Watch Where You Get Your Forecast!

The proliferation of weather information across the internet has been remarkable the past 15+ years.  The first 5 years I spent in meteorology (the early-mid 1990s) you couldn’t find any weather models/maps online and little/no weather information except for a few satellite pictures via subscriber services.  For that matter almost nobody had email either.  And to add to the “horror” for those of you under 25?  Cell phones were rare to nonexistent and Facebook, Twitter, and the term social media didn’t exist either.  You just watched a TV weather forecast, read it in the paper, or listened to radio and/or NOAA weather radio.

Of course nowadays you can find a forecast just about anywhere, including through online apps and weather pages from reputable forecasting companies, media companies, or the National Weather Service official pages.  This is great of course!

But there is a dark side to the explosion of weather information.  Just about all the weather information we use to make a forecast is now available to anyone with an internet connection.  That means ANYONE can take screen grabs of models, make a forecast (whether it includes reality or not), dress it up a little and put it onto social media (usually Facebook or Twitter).  There has been an explosion of this stuff the past couple of years.  Many of the people doing it are young kids just like I was…fascinated by weather and ready to share that with family and friends.  That’s just a bit of youthful exuberance!

But others have found ways to make money off weather hype, even if it involves purposely deceiving the public.  I saw a good example this week.  Did you see this graphic?


It comes from a person that is well-known to the meteorological community.  Take a closer look…to any normal person who sees this on Facebook it appears that A HURRICANE IS HEADED FOR THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST!.  Heck, I’d click on a link showing this too!  Only somewhere down in the 2nd paragraph did the forecast mention that the strong wind wouldn’t make it to the coastline.  A reputable news/weather organization with never put a headline like this onto a graphic, especially since it was a regular ol’ Pacific storm for late September.  There weren’t even high/damaging winds expected ON the coast!

There were several incidents last winter when posters/groups would grab one run of one computer model then proclaim a big snow storm was on the way (along the East Coast).  The Capital Weather Gang had a nice posting about one of these earlier in the year.  Here’s another blog from Dan Satterfield about THE GREAT FACEBOOK BLIZZARD last winter.

How do you avoid misleading/false info?

1. Only use forecasts from the National Weather Service, media sites that employ forecasters, or private weather companies that forecast for clients.

2. Don’t get forecast information off of Facebook.  That is especially important with breaking weather info (severe storms & tornadoes).  The first issue is that there’s a decent chance a person is just making up a forecast.  The 2nd issue, even for all the sources listed on #1 (including FOX12), is the filtering of news feeds.  Facebook decides what is important to you, not me or you.  So if I put out a forecast there, it’s possible you won’t even see it on your feed!   Twitter doesn’t filter so that’s a bit better.

3.  Ignore any weather sites that are not in one of those 3 categories above.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

27 Responses to Watch Where You Get Your Forecast!

  1. JERAT416 says:

    But Sally Storm gives me my forecasts 😛

  2. PurpleHaze says:

    Western Weather now The Weather Forums commonly breaks all the 3 rules above.

  3. schmit44 says:

    9/28/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:83 at DW3693 Hood Rive( 699 ft) & PINEGROVE(620 ft) & ECHO(683 ft) & EW3497 The Dalle(486 ft)
    Low: 61 at BLALOK(277 ft)

    High:46 at PATTON MEADOWS A(6780 ft)
    Low: 35 at CW5507 Camp Sher (3020 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 39 degrees
    PINEGROVE (83/44 ) (620 ft )
    EW1765 Mount Hoo (81/42) (1542 ft)
    CW5507 Camp Sher (74/35) (3020 ft)

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.72″ at BASQUE HILLS(5080ft)
    0.48″ at SUMMER LAKE(5085ft)
    0.45″ at WINTER RIM PORTA(5713ft)

  4. Boomer says:

    Starting to sound like high school up in here 🙂

  5. Boydo3 N. Albany says:

    I’m fascinated that anyone should bring up such dribble on this blog. What’s your point? What does some facebook thing have to do with this place? And why would you want to bring it here anyway? And why are we supposed to give a rip about, who? Kevin who?

  6. WEATHERDAN says:

    75 at 1:30 PM in Salem under mostly sunny skies. Might hit 80 by 5:30 PM. A little rain tomorrow, but nothing like last Wednesday. Then warmer with sunny skies next weekend. Only two nights left in September and it has not dropped below 47 in Salem unbelievably warm. Many times when I was growing up in Salem our first frost happened in September. Now we don’t even drop below the upper 40,s. During the super hot Summer of 1967 our minimum average in July was 47.9. This September our minimum will finish warmer than 53.0. Peace.

  7. Gabriel says:

    Im surprise the Martin brothers have gone low with the threats. To me honestly they’re both a waste of human beings that shouldn’t be on earth.

