Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Seriously, Weather Channel. Why Are You?

I will put it very, very bluntly: The Weather Channel has lost whatever purpose it once had, at least in Chattanooga, but, I suspect, all over the country.

It was a novel idea once.  A channel devoted strictly to weather.  And if you have elderly parents or grandparents, then you know that its original, slavish followers were that older set who make decisions for their entire extended families based on the weather.

This generation, and the succeeding generations who have aged themselves into it, suddenly had a way to see weather crises all over the country all at once, so that they could warn children not to come for Christmas or call up out of the blue with sage advice about possible tornadoes.  It is because of The Weather Channel that we all found it necessary to learn the difference between a "tornado watch" and a "tornado warning."  It was so we could fend off these WC acolytes.

But that was then.  Last Tuesday night, in what was probably the 50th such instance this year, I sat at a Rolling Stones concert in Atlanta, unable to get get into the pre-concert excitement because I was so worried about the weather.  The Weather Channel-based app on my phone told me that there was an 80-90% chance of thunderstorms during the show, and we were sitting, uncovered, exposed, high up in the Georgia Tech stadium, our umbrella having been confiscated at the entrance.  While others were watching the roadies getting the stage ready or the incessant crowd moving up and down the stairs in front of us, I could look only at the sky.  Which was darkening.

But it was darkening because it was nearly 9 o'clock at night, and whatever thunderstorms might have been coming were no longer in the picture.  When I checked my phone, it told me the same thing.  Storms that had held steady on my phone app all day, even for a day or so before, had suddenly disappeared from the app.  All of a sudden, skies would be clear for the entire show.

I took great comfort in this, but I don't really know why.  Because the app said so?  Because the network said so?

Days later, again for about the 50th time this year, the secretary in the office next to mine walked in and said, "I'd been wondering what that noise was.  Well, look, it's rain!"

"Rain," I said, "It isn't supposed to rain."  And I pulled out my phone to confirm that, yes, there was 0% chance of rain in Chattanooga as the two of us stood and watched a torrential downpour.

Now, I know Chattanooga is a difficult city in which to predict the weather.  It always has been, because of the mountains.  As a teacher, I have enjoyed any number of snow days when it never snowed.

But something has changed.  Really.  Sure, it has always been hard to predict whether a snow/rain front coming this way will be cold enough for snow and how much.  But something else has changed.  If you sit somewhere with your Weather Channel-based phone app and just watch it for awhile, it will alter before your eyes.  Days of rain are suddenly gone, temperatures are of by not just a few degrees, surprise storms sneak in.

This is not to criticize the channel.  I think it still meets its goal of scaring the shit out of the elderly with overhyped, potentially-terrifying weather events.  But if it does indeed have a secondary goal of giving people in the different parts of the country an indication of what will be happening in their area on any given day, then I think it fails miserably.

And I don't blame the channel.  Now, I know some of you cannot admit to global warming for political reasons or the simple need to save face, but, dude, things is different than they used to be.  They simply are.  And much as we all might like to embrace the conservative ethic and return to things as they once were, that ain't happens', at least not with the weather.

In case you aren't paying attention, our weather patterns are changing rapidly in ways that even professionals don't seem to be able to keep up with.  You don't believe me?  All you have to do isto check your phone and to watch predicted reality change itself many, many, many times each day.  And don't plan on planning anything.

If I'm wrong, it doesn't matter.  The Weather Channel still isn't doing you right, if you want to know how to plan your day.

1 comment:

rodle said...

It's not just the Weather Channel...it's all meteorology. That's why I'm encouraging William to follow that career path. Not only is he passionate about the weather, but being a weatherman seems to be a job whose security is connected not at all to providing accurate forecasts.