Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Weather Channel Gives Boston an A+ on Winter Season

Since we're in the (entertainment) business of grading weathercasters, we thought we'd pass this along. The Weather Channel provided grades for the winter season to date. Boston was given an A+. If that gives you some sense of civic pride, soak it up! According to TWC, 39 percent of Boston's average seasonal snowfall has yet to fall.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Time To Catch a Breath

It looks like a relatively uneventful next week or so according to Boston 's finest weathercasters (if you don't count the bitter cold for the next couple of days). Perhaps an appropriate time for winter reflection.

What do you think of the winter so far? Weigh in with the poll question to the right.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tuesday: An Inch or Less ... Unless You Follow Fox

With the exception of Fox25, forecasters are pretty unanimous in seeing an inch or less of snow in Boston tomorrow as of forecasts issued during the evening on Monday. Fox is the lone exception, forecasting 1 to 2 inches of snow for Boston.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Grades for Feb. 5 Storm

You may recall that before we'd fully digested the last snowstorm, many forecasters were talking about the train-like procession of snowstorms that were going to threaten Boston. The first car on that last train left Boston yesterday with nary a flake, leaving a handful of forecasters left to explain where things went wrong.

Here are the grades we've assigned (and yes, they're subjective, but based on objective information) for yesterday's event:

WHDH: C+ On Tuesday evening, WHDH noted that yesterday's storm would "not be a big deal." True, indeed. They can't be accused of being alarmists. Still, as recently as Thursday evening, they were "thinking about 3 inches for Boston."

WCVB: B WCVB never suggested yesterday's would be a big storm. They emphasized that their prediction was not a high-confidence forecast so notice was appropriately served. (Expressing lack of confidence is not a bad thing; see also the Weather Watcher's Bill of Rights.) And by Friday evening, they no longer mentioned any accumulations while others clung on to the possibility of a coating or an inch.

WBZ: D WBZ's performance gives credence to the skepticism about so-called "weather terrorists." From the outset, they used terms like "snowstorm" and "big snowmaker." On Wednesday evening, they predicted 4-8 inch totals.

FOX25: C+ Sufficiently conservative in their assessment throughout. They noted a likely changeover to rain on Tuesday evening. They placed Boston in a "mix to up to 6 inch" potential category on Thursday evening, which clearly communicated their ambiguous feelings about the forecast. However, even with the wide range, there was hardly an mix to speak of.

NWS: B Snow amounts were never mentioned in NWS forecasts until Friday evening when they mentioned the possibility of up to an inch at the end of the storm. Still, they clearly expected more of yesterday's event to include snow than what actually dropped from the sky.

NECN: D+ On Monday, NECN warned, "chance of snow or mostly snow on Saturday ... could be another one." And Santa Claus may make an appearance in July. By Wednesday evening, they acknowledged the storm wouldn't be as heavy as past storms but still included "plowable" in their forecast.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for any updates.

From the TBF Soapbox: A Weather Watcher's Bill of Rights

While TBF doesn’t presuppose it’s speaking for the weather watchers of the world, we’d like to set a few expectations of Boston's weathercasters. Agree? Disagree? Tell us your thoughts.

1. Use social media for all it’s worth. It doesn’t take an expert futurist to see that local television news broadcasts – indeed the concept of watching the news at a particular time of day on a big screen – are going the way of the dinosaur. Providing timely information in an electronic space is both “good weather” and, alas, good marketing. This makes good sense: Why should we have to stay up to watch a forecast when a new has already been developed.

2. Be consistent in the media you employ. The weather information provided on television or radio should match what’s posted on your website. There’s nothing worse than dialing up your favorite station's website only to see Friday’s forecast posted front and center when it’s Sunday. Worse yet, is when the site shows the morning forecast (which might not mention any possibility of storms) when an evening forecast has just been shown on TV that is markedly different.

3. Walk the talk. Keep information on your electronic media current. If you’re going to say “check out our website for the latest weather information whenever you’re on the go,” please live up to your end of the bargain.

4. Employ confidence ratings in your forecasts. Everyone knows that some forecasts are more slam dunks than others – or as the weather gurus might say sometimes there’s “model agreement” and sometimes there isn’t. The phrase, “I gotta tellya, this forecast has big bust potential,” are words we should hear a bit more often.

5. Dare to be different! It’s no secret that weathercasters (indeed, the public) has access to the same large universe of weather model information. We wouldn’t suggest that the Geico gecko could predict the weather, but it’s easy to become routine and formulaic in your approach. Use a hunch now and then, and stick yourself out. Sure, you may miss a forecast (and pay dearly on TBF – that’s a joke), but if you explain your reasoning, we admire it.

