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Getting Misty About the Weather

March 16, 2003|ANDREW ASCH

If you're wondering if this winter's sweltering heat waves and punishing blizzards are normal weather patterns, you're not alone. More than 2,000 meteorologists made small talk about the weather and attended lectures at the American Meteorological Society's annual meeting in Long Beach in February. Few agreed on the big questions, but these weather obsessives continued to scan the skies for a hint of what tomorrow might bring.

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Dallas Raines

Broadcast Meteorologist

KABC, Los Angeles

Why are forecasts often wrong?

The 24-hour forecasts are 95% accurate. Day three, that drops to 70%, day five 50%. But the public forgets the ones I got right.

Global warming: Myth or reality?

Temperatures have warmed a bit. But is the source fossil fuels or climatic variability?

As Edward Lorenz put it, can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil really start a tornado in Texas?

A small input can have dramatic effects. If you read chaos theory, that was a simple analogy.

Is there a meteorologist personality?

Broadcast meteorologists are a different breed from the researchers. I'm not brilliant, but I had a passion for the weather.

Reveal a secret forecasting trick.

Experience. I'm a better forecaster after 18 years in Southern California.

Will you retire to someplace warm?

I love Solvang. Kansas or the Southeast have the thunderstorms and hurricanes, but Southern California is mighty beautiful.

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Bob Serafin

Former president

American Meteorological Society

Boulder, Colo.

Why are forecasts often wrong?

The better question is why are they so frequently right. Forecasts four days out are probably as good as the one-day forecast 20 years ago.

Global warming: Myth or reality?

Oh, boy. I think it's reality. The controversy is how [will it] affect us?

Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?

In theory, yeah. But in the practical sense, it is a very small effect.

Is there a meteorologist personality?

Many meteorologists are very excited about the weather. And many were excited about the weather when they were children.

Reveal a secret forecasting trick.

Commercial airliners in the U.S. measure winds and temperature, and they're sharing with the weather service. There are thousands of measurements every day in airliners flying across the country.

Will you retire to someplace warm?

I have retired. I'm living in Boulder, but I'm still very active.

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Jack Kelly

Director

National Weather Service

Silver Spring, Md.

Why are forecasts often wrong?

Little errors. In 2000, we erred in a forecast for snow amounts in that line from Washington, D.C., to Boston. An airplane had mechanical problems, so we didn't get data from the northwest Pacific Ocean, which impacts the East Coast. We were only off by maybe 100 miles, but that included that swath.

Global warming: Myth or reality?

There is consensus in the science community that the earth is warming, and that humankind has caused that. Where there is not consensus is what that means.

What weather superstition have you found to be true?

If you want to be sure of a rainy afternoon, find out when weather people are having an outdoor social function.

Will you retire to someplace warm?

I think I'm going to retire where my grandchildren are. It's a very scientific way of doing it.

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Kaycee Frederick

Atmospheric Sciences student

University of North Dakota

Why are forecasts often wrong?

It's one of those things you just can't predict. It's like asking why you can't predict the future.

Global warming: Myth or reality?

I've done papers on it, and in my opinion we are in a global warming. But in our past, our climate has always changed.

Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?

I don't think so. Think--does chaos theory affect our lives? Is it a "life is predetermined" type of thing? It's a little absurd to think about it.

Is there a meteorologist personality?

They're not like the average career person. They don't just go to their jobs and can't wait to get it done. We live our jobs. We don't get paid much and we don't really care.

Will you retire to someplace warm?

Probably in the Great Plains so I can keep storm-chasing.

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