Thursday, February 3, 2011

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.

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