As the post title infers I’m not a fan of seasonal forecasts, be they for winter/spring/summer/fall weather or specific weather events such as hurricanes. I do realize that some industries use such forecasts to plan ahead for long-lead items like raw material availability, production labor, etc. However I firmly believe the average person is unjustly served by seasonal forecasts like the winter forecasts I’ve seen floating around social media recently.
Why? Several reasons come to mind, the first of which is the questionable accuracy of such forecasts. Hurricane season outlooks are one example of this, with this quote from a USA Today article on June 1 of this year being typical:
“Since 2000, NOAA’s tropical storm and hurricane forecasts have been hit or miss: NOAA’s prediction has been accurate in eight of the past 15 years, according to a USA TODAY analysis.”
Eight out of 15? Hardly what I would label as accurate. El Nino forecasts are also easily blown as witnessed by this quote from Nature:
“The first sign of a brewing El Niño weather pattern came in January, as trade winds that normally blow from the east reversed course near Papua New Guinea. Barrelling back across the tropical Pacific Ocean, they began to push warm water towards South America. Now climate scientists and forecasters are on high alert.”
Nice, huh? Except this article was published on April 2 2014, and last year’s expectation of a moderate to strong El Nino event faded away rapidly.
Secondly, I’m convinced that a number of folks – not everyone, but many – who publish seasonal forecasts are wishcasting, i.e. they are projecting personal preferences onto their interpretation of forecast model outputs. That is especially true of the current spate of winter forecasts being rolled out that either inflame winter weather lovers or disgust cold weather haters. (Disclaimer: I freely admit to being part and parcel of the latter group!)
And finally, the main reason I don’t like seasonal forecasts is that it only takes one major weather event to greatly impact a community. A seasonal forecast is useless with respect to that one hurricane, tornado, winter storm, or flood that creates havoc for folks. In fact I would argue that a seasonal forecast for below average occurrence of serious weather events may even lull some people into dangerous complacency, thinking “it won’t happen around here”.
Nope, I don’t like seasonal forecasts.