Playing the Percentages

I heard on the weather report the usual ‘style’ of forecast these days: “a forty percent chance of precipitation”. We have all heard this and very few people ever really think about it except to note “oh, it might rain”.

Meteorologists took to that style years ago to cover their asses. Before that time, their erroneous forecast of “rain today” when it did not rain, would draw jibes and chuckles… As ‘scientists’, they could rarely hold their heads up. Not today, though. The “percentage” forecast adds a bit of mathematics to the mix and lends a tone of scientific respectability.

Now, my question to these “scientists” is this: does that 40% mean it will rain in 40% of the viewing/listening area, or that it might rain in 40% of the viewing/listening area, or there is a 40% chance that some precipitation might fall somewhere within their viewing/listening area?

It is a subtle difference, but each interpretation is world’s apart. This consternation dispels the efficacy of the forecast and dispells any and all “scientificness” in their craft. The statement is entirely bogus and is used to make it seem they know what they’re talking about when what they’re really saying is: it might rain today.

If they would skip the sound bites and the pseudo-scientific jargon, they would garner a little more respect, I think. Since when was weather forecasting relegated to the realm of oddsmaking? That ‘percentage’ sounds like people are checking the odds and placing bets. (Hmm, I wonder what the handicap of this particular forecaster is? Let’s check the record on their past performance…)

It is only the weather, people, NOT some intricate medical procedure. People’s lives are not at risk here (well, from flash flooding, perhaps, but that is severe weather, not some chance of drizzle), so why don’t you people just put your money where your mouth is and call it like you see it? Put your reputation, or your gut feeling, on the line and say it will or will not rain. Show some guts for a change!

It has always astonished me that meteorology is called a science and astrology is called a ‘pseudo-science’. I’m not talking about the daily column of ‘your horoscope’, but the real deal: a personalized astrological chart (and not one of those cheapies burped out at some websites). Astrology is a lot closer to the target on personality than meteorology is to the weather, and they don’t wimp out!


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