A new storm, very late Wednesday and Thursday will produce a little snow for the higher elevations, above 6500-7000feet on Thursday. This storm is bringing in mild air, somewhat typical for this time of year. Again, Whistler will benefit the most with this early season precipitation, as the snow level there is usually about 1000 ft lower and their elevations are generally a tad higher.
Recap of windstorm and commentary
Last Saturdays windstorm was not as strong as expected. There was damage, but it was spotty. Generally the highest wind gusts were 10-15 mph lower than expected, in the 40-55 mph range.
The reason the storm was not as powerful as expected is the track was slightly west, by about 30-50 miles, of expected and the central pressure was not as low as expected. One important point: The storm track could have, instead, easily shifted east 40 miles of the forecasted track. In that case we would have under forecast the highest wind gusts and the storm would have been much worse than forecast.
Leading up to the storm, there are different weather models with different solutions to display the track and strength. At one point, last Wed/Thursday, the solution looked very severe, possibly historic - that got our attention. The models update every 12 hours and subsequent solutions later Friday and early Saturday indicated a strong storm (1 in 5 - 10 year event), but not historic. That said, there is a range of uncertainty enveloping each of those tracks and pressure patterns, even in the most confident forecasts – small deviations can make a difference.
But people don’t want to hear about uncertainty. They will seek out other weather sources that communicate more certainty and therefore, superficially, more confidence – but its a false confidence.
With my two decades as an on air TV meteorologist, you’d think I would understand how to communicate the forecast uncertainty more effectively. But I found people don’t want an odds maker, with statistics and probabilities clouding their decisions.
Here is what people do want: They want a single forecast, no ifs, ands, or buts. And, finally, they want a whipping boy, when things don’t go as forecast. I agree, to some extent. We are the professionals – we should give it our best shot and when it doesn’t work out, lick our wounds and explain what happen. We shouldn’t throw it back on the user with a litany of confusing odds and probabilities - unless they want and understand a risk analysis. But that is not what most people want..
Many things in our lives are built on confusing people with the risk and probabilities. Look at Las Vegas, look at credit card interest rates, look at the stock market, look at the irrational fear of flying.
In the end the storm underperformed the “strong” status and was probably in the moderate-strong category.
Many blamed the media weather forecasters for over hyping it, but there is no incentive to hype, only incentive to get it right. In fact, there is a strong incentive NOT to hype it up -- I just have to work more.
Modern numerical weather forecasting is one of the most complex and sophisticated inventions of mankind. Much of the time it works very well, and we get the storm right. I have seen forecasting improve greatly in my decades of predicting the weather. We do the best we can, and we get it pretty close, most of the time -- but in reality, there is uncertainty in the future and a spectrum of outcomes, some more likely than others.
As Yogi Bera said “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”