6. Be creative. Present information in a fresh and unorthodox way. It’s more entertaining for the viewer or reader, and can be a better way to illustrate a concept. Our favorite weather site, the Capital Weather Gang, provides rather unique forecasts when snow is in the offing. Here’s an excellent example of a logical, yet uncommon, way to depict possible storm outcomes:

Here’s an excerpt from the blog entry:
Here are the current accumulation possibilities that will certainly evolve in the next several days:
30% chance: A dusting or less
30% chance: A dusting to 1"
20% chance: 1-5"
20% chance: 5"+

To us, this should be a standard tactic in communicating weather scenarios.

7. Give us the love all the time. Yes, the interest in weather is much higher when severe summer storms threaten and when mighty blizzards are aiming in our direction. You should be all over that, both because it affects the most people and because it reflects your presumed love and passion for weather. But if it’s 9 in the morning and a surprise, post-newscast storm has suddenly popped up that will threaten an outdoor lunch or a golf outing, get the word out! There’s real, practical value there, though it may not make for sexy headlines. Finally, weather doesn’t take the weekend off, and neither should weekend weather updates.           

8. Send your written forecasts past a proofreader. There’s no reason to think that a meteorologist specializing in science knowledge is necessarily going to be a good writer, but as long as information is provided through a literary medium, please check your spellings and the flow of your phrases and sentences. Ultimately, your business is detail-based and sloppiness in communication suggests potential sloppiness in the way you go about your job.

9. Present information every six hours (online). Why every six hours? Because that’s how often the key weather models are run. The schedule of television news broadcasts shouldn’t be the governing force behind how often you present information.

10. Forgo the misleading teases. Don't allow the news anchor to say, "Snow is coming our way tomorrow," and be left having to explain that northern New England may get a coating of snow. It’s insulting to us angry and puts the weathercaster in an instant uphill battle for credibility.

11. Tell us when you blew it. People dig honesty and it’s the best way to earn long-term credibility. If a forecast was missed, don’t skip over it or pretend it didn’t happen. Tell us why it happened – and that you’ll never make the mistake again. (Insert joking smiley face here.)

12. Accurate forecasts. Notice we put this one last? While ultimately, of course, this is what matters most, it’s really part of the whole way that a weather outlet should communicate with its followers. We believe that a well-explained and well-reasoned forecast is simply good communication. And that in the end, people may remember the way you communicate as much as the accuracy of your forecast. That’s our feeling, anyway.

Forecasters and weather watchers alike, what do you think?

Another Week of Snowstorms? Forecasters Don't See It That Way Now

All that talk of another week of snowstorms that we heard last week seems to be fading. As of late Saturday night, Boston area forecasters are in general agreement that the event for Monday night/Tuesday is likely to be light. There also seems to be consensus that a late week snow possibility is likely to miss Boston to the southeast. We'll keep tracking to see if the prognostications change.

Looks like this pooch will get a break from the snow blitz this week.
Here's what the weather dudes are saying about prospects for snow on Monday night into Tuesday:
WHDH: 1-3 inches possible
WCVB: light snow; not much accumulation
WBZ: a chance of showers changing to a brief period of snow early Tuesday
FOX: mixed bag of precip; not a big storm at all
NWS: snow likely Monday night and Tuesday; no mention of accumulations
NECN: Another round of snow; doesn't look too heavy.
Tomorrow, we'll assign grades to the local weathercasters on their performance in handling Saturday night's system. The progressive forecast by weather outlet leading up to the event can be found here.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for any updates.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Boston Weather Mavens See Primarily Rain with Saturday PM Event

We love weathercasters that flash a sense of humor and irreverence every once in a while. WHDH provided a good chuckle to the Twittersphere with a late evening tweet summarizing the prediction process for this weekend's weather event.

Indeed, the majority of forecasters now see this weekend's precipitation as primarily rain for Boston. None see the possibility for anything more than one inch (primarily at the tail end of the storm) and WCVB has removed virtually all mention of any snow accumulation whatsoever for Boston.

As of late Friday night, here's how the area's weathercasters saw this weekend's "event" unfolding:

WHDH: Possibility a coating of snow as the storm departs
WCVB: Mostly rain. No accumulations of snow.
WBZ: Coating to half inch of snow possible at the end.
FOX25: Slushy coating possible
NWS: Snow accumulation up to an inch
NECN: Maybe an inch on the back side of the storm

A progressive forecast by weather outlet of this event dating back to Monday night can be found in all its beauty here.

All forecasters are also tracking potential snow events for Tuesday and Thursday of next week but there is certainly nothing inevitable with either event. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for any updates.