Thursday, January 07, 2010

Cold Comfort

Tonight in Minnesota we head into another dark abyss of below zero temperatures and falling snow. For those of you for whom this already feels like a long and cold winter, I offer this to warm your hearts. From October 15, a word from your government and the monopoly newspaper in town on what you had to look forward to this winter. Headlines:

Winter may be on the warm side, NOAA says

Warm side? Don't tell me the government weather experts blew the call and our newspaper printed it. Couldn't be. Maybe they meant warm side, like the warm side of Pluto or something.

If you've had trouble dealing with the abnormally cold October so far, you might like the coming winter better.

No! They were wrong. My faith in science and journalism has been shaken. But thanks for reminding us that October was abnormally cold too. I forgot we were working on three monts months of negative global warming now.

This winter in Minnesota could be warmer than normal, according to a long-range outlook released Thursday by the U.S. Climate Prediction Center.

Well, there's the problem. As global warming fundamentalists keep shouting at us, weather isn't climate. According to that rule of thumb, the US Climate Prediction Center has no business telling us how warm the winter will be. Climate prediction is all about the hazy, unspecified future. A time line at least some time after the economy shattering legislation has been passed and signed into law.

The outlook for the months of December, January and February was noncommittal on rain and snow, though, meaning chances are about the same for anything from a brown Christmas to snowmobile bliss.

Nobody can say they blew that one! As a government agency, that's how you do a prediction. The Star Tribune could learn something from this, as this speculation passed-off as news attests:
High supplies and lower demand -- results of the recession, more aggressive conservation and now a key seasonal weather forecast -- mean that natural gas bills should be 15 percent lower this winter than last, said Becca Virden, spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy. That means a decline in the average monthly bill from $137 to $110.

Hope you didn't already spend that $27, Star Tribune subscribers.

The Prediction Center began long-range seasonal forecasting in the mid-'90s, meaning the process is "in its infancy," said Deputy Director Mike Halpert. Its temperature forecasts have been accurate more than half the time, and
precipitation forecasts "somewhat less than that. "

[University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark] Seeley said he's inclined to trust the Prediction Center's outlook. Somewhat.

"If it's between their suggestion and a coin flip, I'll take their suggestion," he said.

When reached for comment, officials from the US Coin Flip Weather Prediction Center responded: Ha ha!

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