10.1 Another Spin on the “Weather Ready Nation” Concept

Friday, 20 June 2014: 10:30 AM
Alpine Ballroom (Resort at Squaw Creek)
H. Michael Mogil, The Learningworks Foundation, Naples, FL

Meteorologists and teachers – what do they have in common and why are they are always blamed for failure?

Marshall Shepherd (immediate past AMS president) posted numerous times on Facebook following the January 28, 2014 Atlanta snowstorm. His comments fit perfectly into what I would like offer to the AMS Weathercasters as a discussion opportunity. Consider this posting:

“Did you see this? This seems to be very common. The forecast is accurate but when things go bad due to the human decision processes then it is a ‘bad forecast'. We have a similar environment on the Plains when SPC talks about a large outbreak of severe weather and then after the event the media uses the phrase ‘surprise storms hit the area'”

Teachers are in the same position. They are blamed for any failure in school, even it isn't their fault.

So, what about these two professions (there are others that fit here, as well) sets the stage for such blame?

It's really easy to see. For years, teachers have been asked to do everything other than teach. They are responsible for everything that happens in their classroom, even without the authority to really do anything about it.

This includes discipline, learning, improved test scores, differentiated instruction, walking on water and more.

Sidebar to meteorology. In the guise of a, “Weather Ready Nation” (and most of you know that I am a disaster preparedness maven; I have been doing it since the mid 1970's) we have asked the meteorological community to trespass onto the territory of emergency managers, state and local highway departments and others.

In the late January 2014 Atlanta snow event, for example, the forecasts, watches and warnings were all “spot on.” Yet the NWS and TV meteorologists were the ones urging no driving, careful driving, stocking up on supplies and similar safety actions. Shouldn't the purveyors of weather forecasts have been linking to pages developed by state and local officials, the Red Cross and others that gave out these rules. Shouldn't the NWS and TV meteorologists be attributing these safety actions to others who are charged with providing them?

So, by getting caught up in the safety angles, meteorologists are now linked to the human, societal, social and economic impacts of the equation, even if they aren't really responsible.

I'm not saying that we meteorologists shouldn't be providing the safety information. I'm saying that we should be attributing it, not owning it.

Further, with the Internet everywhere, wouldn't it be easier for the NWS and TV meteorologists to refer people to web pages for information, rather than provide long lists repeating what is already posted elsewhere?

I hope this paper provokes some useful discussion concerning what the mission of meteorologists should really be.

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