Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Weather the Storm

     In the movie Ocean's Twelve, Reuben is sitting with the Tarot card reader in a very stereotypical sort of Tarot card reading setup, all the Gypsy-esque trappings inside of a tent, light streaming into the dark tent over his shoulder, when Terry Benedict comes to find him and collect his money.  He looks at the Tarot card reader and says "This!  You couldn't see this!?"
     We as a human race are always fascinated with the future, because just like space and death it is the ultimate unknown.  Or is it?  Because we regularly predict the future, or at least the short term future.  There are actually "futures" markets where people essentially bet on how many hogs are going to be raised in Iowa next month, or how many pineapples are going to be grown in Hawaii.  And there is one other place in which we ask talented young men and women to predict the immediate and not-so-immediate future every day.  We give them the most advanced technical equipment and training, and every day they have the unenviable task of predicting what the weather will be tomorrow.
      That's right, Company.  Weatherpersons essentially have to predict the future every day.  Now they have a lot of help - they have super big high end computers, they have over a century of accumulated patterns and data and a Mother Nature who is relatively rooted in routine and who likes doing things a certain way.  But still, they are able - to a pretty high degree of accuracy - to predict what will or will not appear in the sky tomorrow.  Now that is pretty good, and I am more and more impressed with every passing day.
Uh oh...where's Helen Hunt?
     The reason that I bring this up is because a lot of people I know have been pretty hard on the local weatherpersons recently.  It all seemed to come to a head recently when we had what some people like to call a "snow event."  You might know this as a snowstorm.  The weather folks were predicting the Worldwide Headquarters to get 10-16" of snow over the course of, oh, say eighteen hours.  That is pretty significant for March, and it was supposed to be an especially nasty heavy, wet snowfall.  When it was over we had about six inches of light, icy, and powdery snow on the ground.  That being said, most of the area they said was going to get that much snow actually got that much snow, but for some reason it just sort of slid around the Worldwide Headquarters and left us with a lot less.
     And people have been complaining.  A lot.  First they all complained because we were supposed to get so much snow, and then they complained because we didn't get that much.  "Fucking Mother Nature, why does it have to snow again?  I am sick of this shit."  Then they wake up in the morning and it is all "Those weather people were wrong, we didn't get hardly as much snow as they said we would.  They are always wrong and they always blow things way out of proportion." 
Even if the amount was off, they still told you about this.
     Hmmm...settle down.  First of all, they always err on the side of caution, so that you don't expect a dusting of snow and then you get Snowpocalypse.  Or so you don't expect a quarter inch of rain and get the movie Twister.  They want you to be overprepared, and believe me they understand that there is a very thin line between having people be prepared and losing their credibility.  So that is why they always seem to be going overboard.  Second, no matter how precise their models are, or how good they can be, or how much information they have, a one degree variation today can mean hundreds of miles tomorrow.  Things happen.  The air is one degree warmer here than they thought it would be and the whole situation changes.  That is just how it is.
      So let's just lay off the weathermen, okay?  And the weatherwomen.  They are just as good.  They get it close, and they get it right most of the time.  So thank them, and don't freak out when it turns out to be not so bad, or a little worse than you expected.  They try hard, and deep down you know that they get it right most of the time, because you keep going back.  You know they're good.

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