Weather Forecasting: A Bad Joke?

Each “source” of weather tells a different story.

My work this summer is highly dependent on weather. Simply stated, if the weather is picture perfect and there’s no chance of rain, I pretty much have the day off to do what I like. But if there’s any chance of rain, I need to stick around my base just in case rain starts. And if it’s raining, I go to work.

So, as I mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I’m really in tune with the weather.

Or at least I try to be.

The trouble is, I track the weather using multiple sources on my computer, iPhone, and iPad. And it’s very seldom that they all agree.

Today is a perfect example. Here are screenshots for the various sources, all captured within the save 5-minute period. What interests me is what it says for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service website is my preferred source of weather data. It’s a no-frills site that doesn’t have very good weather graphics — radar, etc. — but does have well-described weather forecast data.

National Weather Service Forecast

Note that in this forecast, they’re showing a 20% chance of rain on Monday.

The Weather Channel

Everyone loves the Weather Channel website. I don’t. It’s full of ads and info that most people who are serious about weather forecasts has no interest in. But it is a source of weather info and I do occasionally consult it — usually for radar graphics.

The Weather Channel Forecast

Note that this forecast indicates a 20% chance of rain on Sunday and only 10% on Monday.

Intellicast

Intellicast is the pessimist of weather forecasting. I’ve discovered that if any forecast shows a chance of rain, it’ll be Intellicast. I use the Intellicast app on my iPad, but there’s also an ad-heavy website.

Intellicast Forecast

In this case, Intellicast matches the Weather Channel’s forecast regarding rain: 20% Sunday and 10% Monday.

WeatherBug

WeatherBug ForecastI use Weather Bug on my iPad and WeatherBug Elite on my iPhone. They usually have the same forecast.

This screenshot is from the iPad version. It’s showing a 20% chance of rain on Monday, just like the National Weather Service. As you might imagine, the iPhone version shows the same information (although in a different way).

Which One is Right?

In this example, at least there is some agreement between the different programs. The way I read this is that rain is possible sometime on either Sunday or Monday or both. Chances are slim but is possible — at least as of now.

Of course, I’ll watch all of these sources throughout today and tomorrow to see how they change. These forecasts will change. They were, after all, different yesterday.

Will they ever all agree? No. I’ve experienced rain when the forecast for one said no rain and another said there was a 10% chance.

Monday, July 25, was a good example. I went to bed on Sunday after seeing a 10% to 20% chance of isolated thunderstorms for Monday, yet was awakened at 4:30 AM on Monday by a pouring rain that didn’t really let up until 2 PM that afternoon. All the pilots flew all day that day; it was a nightmarish situation where all the orchards got wet and needed service. (I also got calls from orchard owners who weren’t under contract with me, begging me to come. I couldn’t — I service my clients first and it took all day to take care of them. A lot of cherries were lost that day.)

So I’ll be watching the weather closely for the next few days, never wandering far from base.

Who knows? Maybe tomorrow raindrops on my rooftop will put me on active standby before my morning coffee.

What do you think?