Opinion: Weather woes

POSTED: 02/28/12 1:41 PM

Apart from the more attractive parts of the female anatomy, nothing gets the rightwing Dutch newspaper the Telegraaf going more than the weather. And when it comes to grabbing the attention of its readers even facts about that weather have to take a backseat on occasion.

This weekend was a fine example. On Sunday, the Telegraaf gave its readers a rather upbeat message: temperatures in April could easily hit 30 degrees Celcius. The next day readers had to swallow the following headline: Wintery weather lurks.

So what is it? A staff writer at the Volkskrant analyzed the first report in the Telegraaf and concluded that it was just a load of nonsense, not to use other expressions.

The report about a hot April stems from a weather map – the IRI multi-model probability forecast for temperature for March-April-May 2012. That map gives an indication about the probability that it gets warmer or colder than average for the time of the year. The forecasters calculates the chance that it will get warmer than average at 55 percent.

The writer at the Telegraaf apparently saw red when he (or she) read that figure and concluded that the average temperature would be 55 percent higher than normal. That was the basis for promised readers 30 degrees in April.

And why pick on April in the first place? The weather map that was used as the basis for the story covers three months, so the Telegraaf could also have written that March and May had the potential to become abnormally hot.

The reality is that there is a 55 percent chance that the weather will be warmer than average, but there is no indication about how much warmer it will get. Using the same map as the source, it is possible to say that these three months have a 30 percent chance of normal temperatures, and a 15 percent chance of being colder than average.

Meteorologists say that it is simply impossible to make long term predictions about actual temperatures. Forecasters are only able to give more or less accurate temperature indications a few days in advance, and at most two weeks in advance.

The next couple of days the weather in the Netherlands is unusually mild. The normal average temperature is 7 to 8 degrees, but the thermometer will rise above 10 and later this week it could become 15 degrees in the south.

The Telegraaf in the meantime keeps hitting its readers with new disaster scenarios. Winter weather lurks, a headline read yesterday, not even 24 hours after the hot-April prediction. The beginning of March promises to be not mild at all. Later wintery cold makes an attempt to enter our country. Snow and frost are an option in next week’s weather maps, the paper’s weatherman wrote in a rather gloomy forecast. After the weekend, Telegraaf-readers are now counting on snow again, and temperatures will drop to around 4 degrees. It is out of the question that we will see temperatures of 15 degrees or more towards the end of this week, as some meteo-services have predicted, the weatherman sneered.

Practically ignoring his own report of a day earlier, the weatherman wrote yesterday that in Belgium there were “effortless speculations” that temperatures in April could reach 30 degrees or more.

And so it goes: the Telegraaf creates its own reality day in day out. With average temperatures between 23 and 31 degrees all through the year, St. Maarten does not have to deal with such predictions. If it rains, we know that most of the time it will be dry soon. If there is a hurricane on the way, we know what to do. And on days it really gets too hot, we simply switch on the airco.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Weather woes by

Comments are closed.