|WHAT THE PUBLIC / PRIVATE SECTOR|
NEEDS IN A FORECAST
METEOROLOGIST JEFF HABY
Most weather forecasts are targeted to one of four areas. These include the private sector, agriculture, the
general public and other meteorologists. The private sector includes clients such as oil refineries, fruit
and vegetable growers, cattle ranchers, casinos, airlines, ski resorts, electric companies, entertainment,
railroads, newspapers and so forth. Much of the forecasting for the private sector is done through large
specialized forecast businesses such as AccuWeather, The Weather Channel and WeatherData. The aim is
to save businesses money
by preparing them for upcoming weather situations (especially
severe weather and
winter storms) and through
accurate temperature forecasts. The forecasts are often specialized to the clients needs. The amount of
forecast specialization determines the cost of the services rendered. Examples of situations a business would
need severe weather information include: (1) A car lot being forewarned that a hail storm is approaching (2)
Transportation impacts on big rigs and trains (3) Warning a ceremony that severe weather is approaching.
The second area is agriculture. Through the weather services' modernization, agriculture forecasting has
been gradually given to the private sector. Much of the forecasting for agriculture is done by consulting
businesses and "in house" meteorologists. However, a large percentage of daily forecast information is gathered
from sources such as TV, radio, newspaper and the Internet. Agriculturists are interested in subjects such as
the weather and climate's impact on crop prices, supply and demand of crops, soil moisture, soil temperature,
precipitation forecasts, frost/ freeze
forecasts, threshold temperatures, growing degree days, bug infestations,
extended weather forecasts and so forth. The weather will determine when spraying for bugs or fertilizing will
be most appropriate.
It is the general public that broadcast meteorologists target to the greatest percentage. While clients
of consulting companies use weather information to primarily save money, the general public is more interested
in topics such as: What should I wear tomorrow? Do I need to leave early for work? What will the weather be
like for the weekend picnic? Do I need to take an umbrella? What weather disasters occurred today? How should
I plan for the next severe weather situation or ice storm? And as a last example, Will I be able to have my
outdoor plans? The general public uses weather information for PREPARATION just as do consulting meteorology
clients. The forecaster that prepares the viewers the best and makes them feel good is often successful at
building a reputation as a respectable weather forecaster. If the forecaster gives the general public an
umbrella when they need it, dresses them properly for the warm and cold, gives severe weather information
first and most accurately, and has a friendly attitude toward the viewer will again build an accurate
forecast reputation. On air personality is also critical to building a friendly reputation.
These are the five bits of weather information the public as a whole is interested in:
1. When and how much is it going to rain/snow?
2. How will temperatures change the next few days?
3. How much sunshine or cloud cover will we get?
4. How windy is it and how will the wind make me feel?
5. What is the air quality (relevant most to large cities)?
The public expects accuracy and consistent accuracy in forecasts. This is not to say the forecasts have
to be perfect every time, but they should be in the ball park every time. Never give the target audience
unachievable promises. Unachievable promises turn into busted forecasts and in the long term destroy your
trust with your clients or viewers. An example would be "the 3-day high and low temperature will always be
accurate to within one degree".
The public and clients also expect to be called into action when weather will influence their lives. They
expect you to "take charge" and tell them what they should do. Examples of calling the public to action
include: (1) Wall to wall coverage when severe weather is influencing a viewing area (2) Getting severe
weather warning to clients or viewers ASAP (3) Telling people how to drive in a winter weather situations
Forecasts can also be used by other meteorologists. Once developing a forecast of your own, other forecasts
can be used to compare to your forecast. Examples include broadcast meteorologists watching the competitions'
forecast, meteorologists studying and researching NWS forecasts and clients using more than one source for
weather information (e.g. "in-house" meteorologist comparing his/her forecast to others). An in-house meteorologist
is employed by the business they are forecasting for.
This is a list of businesses and important weather information they need:
POWER COMPANY: 1. accurate temperature forecast, 2. lightning forecast
3. High wind situations, 4. freezing rain and icing situations
Crews need to be on stand-by during high wind (e.g.
hurricanes), lightning and freezing rain situations
in order to restore power promptly. Temperature forecasts can be used to determine how many units of energy
to buy. Too few or too many units of energy bought will result in a waste of money and ultimately higher
cost to the consumer.
DEEP SEA OIL COMPANY: 1. Wave reports 2. Tropical advisories
3. Thunderstorms 4. Ocean currents
Large waves (either by thunderstorm complexes or tropical systems) can severely disrupt production.
Workers need to be evacuated before severe weather strikes
FRUIT AND VEGETABLE GROWER: 1. Rain amount 2. Accurate temperature forecasts
(especially freezing and very hot temperatures) 3. Soil moisture 4. Long term
drought or heavy rain 5.
Sunshine hours 6. Severe weather (wind and hail)
Plants have certain temperature and moisture thresholds that must be met. Long range forecasts help
determine which crops to grow. Frost/freeze advisories are critical. Protection such as wind blowers
or latent heat release can save crops from freeze damage. Precipitation influences bug spraying and
SKI RESORT: 1. Porosity of falling snow 2. Snow amount (and intensity) 3. Wind conditions 4.
UV conditions 5. Temperature forecasts and
wind chill 6. Avalanche advisories
The amount of skiers is a function of snow fall and snow quality. Temperature forecasts determine snow
quality and precipitation forecasts determine snow intensity, amount, and duration.
AIRLINES: 1. Severe weather 2. Winter weather, no matter how minor 3.
Fog (visibility in general) 4.
Wind speed and direction at all levels in the atmosphere (any turbulence)
Weather is extremely critical to prevent accidents and liability. Strict caution is taken in severe weather,
low visibility or winter weather situations. Upper air wind can be used to map routes in order to save gas and
time. De-icers must be ready in cases of wing icing.
SITE WHERE MOVIE SCENES ARE FILMED: 1. Temperature and precipitation 2. Cloud cover
3. Severe weather 4. Wind
Weather consistency is important to movies since one scene of a movie may be shot over a period of several
days. Scenes tend to be shot in dry areas since precipitation and cloud cover inconsistency won't continuously
delay shootings. The weather will determine costumes and which scenes may need to be shot in-doors
or on location.