Thursday, August 16, 2007

weather predictions - still an inexact science

I am supposed to be on a plane right now - soaring through the skies en route to a well-deserved vacation on the west coast.

But here I sit, in my SPI office trying to wrap my head around the difference between the weather we are supposed to be having - ( “Likely Thunderstorms, Likely Rain Showers” 70%, with 19 mph winds) - and the actual conditions I just enjoyed on a pre-dawn dog walk - (starry skies with nary a hint of breeze.) promises “Definite” Thunderstorms by 10 AM. Looking at the radar, I wonder what alternate reality they are basing this prediction upon.

There were several sets of circumstances that contributed to the decision to cancel my trip this morning - most notably this guy named Dean spinning away in the Atlantic - but another was the the nice lady at Continental who told me late last night that my 5:15 flight out of Brownsville was very likely to be delayed or even cancelled altogether due to the predicted storm conditions. Sitting in an airport wondering when or even if I am ever going to get to my destination is very close to my personal vision of hell. So I bailed.

Maybe it will be storming like crazy on SPI at 10 AM, but right now it sure doesn’t look like it. And that makes me wonder about how many other people “voluntarily evacuated” SPI and their vacation plans for the weekend, based upon a weather prediction that at this moment appears to have no basis in reality. Like me, I reckon they are feeling a bit cheated. I was looking forward to a consolation prize of wind, rain, and drama!

At the moment it is looking like my plants aren’t even going to get a good watering.


Blogger Sam said...

I'm sorry to hear that, Feets. You did identify two major problems, though. One's the weather prognosticators and the other is the flight management system. Both were heavily computerized and few people are actually left at the switch, which is why these kinds of things happen.

The National Weather Service only has a few people left and the shots are called in places like Oklahoma City (severe weather center), Miami (NOAA hurricane center), and regional offices. The reason why you're having a Bob Dylan Moment (don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows) is because there are no people left to simply look out the darn window!

Now flight management is in a similar bind as well, were large numbers of FAA controllers were replaced by huge computers. The local airport folks only handle local approaches and airplane taxi functions - if you fly to California you need to clear that with a super computer in Oklahoma again (sorry, I must be a UT Longhorn). I've heard the pilots argue with FAA long-range and try to file alternative flight plans, usually to no avail. Open skies, sunny, and a clear shot and they can't even get off the ground! Imagine how the pilots feel.

It's enough to make you want to shut off the computer and go play on the beach.

11:15 AM  

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