  8. schmit44 says:

    9/27/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:82 at ROWENA( 116 ft)
    Low: 62 at UNION(2708 ft)

    High:41 at MT. HOWARD(7910 ft)
    Low: 27 at KIRK (4519 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 38 degrees
    CW5507 Camp Sher (71/33 ) (3020 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.85″ at MOON HILL(6100ft)
    0.61″ at MALHEUR PORTABLE(4944ft)
    0.60″ at FISH CREEK(7900ft)
    0.53″ at P HILL(4860ft)
    0.52″ at LITTLE MCCOY CRE(5080ft)
    0.50″ at RIDDLE MTN.(6352ft)
    0.37″ at MCDERMITT 26N(4464ft)
    0.31″ at FOSTER FLAT(5000ft)
    0.31″ at Rome(4049ft)
    0.31″ at ROCK CREEK(5650ft)

  9. dharmabum says:

    Geeze just when folks were starting to get creative with their writing like all good kids are taught someone throws a wet blanket on them just for trying. Personally I find them quite entertaining!

  10. orwxguy says:

    Personally, I stick to my weather rock. It seems to be fairly accurate. I also use the GOLU model (go outside; look up) which also seems accurate. My third choice is the OCLO (open curtains, look outside). Seriously, though, when it comes to forecasting, I’ve learned that there is a lot of “stuff” on social media and to stick with those who know what they’re doing (KPTV and KGW crew are my preferred choices). Steve Pierce does a good job as well and I know there are others who I am leaving out as their names aren’t coming to mind right this second, but none-the-less do a good job.

  11. Garron near Washington Square says:

    For the hype/trend/excitement factor, I always look forward to Steve P’s updates. For the sheer reality factor, I look to Dr. Nelsen. (Not always my favorite when I want extreme weather!) If I wanted to play “fantasy weather” I’d look at the long range on accuweather, as I’m almost positive that their “current” 60 day forecast shows snow in the lowlands. As for model watching, I like the shock and awe approach for the GFS, where as reality tends to trend with the EMCWF model. The GOLU is still my main stay for current events! Other than that, my cat is usually the most accurate when it comes to going outside. If he doesn’t like the current conditions, I’m not gonna be a big fan either…

  12. Paul D says:

    I get my weather info from Mark Nelsen, so I know it’s as accurate as possible!

  13. W7ENK says:

    No worries, Mark. I… I mean… some “people” spent a good deal of last night tearing down K-Mart’s bogus weather site and FB pages again. That boy will never learn! His brother Brian started butting heads with me and spouting off threats again. Truly so much fun! lololol

  14. Cindy says:

    I really appreciate your blog post today Mark. I have noticed huge discrepancies in weather forecasting apps recently. Can you recommend a couple of apps? I can’t seem to get NOAA to work right for me. Thanks!

  15. The Bad Forecaster says:

    LOL Mark

    Does this mean my perception of the ECMWF (European model for those wondering what that means) model is not always true on Facebook? You know well how much I trust if over the GFS (Global Forecast System) model.

    I have lowered myself from the ranks of making anymore weather groups on Facebook. Oddly I have found most of the ones that are on it seem to be from the Pacific Northwest and even more so from the Portland and Oregon areas. Interestingly there is not even a Seattle weather group and as far as I know there never has been. Someone even tried to entice me to make one and I did and then quickly backed away from doing it.

    The main thing here is I am still interested in meteorology but am trying now more than ever to get into other interests that may or may not involve any Facebook groups. The only weather group I am on is Brian Schmit’s. The other 10 Facebook groups I am on coincide with things I have had interest in for a long time but have nothing to do with weather. Many of those groups inspire me to actually get away from the computer daily.

    I have known for a long time where the best forecasting comes from. I had my first NOAA weather radio when I was just 7 years old and back then actual real people were talking on the radio instead of the automated voice now days. I could even hear broadcasts for observations that were coming right off the Columbia River light ship which I think is now part of a museum at Astoria. I toured the Seattle National Weather Service Office when I was 10 and that was back in 1972 when the office used to be on Lake Union. One of the forecasters there at the office even gave me some free copies of satellite photographs they had. Today, I still put as much faith in the NWS more than anything and I don’t see that ever deviating what so ever. I think today I am pretty good friend with about half of the office staff up there.

    Let the fantasy forecasters forecast what ever they like. I surely take what they say with a grain of salt or just ignore them altogether. 🙂

    • PurpleHaze says:

      Why can’t we have a 5 star rating system for this blog like the old YouTube back before a certain company ruined it? You’re post deserves a 6 out of 5.

  16. schmit44 says:

    9/26/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:81 at HEPP( 311 ft) & JUNIPR(359 ft)
    Low: 61 at Glen Jackson Bri(180 ft)

    High:42 at HOWARD Mt Howard(8150 ft)
    Low: 22 at FOSTER FLAT (5000 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 40 degrees
    FOSTER FLAT (62/22 ) (5000 ft )

  17. carnyfriday says:

    I use channel 12 in the am, channel 8 (sorry) in the evening and channel 12 at bedtime. I have the channel 12 app on my tablet. It works better! I would love to have my own personal weather station if I didn’t live in an apartment. But the community kids would always be messing with it.

    • PurpleHaze says:

      What about putting it in a radiation box which would protect it from sun radiation for more accurate readings and kids who are the touchy feely type.

  18. Ah SHUCKS – looks like my Facebook weather Notes are out, then 😦

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