Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How Did We Give So Much Warning of The Catastrophic Flooding?

On Sunday, a reporter said to me, pertaining to Joaquin and the disastrous rains in South Carolina, "I guess these things aren't really predictable." As you can imagine, I took strong exception. I often speak and write about how weather science has tamed the weather. There is no better example than the warning provided on the catastrophic rains that have occurred in the Carolinas.

Here is the forecast posted on this blog at 4:44pm Wednesday, two full days before the heavy rains began falling anywhere in the state:
It explicitly said more than a foot of rain could fall. The highest probability of the heaviest rains were shown across South Carolina. The forecast got more and more alarming as we got closer to the onset of the heavy rains Friday night and Saturday. Evacuation procedures and locations for pre-evacuation preparation were provided.

This advance in weather science capability is remarkable. As one railroad person put it:

Here is a comparison of what actually fell versus the above forecast (yellow line). The rose color = 7" or more. White = more than 16 inches. I think you'll agree the forecast was, as one put it, "spot on."

Extreme floods of this nature used to kill hundreds of people. Currently, the death toll is reported to be 14.

The advance warnings were a combination of the talent of experienced, well-trained meteorologists, state-of-the-art computer models and weather satellite observations of the air with the extremely high moisture content that would be forced to move northwest over South Carolina. When a forecast of this nature must be made, the meteorologists get extremely apprehensive because of the "out on a limb" nature of these forecasts of extreme conditions.

The National Weather Service, AccuWeather, and other meteorological organizations should be congratulated for their lifesaving work. 

Meteorology is, by far, the most successful predictive science...at an annual cost of less than a Big Mac.

I especially encourage you to drop a note to the TV meteorologist in the Carolinas you were watching for coverage of the storms. I'm certain they put in incredible hours under great stress behind-the-scenes and would appreciate the recognition. 

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