include a wide range of possible outcomes, even though the MSM and global warming propagandists seize on the most dire, the least likely outliers that warn of global catastrophe. Global warming/climate change opponents acknowledge that temperatures have been getting warmer over the past century (which is contrary to the lies often put out in the media, that they deny the warming), but take issue with the rather facile anthropomorphic attribution that has become the foundation of global warming rhetoric.

In any scientific experiment where dozens of factors are possibly contributory, where data is incomplete, and where even the most complex computer model is either incorrect or at the very least imprecise, the public's reliance on so-called "experts" calling for radical changes in human behavior at legal, societal, and global levels should be made caution and an honest debate--not a closure of minds based on an unsettled matter. Honesty on the part of the MSM would reveal the imprecision of the science and the lack of certainty that informs even the most educated assertions as to the upcoming weather forecasts, including the annual hurricane predictions which notably (and thankfully) were overstated last year, or the unpredictability of the El Nino/La Nina phenomenon.

So what's the weather gonna be like this week? Who knows--not even the scientists are 100% certain!