On Weather Forecasts

Wisdom from a cherry grower.

Last night, I checked the weather forecast on the National Weather Service Web site for the area I’m in. It showed hot and sunny every day and clear every night for the next week.

I went to bed.

This morning, as usual, I started my day by checking the weather forecast at the same source. Overnight, the forecast had changed to a 20% chance of showers today, tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow night.

Whoa.

I tracked down my client at his packing shed, bringing along a map of the orchard’s blocks. They’d started picking on Saturday and if it rained, I wanted to know which blocks I could skip. Unfortunately (for him), they’re picking by color and haven’t finished picking any of the blocks. So if it rained, I’d be drying all 86 acres again.

I said, “Well, it’s only a 20% chance of rain. The way I understand that is that it’ll rain on 20% of the area. This might not be in that 20%.”

He liked that. “I heard a saying about weather forecasts,” he told me. “Weather forecasts are too important to ignore, but not reliable enough to depend on.”

That says it all.

Meanwhile, I just checked the weather again. 30% chance of rain here tonight and now that 20% has stretched out to two more days.

And that brings up another point. Quite often, at the end of a cherry drying contract, if a grower isn’t done picking, he’ll check the weather before deciding whether he wants a pilot’s contract to be extended. If the forecast looks good, he’ll cut the pilot loose to save on standby pay, leaving his remaining crop unprotected.

Just imagine that grower if the all clear forecast I’d seen yesterday turned to this within 24 hours — after the pilot was gone:

Weather Forecast

What do you think?