A Change in the Weather

So this annoying spring snowstorm is ending and prompts me to think how much weather forecasting has changed during my time in the Boston area. The Blizzard of ’78 was my first winter in town. And it was indeed a flat catastrophe. (But I do predict it will start to fade more rapidly now that last winter was like a Blizzard of ’78 that lasted six weeks.) What’s most striking to me is how much the attitude toward weather forecasting has changed. Indeed back in the ’70s a lot of it around here seemed hardly better than educated guesses. The thrust of the times was “the science has to get a lot, lot better.” With computer data storage and modeling, it has. But now people want an almost religious, unchanging certainty to predictions. Weatherfolks used to be throwing darts an hour before a storm and now the audience is outraged if a storm pops up a week ahead when yesterday there was nothing.

I admit that wild fluctuations like those around this oddity (which is part of what I think clearly has become a more extreme and erratic climate) can be nerve-wracking. Like they say, you can’t make plans decently. What’s most unnerving, though, is that people are comfortable only with never-reliable or always-infallible information sources.

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