Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Weather prediction - glorified fortune-telling

Has anyone done a study to see if weather prediction is any more or less reliable that than fortune-telling? And, really, isn't it one in the same? Here's what we have seen just in the past 24 hours:

Major rain and flooding predicted for Prescott by early Monday afternoon.
Nothing.
Major rains etc predicted for Prescott by late Monday afternoon.
Nothing.
Major rains etc predicted for Prescott by Monday night.
Nothing.
...Monday overnight.
Nothing.
...Early Tuesday morning.
Nothing.
...Tuesday, mid-morning.
We'll see.

I am curious just what kind of education is required to be a weather person. Oh, I know, I'm going to get nasty emails and comments about science courses, and weather patterns, and blah blah blah. Seriously, though. Is it possible that all that studying is just a means to try to give credit to an industry that could just as easily flip a coin?  I mean, heck, even most of their predictions are no more than "50% chance of..."

Doesn't EVERYTHING have a 50% chance of happening?  It either will it or it won't.  What's the chances that a suitcase will fall from the sky, filled with a million dollars, and land on my deck?  50/50. It either will or it won't.  What are the chances I will roll a 5 on any give die? 50/50 - I either will or I won't.

Oh, wait, weather prediction isn't about chances of something happening in that regard.  It is the probability that something will happen.  That involves math, odds, calculating risks, etc.  So, really, it's more like sports betting or gambling than fortune-telling.  Well, sorta. I mean, you still have to have someone spouting jibberish about this, that, or the other while waving their magic wand in front of a green screen that displays an image on the viewers can see. How "Emerald City..."

Smoke and mirrors.

For the record, I am fully aware that a "50% chance of rain" does *NOT* mean it either will or won't happen.  A percent chance of any weather means that in the "viewing or listening area," 50% of that area will see whatever is being predicted.

Thus, by 10am today (Tuesday, March 20, 2012), 80% of the Prescott area should see torrential downpours and nasty thunderstorms.  It so happens, I guess, our house generally remains in the percentage of the area that DOESN'T get the predicted weather, no matter what it is.

And, so, I shall start my own weather predictions based on flipping a coin and rolling a die.  It will go as follows:

Roll the die:
1 - Rain
2 - Sunshine
3 - Snow
4 - Thunderstorms
5 - Tornados
6 - Sleet

Flip a coin:
Heads - It will happen
Tails - It won't happen

Give it a try yourself.  See if you can outpredict your local weather person using only a die and a coin (or a random number generator).

Here is my week's forecast:

3/20 - Today's prediction: Rain will happen. (1, heads)
3/21 - Wednesday: Tornadoes will happen (5, heads)
3/22 - Thursday: Tornadoes won't happen (5, tails)
3/23- Friday: Thunderstorms won't happen (4, tails)
3/24 - Saturday: Rain will happen (1, heads)
3/25 - Sunday: Sleet will happen (6, heads)

I'll do this for a month. Now, if I really wanted to be like the weather people, I would need to roll/flip every hour.  Because, that's at least how often they change their mind.

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