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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Accuracy is not an option.

As the American Meteorological Society is about to start her 88th Annual Meeting in New Orleans tomorrow that features a special WeatherFest focus on hurricanes and other tropical storms and showcase Hurricane Hunters of the Air Force Reserve among other things, I come across a somewhat relevant news article this morning, out of all possible news publications in the world, from a Bangkok Post! The article, by Alan Dawson, has a title given by the editor as "Weather or not? Most predictions fail to materialise." But I personally prefer the title I came up for this blog post: Accuracy is not an option.

Dawson, probably stationed in Fort Collins, Colorado, starts his article by alluding the local case that everyone has experienced similarly at one time or another:
Last week, daily forecasts told weather worry-warts for five straight evenings that heavy snow was likely on the next afternoon, and five afternoons passed, sunny and rather pleasant winter days. And on the sixth day, it snowed heavily. And why does the forecast of crippling weather in Smalltown, Middle USA, matter in Big Mango, Thailand, where snow is never expected and predictions for tomorrow's weather pretty well always amount to this: ''Look out the window. See that weather out there? Tomorrow, expect more of the same.''?
He answered his own question as

It matters because this pleasant, cowboy-populated town on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains _ more than 2,500 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean _ is home of the Atlantic Ocean hurricane forecasting station for Earth.

The forecasts, however, have been just about as reliable as the snow warnings of last week, and it seems polite now to wonder whether science really can predict what's happening with the weather.

If you keep predicting snowfall during the Rocky Mountain weather, one day you are going to be right. It doesn't take a cynic to wonder if the attempts to predict the number and ferocity of hurricanes are any more credible and reliable. It is a small step from there to scepticism over forecasts of climate change 10 and 50 years down the road.

Yes, indeed, if you keep predicting the same thing over and over, one of the days you will hit right on! After all, a broken clock will tell the time exactly right twice a day! Of course Dawson's precursor is expectedly leading to talk about their local celebrity, Prof. William Gray:

Located on the campus of Colorado State University, the Tropical Meteorology Project each December issues a forecast of hurricanes (storms originating in the northern Atlantic Ocean) for the coming year.

Last month, as he did last year, project chief Professor William Gray explained why he got his forecasts so horribly wrong. But then, unlike the boy who cried wolf, Mr Gray and his office got a lot of publicity and money to carry on for a third year of crying ''Wolf!'' yet again.

''We believe that the Atlantic basin is still in an active hurricane cycle,'' said Mr Gray, as he forecast that there will be seven hurricanes this year, beginning around June _ three of them major storms likely to bring serious damage to the East and Gulf coasts of the United States.

The first obvious question seems to be why anyone should believe a twice-failed prognosticator. Last year, he predicted nine hurricanes; six occurred. The previous year, he ventured there would be nine hurricanes, and there were five. Far worse _ which means, of course ''far better'' _ no disastrous hurricane struck the US mainland, even though this is the main point of interest about the forecasts publicised in the United States.

I begin to wonder what motivates Dawson to write this article. In fact, he indicated in 7 of the last 9 years,
. . . the team has correctly forecast whether the intensity of a hurricane season would be above or below average.
Somehow, Dawson becomes more and more caustic as the article proceeds. He dismisses the explanation which Gray's group provided:
''We attribute a large portion of this forecast over-prediction to a late-developing El Nino and increased mid-level dryness in the tropical Atlantic.''
In the end he brought in Mark Twain to conclude his sarcasm:
Mark Twain held that ''Everyone is talking about the weather but nobody's doing anything about it.'' That may be more true today than when Twain was skewing the pundits.
I hope Dawson's article is not aimed at ridicule Prof. Gray and associates only. His sarcasm certainly more appropriately applied to the global warming gang.

Prof. Gray is a scientist and he developed a system to predict the intensity of yearly hurricanes that has a good track record except the last two years. His scientific prediction provides a service for people's general consideration. He did not demand anyone to alter their life in order to conform with his prediction.

That's certainly a whole world of difference from Algore, the divinity school drop out, and his global warming cronies, who extorts everyone in the world to think we the people in U.S. are guilty to cause all the mumble jumble. William Gray stuck his neck out trying to use science to predict hurricane intensity before the hurricane season starts and people like Dawson criticize him for making 22% wrong. Hey what about those Algore/IPCC people constantly reducing their warming predictions? They have not been right yet on any of their "overwhelmingly" agreed predictions made by all their hand-picked "authorities"!

It is really for those Algore/IPCC people: Science is of No Consequence and Accuracy is Not an Option!

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