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.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Most Forecasters See About 3 Inches for Saturday Storm

No rest for the weary... Most forecasters see about 3 inches of snow coming on in the latter part of the day on Saturday. In particular, WCVB emphasized that "this is not a high confidence forecast." As of Thursday evening, here's how Boston's weatherheads saw the next storm:

WHDH: About 3 inches
WCVB: 2-4 inches but emphasized low confidence
WBZ: About 3 inches
Fox25: Too early to provide amounts given that storm was still forming. Painted Boston in a general "mix to <6 inches" stripe.
NWS: Snow and rain Saturday. Snow Saturday night. No amounts mentioned.
NECN/6: No specific amounts mentioned for Boston (mid-afternoon update).

All forecasters are also tracking potential snow events for Tuesday and Thursday of next week. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for any updates.

Tough Forecast, Tough Grades for Boston Weather Prognisticators

For Boston's beleaguered forecasting contingent, the two rounds of snow may as well have been a two-round boxing match. It was a struggle and a challenge, and it definitely got a little messy. In the end, most forecasters did a fair job of handling a complicated scenario.

Logan airport recorded 10.2 inches of snow for the two-day event, with approximately two-thirds of the total coming on Tuesday. In general, more snow was forecast than actually fell, particularly if you base the comparisons on forecasts issued Monday evening. Whereas the forecaster consensus seemed to suggest that the second round of snow would be larger than the first, the reverse turned out to be true. Here are the grades assigned by TBF (grading criteria can be found here):

WHDH: B- It seemed that WHDH was the first to recognize the likelihood of significant mixing for Round 2 that would ultimately reduce snow accumulations. By late on Tuesday, they came up with a final, definitive forecast that was right on for Round 2. Unfortunately, their Monday evening forecast predicted a two-day total of 10-20 inches, suggesting a more massive storm than what actually fell.

WCVB: B- WCVB's performance was rather similar to WHDH's. They also seemed ahead of the curve in seeing less snow for Round 2, lowering their prediction to 2-4 inches when others were still calling for 3-6 inches.

WBZ: D As of Tuesday morning, WBZ held on to a forecast for Round 2 of 9-12 inches for a two-day total of 15-20 inches. Ouch. Their initial prediction of 14-18 inches for Boston (they used 12-16 south of Pike and 16-20 north of Pike so we extrapolated) was the highest of any weather outlet as well. A poor performance.

FOX25: C Fox's Monday predictions were the worst of all outlets. As of Monday night, they were calling for a whopping 14-21 inches of snow. They came around to the new reality on Tuesday, pegging total accumulations to 7-12 inches. But the fall was steep from the high perch they set on Monday.

NECN: C- NECN was stuck on 12-18 inches for a long period, including as late as Tuesday morning. And even as late as Tuesday night, they were calling for 6 inches of new snow (about double what actually fell in Boston for Round 2).

National Weather Service: C+ The NWS was generally in the middle of the pack with its performance.

Note: We're tracking the collective forecasts for possible snow on Saturday.

A chronological presentation of the forecasts by weather outlets can be found here. If you have friends or family in Minneapolis and Chicago, or just want to see how groups of forecasters are faring in other cities, check The Minnesota Forecaster (our original forecaster evaluation) and The Chicago Forecaster (new). You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

A final reminder: There's nothing official or overly rigorous about our grades. While it's ultimately subjective, we do our very best to provide an objective assessment of the performance of local weathercasters based on information shared with the public.

Weathercasters Mixed on Saturday Snow Prospects

For a cumulative forecast for Saturday's possible snow event, click here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Round Two Snow Totals Being Revised Downward by Most Forecasters

Ah, the vagaries of New England weather once again appear to be tripping up Boston's proudest weather prognosticators. Most weathercasters have downgraded the amount of new snow for Wednesday.

As of Tuesday evening, the amount of new snow expected for Wednesday ranged from rather nominal (WHDH) to still appreciable (6 inches for NECN). Here's the summary:

WHDH: Mostly sleet tomorrow with "not much more snow." Two-day totals of 8 to 12 (with about 8 falling Tuesday)
WCVB: 2-4 additional on Wednesday for 2-day totals of 7 to 13.
WBZ: 3 to 6 inches of snow and sleet
FOX25: 3 to 6 inches for 2-day storm total of 7 to 12.
NWS: 3 to 5 inches additional for 2-day storm total of 10 to 14.
NECN: New snow of about 6 inches for Boston on Wednesday.

The progressive forecast for these storms (from the last few days up to the present) from all weathercasters can be found here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for any significant updates.

The Boston Forecaster will provide grades for the various forecasters shortly after the end of precipitation. In the meantime, enjoy the slop.

Oh, and PS, we're tracking the forecasters' collective thinking on a possible snow event on Saturday. Click here for details.

Considerable Variation Among Forecasters for Two-Round Snow Event

Today, and particularly tomorrow, will provide a stiff test for Boston weather prognosticators. Most agree that the first round today will be essentially all snow (and relatively light and fluffy at that) and the second round will feature a degree of mixing. However, some forecasters think today's snow will be the bigger snowfall while others think tomorrow's storm will be the bigger hitter.

"Really? I have more of this to deal with?"
WBZ is the most bullish on total snow, predicting 15-20 inches when all is said and done on Thursday. WBZ expects snow from Round 2 to be more than Round 1; WHDH has the reverse. This appears to be both a tough storm scenario to predict and a tough scenario for weather observers to determine exactly what's being predicted.

As of Tuesday morning, here's how the area's forecasters saw the 2-round monster:

WHDH (4): Round 1: 7-10, Round 2: 3-5
WCVB (5): Round 1: 4-8, Round 2: 4-8
WBZ/Accuweather (2):Round 1: 4-8, Round 2: 9-12 (Total 15-20)
FOX25: 10-12 total
National Weather Service: 4-8 inches Tuesday; 1-3 Tuesday night; 4-6 Wed.
NECN (6): Round 1: 6 inches. Two-storm totals of 12-18 inches

You can follow the progress of the forecaster predictions here. We're also on Twitter and Facebook.