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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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The joke that is weather forecasting

3 December 2018

I'm getting sick and tired of these cold mornings and rainy days during a time when we ought to be starting to see protracted periods of warmer, drier weather.

Whilst late spring and early summer are undoubtedly subject to variable weather conditions, I'm tiring of gray skies and drizzle now.

Even more tiresome is the invariably wrong seasonal forecasts/outlooks posted by "the experts" such as NIWA or the Met Service.

According to the Met service's November 2018 outlook:

"The second half of the month will be characterised by a settled Southern Ocean with occasional Tasman Lows affecting North Island. This leads to generally drier than average conditions, especially in the south"

Yes, right... about that "drier than average" conditions and "settled Southern Ocean"...

But Niwa, with its sparkling array of new supercomputing technology were no better.

The NIWA outlook summary for November 2018 proudly claimed "Below normal or near normal rainfall is forecast for most regions of New Zealand".

I have to ask.. do these guys ever get out of the office to take a look at the skies they forecast?

Then there's this whole "probability" aspect to forecasting. It's a bit like having a dollar each way really.

We're being told, according to NIWA, that there's a 45% chance of the temperature being "above average" for November 2018 through January 2019.

So what they're actually saying is "there's more chance of normal or colder temperatures being encountered during this period".

If your forecast has less than an even chance of being right... one must question the validity of even making said forecast in the first place.

How about this instead:

"Good evening, here is the weather

The forecast for tomorrow is for clear skies and warmer than average temperatures... but we're probably wrong.

Okay, perhaps I'm being unfair. We all know that due to its location on the planet, its abundance of microclimates and the still not completely understood effects of climate change, forecasting the weather and the climate outlook is as much an art as a science. These guys are the experts and it's unlikely that anyone else could do the job better -- certainly not Ken Ring (anyone remember him?).

However, I fail to see the sense in forecasters even wasting their time with things like "seasonal outlooks" and 10-day forecasts when the probabilities of them being correct are so often well below 50%.

Perhaps they should just say "we've got no bleeding idea... you're on your own but, if it's raining, please feel free to log into our supercomputer and play Fortnite.".

What do readers think? Do I just have SAD due to all the crappy weather over the past couple of weeks?

Am I lacking seratonin due to the lack of sunlight?

Or am I just overly-worried by the fact that my feet are developing webs between the toes as a result of constantly walking through puddles?

Maybe the weather is better where you live... if so, can I come stay at your house? :-)

But on a more serious note, which weather model do you find most accurate -- since there are quite a few competing models all running on supercomputers around the world. Here in NZ Metservice seems to run one set of models while VUW runs a different model -- or at least it seems to, given how many times the predictions of each service are at odds with each other.

Which is the most reliable and accurate?

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