Farmers should forget about fallible forecasters and simply keep a weather eye on their flocks

Swimming weather tomorrow? Baa, humbug!

It is a measure of the fallibility of forecasters that a bunch of the buggers could be seen jumping for joy on MetService’s roof on Monday.

Celebrating what, exactly?

Ha! They were celebrating getting it right.

They had accurately forecast the Wellington snowfall.

If Alf were to celebrate every time he got something right, he would be permanently pissed. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea.

Mind you, the weather forecasters don’t seem to have larruped into any booze, when they did their celebrating, which is a very strange way of celebrating.

The Stuff report cied above tells –

… they took time out from a busy workload to leap around and yell in the midst of the snow flurries on the roof of the weather centre in Kelburn on Monday, spokesman Bob McDavitt said yesterday.

“But that’s forecasters for you.”

Frankly, Alf believes this is highly suspicious behaviour – if they had not been drinking – which strongly suggests weather forecasters are best given a wide berth.

McDavitt went on to say they worked in a bit of a “pattern world”, continuously measuring patterns and updating observations,

…but all too aware chaos could disrupt even the most accurate predictions – and clouds were chaotic.

“We measure the pattern, we work that pattern, and the pattern does everything we want it to do. It is the chaos that jiggles the pattern and can cause different outcomes.

“When you talk about the future, nobody really knows what’s going to happen, not 100 per cent.”

And so the forecasting of the snow storms has been a somewhat cautious business.

Chief forecaster Peter Kreft said signs of this week’s storm were evident as early as Tuesday last week, but they were not sure exactly what they were seeing back then. “It became clearer on Wednesday but at that stage we still couldn’t be too specific. That came as the event approached. We don’t go issuing warnings like that without knowing for sure.”

Presumably they didn’t know for sure what would be happening in Auckland.

WeatherWatch spokesman Philip Duncan is quoted as saying MetService did an exceptional job predicting the storm.

But he was proud of WeatherWatch for being the only one to forecast snowflakes in Auckland on Monday.

This raises a problem.

When two lots of forecasters are at work, and one foresees snowflakes in Aucikland but the other doesn’t – well, which one should we believe?

Frankly, Alf would forget about the forecasters and keep an eye on the sheep.

He is confident that’s what Ele would do, down there at the Homepaddock, because she is an eminently sensible person.

It seems that over thousands of years of watching over their sheep, shepherds have noticed a thing or two about how they react to environmental stimuli like oncoming storms.

Like cows, sheep can sense minute differences in their environment and sudden changes in temperature, humidity and air pressure seem to invoke anxiety. Clustering together before a storm strikes helps keep sheep warm and prevents stragglers from drifting away.

But being outperformed by sheep won’t stop the forecasters.

Alf recalls a news item a month or so back that said weather forecasts that miss storms or sometimes just plain get it wrong could soon be an annoyance of the past.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research scientists were working on new modelling systems they hope will bring unparalleled accuracy to predicting severe storms and flooding.

The results of trials should be known in a few months, setting up New Zealand to become the second country in the world after Britain to use the systems.

Niwa principal scientist Michael Uddstrom said weather models predicted the intense rainfall that flooded parts of Porirua on Sunday, but though they got the timing and intensity right, they got the place wrong by putting the location of heavy rain to the north and over the sea.

The item was deliciously headed More accurate weather forecasts predicted

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