The Weather Guru
The Weather GuruThursday, August 10th, 2017 at 7:25am
"It must be nice to be wrong 80% of the time and still get paid." Yes, that tired old theme again. As a meteorologist, I've heard it a hundred times, I heard it twice on the fire I just got back from, and I heard it again from one of the fishing captains on Deadliest Catch last night.

When I hear that, I usually ask what the person’s definition of right is. If it is to be exactly right all the time, good luck. It can't be done with non-linear, chaotic systems like weather. It can't be done in medicine. It can't be done in finance. It can't be done in any system where parts of it behave chaotically.

An engineer can build a bridge and be right every time. In fact, he better be. The reason he can get it right is because X amount of concrete and Y amount of rebar can support Z amount of traffic. It's linear. I've certainly oversimplified the job of engineering, and I certainly mean no disrespect to engineers, but the point is that linear systems behave linearly according to their governing principles. You're not even really predicting their behavior - they're behaving according to known laws.

Weather is a different system. It is subject to chaos. It’s non-linear, meaning that one tweak in the system can send any one of the many variables off in a different direction to the nth degree. IT CANNOT BE PREDICTED WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY IN ANY TIME FRAME, but it gets worse with time.

That said, we get pretty damn close most of the time. Think about this: We can predict the development of a major storm system 6 or 7 days out that doesn't even exist today. We often don’t get the exact position, strength, or track of that system from a week away, but don’t you think it’s pretty amazing to predict the formation of a system that doesn’t even exist within a few hundred miles a week from now? Even after 22 years in this business, I still do.

The examples are many, but let me give you a recent one: In Medford, we recently predicted near-record high temperatures about 5 days in advance - not just records for the day, ALL TIME records. The all-time record was 115, and we predicted 114. It got to 112. Were we wrong? If you expect perfection, yes, it was wrong. Missed it by 2 degrees from 5 days out. But were we correct on it being extremely hot? Near all-time records? Obviously. We got that *close* to a once in a century event from almost a week out. That isn't bad in a non-linear, chaotic system, is it? What if your financial advisor could predict an all-time record high for a stock within a few points from a week out? Would you be angry that he missed the exact peak while you were counting your profit? Would you call him wrong?

Of course, we don't get it right all the time (depending on your definition of right), but we sure as hell aren't wrong 80% of the time, or half, or whatever other nonsense number people come up with to bash the profession. The problem is: when we miss something big, that’s what gets all the attention. When was the last time you heard this: Meteorologists correctly predict something! It happens all the time, just no one notices, and even fewer would say anything about it.

I'll bet that the fisherman on Deadliest Catch doesn't always correctly predict where the fish are going to be. If you pin him down, I'll bet he really does understand what we're up against. How's that for irony? Of course, he'll say "If I don't find the fish 80% of the time, I won't get paid." To which, I would respond: neither would I. Like the fisherman, we give it our best shot and make adjustments as new information comes in. We pay attention to trends and patterns. We learn from our past mistakes (and successes) and try to get better next time. We know that we can't be perfect because the behavior of weather and fish is not linear. We certainly try to be exactly right, and we're practically giddy when we hit that mark, but close really is pretty good when you understand the nature of the challenge.
The Weather Guru
The Weather GuruTuesday, June 27th, 2017 at 6:34am
Big thunderstorm day around Medford yesterday. There would have been several dozen lightning strikes that this camera could have captured, but it only takes a pic once a minute. If only there were a way to have it triggered by lightning. Oh well, pretty neat anyway.
The Weather Guru
The Weather Guru
The Weather GuruWednesday, June 21st, 2017 at 6:53am
The view of thunderstorms in Northern California from my webcam in Medford, OR.
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The Weather Guru
The Weather Guru added 2 new photos.Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 at 11:35am
There may be one hell of an arctic blast for all of us in the Pac NW early next week. A 1044 mb high over southern B.C. and the upper flow coming straight off the pole like that would be pretty ugly, and all the models show some variation of this. Not sure about the snow, but the old saying for lower elevations around here goes: "You can get snow when the cold arrives and when it leaves."

The 500 mb chart (oranges and yellows) is next Sunday afternoon and the surface chart (blues and greens) is Monday afternoon.
The Weather Guru
The Weather GuruMonday, December 26th, 2016 at 3:14pm
Weather geek alert!

People throw around the word blizzard a lot, but most snowstorms are not actually blizzards. A blizzard is defined as falling and/or blowing snow which reduces visibility to 1/4 mile or less with sustained wind or frequent gusts at 35 mph or higher for at least 3 hours.

What is going on tonight in the northern plains actually fits the definition (see ob from Rapid City, SD, pictured). They've been meeting this definition since 2:20 pm today, local time.
The Weather Guru
The Weather GuruFriday, October 14th, 2016 at 10:48am
Look at that large swath of hurricane force wind gusts off the Oregon coast late Saturday morning (all the blues, tans, and whites - white is >80 mph!). Then this storm moves up to batter Portland around dinner and Seattle area in the evening and night. Batten down the hatches!