Sunday, May 13, 2012

Story About Meteorologists and Odds: WSJ Gets It 80% Right

The Wall Street Journal Saturday had a story about judging risk. It discussed meteorologists' superior ability in this regard. It was nice for our field to get some recognition.

Sure enough, when researchers measured the risk intelligence of American forecasters a decade later, they found it ranked among the highest ever recorded...

My only quibbles with the story are where it describes meteorologists as "only" (their word) making forecasts on a "narrow" range of topics while describing supposedly more difficult tasks for physicians like, "is this rib broken?" A rib is right in front of the doctor: It tangible and can be touched. Meteorologists, on the other hand, are forecasting whether air and water molecules will come together in the future to produce dangerous, perhaps life-threatening, conditions. I contend -- strongly -- the latter is the more challenging task.

And that brings me to my other criticism of the article. We don't only forecast the probability of it raining tomorrow. If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you've seen probabilistic forecasts of tornadoes, hail, and amount of snow among others. The accuracy of an extreme probabilistic forecast of tornadoes last month is discussed here. For those that desire them, weather science is producing more and more forecasts in a probabilistic format.

Overall, the article was pretty good. They got it 80% right.

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