Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NWS Forecast Pet Peeve

I haven't dusted off my soapbox in awhile, so I figure this is as good a time as any...

Take a look at part of the NWS "Zone" Forecast for Austin, TX.  It was issued this afternoon by the Austin/San Antonio NWS Forecast office (as always, you can click on the image to enlarge it):

Take a look at the highlighted portion, which reads that the "High" temperature on Wednesday will be in the lower 40s.  While that's true, the fact is that temperature reading will take place during the pre-dawn hours (technically speaking, it will probably be 45-50 degrees, but will take place between Midnight and 3am CST).  The text of the forecast doesn't give any indication that the temperature will actually fall during the day (a very important fact for those that will even walk outdoors at any given time tomorrow, don't you think)?  How hard is it for this fact to be pointed out in the "official" forecast that is seen and/or heard by more of the population than any other?

To illustrate what I'm talking about, take a look at the surface weather map, as plotted just before 6pm this evening:

The solid blue line shows the location of the leading edge of the arctic cold front that will blast through the area early Wednesday.  Take a look at temperature readings behind the front over Kansas and far Northern Oklahoma.  Yes, they are in the single digits at 6 o'clock in the afternoon!

Take a look back at the Zone Forecast from the first image, and you'll see the accurately forecast North winds of 20-30 mph with gusts to 40 mph (as highlighted on the next to the last line of the image).  The bitter cold temperatures to our North will be blowing into the region on these strong winds. Obviously, some moderation in temperature will take place, but the point is that the temperature will actually fall quite dramatically behind the front during the morning Wednesday, then level-off in the mid to upper 20s through late afternoon.  

Also, I didn't highlight it, but the line that generally reads "lowest wind chill readings of 25 to 30 degrees in the morning" is also very misleading.  Wind chills will be in the high single digits or teens by late morning into the afternoon.  Last time I checked this was certainly lower than 25-30 degrees.  I guess because this is taking place during the "afternoon" we shouldn't worry about it - or we won't feel it like we would have if it were to take place in the morning????  I think not!!!  Again, I ask, how hard would it be to emphasize that in this very widely viewed and reported forecast?

Don't get me wrong, my intention is not to "bash" the NWS.  I speak very highly of them in many posts, particularly regarding advancement in severe weather warnings, etc.  With that said, I don't think it's asking too much to give the taxpayers a little "value added" forecast information, particularly in such a dramatic weather situation for residents of a region (i.e,. South Texas) that don't experience such dramatic temperature swings in a short period of time very often.

Okay...I feel better.  Thanks for listening...

No comments: