Weather Hyperbole

February 26th, 2007 by Potato

I really like the, the website of the Weather Network. Their forecasting is about as accurate as you can expect weather forecasting to be, and they have a bunch of other neat utilities like the highway forecast or current highway conditions. However, lately they’ve been getting really anxious about issuing weather alerts that often don’t pan out, but that’s not what’s been getting me lately. What I really find bugs me is that while you can go back and look at past weather predictions with their site, they never tell you what actually happened. So, for example, if we were to go back and look at December 8, 2006 (or the band of days 6th-9th), London got hit really bad with a huge snowfall that was way above what they were calling for — 30 inches in front of our place (760-odd mm of snow). However, the archives on the Weather Network show a measly 25 mm of precipitation. Now, they might not count a mm of snow as a mm of precipitation, since snow can be quite fluffy and volumous, but still, 760 is nowhere near 25, and I don’t think they discount snow that much (perhaps a factor of 10, and they were calling for 25 cm of snow that night).

I had the same problem this weekend: they were calling for freezing rain, ice, and snow to hit London through Toronto, which was going to make my drive home miserable. Then in the early evening they started changing their prediction: Toronto went from getting a mix of ice and snow (up to 20 cm) to a predicted 5-7 cm of snow. They were still calling on London to get iced in: basically the weatherpeople were wailing “But if you have any friends or relatives in London, it may be too late for them, as they’re already encased in their icy tombs. There may still be hope, however, as scientists ten thousand years from now may thaw them out and ask what it was like to hunt the Woolly Mammoth that was briefly resurrected from extinction by genetic engineering; they will, of course, have to sheepishly admit that they were frozen in the London ice storm just a few decades before that actually happened…”

The snow in Toronto was pretty gentle, and we only got about 2 cm, which wasn’t going to stop me from driving. It made me wonder what London actually got, because I’d hate to get halfway down the 401 just to find the driving impossible. Did we get spared the full wrath of the weather network’s predictions, as Toronto had? Or was Toronto merely spared because the clouds had dumped their load in London? The weather network’s site was pretty much useless for trying to answer that question. Their highway conditions page said that the roads were slushy and awful all along the 401, including through Toronto, but it didn’t look that bad out my window. I kept hitting refresh hoping to get an update, when I noticed that the information was several hours old and not getting updated. At that point I just decided to get in the car and risk it. I’m here now typing, so everything turned out fine: in fact, Toronto was the worst part of the drive, with a tiny bit of slush on the roads and the snow still falling. London’s roads are wet, but clear of snow (I guess it was largely regular rain, as opposed to ice — or the city put down a lot of salt) though there is some slush on the sidewalks.

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