Men talk about it at barbershops. Husbands and wives argue about it, and it always makes the evening news. We’re talking about one of the most favorite conversation topics in the world— the weather or weather forecasts.
Almost always, checking weather forecasts is a critical part of one’s day. Even ocean weather forecasts are occasionally debated. There isn’t a day that goes by without someone having an opinion about it. And yet, the weather forecast is an often misunderstood subject abundant in myths and misconceptions. Here are a few of these fallacies that are often misconstrued as facts.
1. Weather Forecasting is Pure Science
Most people assume that weather forecasting only depends on an empirical formula based on direct information and exact computation of observed phenomena. Terms such as “doppler radar” and “satellite data” may appear as brainwork made by intelligent alien forms. Complicated algorithms and diverse scientific computations involved in weather prediction seem to be pointing to plain hard science.
Apparently, this isn’t so. Though highly advanced and developed, computers can only produce approximate descriptions of the earth’s atmosphere. And this is where human intervention plays an integral part in the weather business. For example, a forecaster’s artistic imagination is vital in interpreting 3-D weather patterns. Moreover, their own creativity and judgment in processing data information is a skill that leads to a more credible and reliable report when combined with science.
2. Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice
If you’ve recently experienced a mishap, this age-old saying can provide much-needed comfort. But did you know that this statement is untrue and definitely unsupported by science? Lightning, in fact, can hit a place, not just twice, but multiple times— and more so when a structure is tall and isolated.
A specific example of this is the Empire State Building which is hit an average of 25 to 100 times a year. Science tells us that when lightning strikes, there is a discharge of strong electricity that breaks through ionized air. It travels downwards and only stops until it hits the ground. This rapid process takes only about 30 milliseconds to accomplish, then it repeats itself almost instantaneously. This fact enables us to understand that lightning bolts can be experienced multiple times. Knowing the truth about this dangerous myth might dampen the spirit of a person recovering from a bad situation—but for weather-related safety issues, this can be life-saving.
3. Weather apps are perfectly reliable
In this busy world, checking for weather updates through your mobile phone app is most likely the most convenient way to do so. Though they’re easy to use and very accessible, did you know that your smartphone weather app can be very unreliable? Take note that the information you see from a particular weather app may differ from another weather app. The discrepancies may arise from meteorologists having diverse experiences and skills. In fact, most weather apps do not agree with each other, further strengthening the idea that your weather emojis have to be verified by more credible weather reporting stations such as the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
4. Long-range forecasts are in the range of accurate predictability
Another misconception that most people believe to be true is that weather can be predicted weeks or months in advance. Though some long-term global forecasts may be correct, they are only marginally accurate most of the time. Why so? Blame it on the constant changes in the atmosphere that make future data collection virtually impossible to do. Weather forecasters must rely on estimates and calculations on existing weather patterns, which also fluctuate.
So how far in advance can the weather be predicted accurately? According to studies, a five-day weather prediction is most likely 90% to be true, while a seven-day forecast can be 80% accurate. If it’s more than 10 days in advance, the accuracy rate goes down to 50%.
Bottom line: Allow a large margin of error in predicting next month’s weather. Don’t shop for clothes for that planned vacation way in advance. Otherwise, you may just end up with a suitcase full of new and unused coats and jackets.
5. Female Weather Forecasters are Ditzy Airheads
Female weather forecasters or “weather girls” are negatively viewed as women who lack education and credentials in the “serious” field of newscasting. In this modern age of women empowerment, you would be amazed at how gender inequality still exists at many societal levels, including in the weather forecasting arena. Unfortunately, women forecasters just can’t seem to escape the stigma from this demeaning public perception.
The truth is, most of these women are some of the most well-educated professionals in the world. For example, did you know that you need to at least be a Bachelor’s degree holder in Meteorology or Atmospheric Science to become a weather forecaster? Quite easy, right? You just need to study several units of Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Physics, and Computer Science. And that’s just for starters…So the next time you chance upon a female weather forecaster, it may be a good idea to show them the respect they deserve.