Weather reporters are never wrong, really

Jim Lee

I am often kidded about guessing wrong when I do the weather on the radio. Well, I am hereby informing the world my forecasts are never wrong. Unlike mere mortals, weather reporter guys are never wrong. True, we are not always right, but we are never wrong.
What’s the difference? Sorry, I can’t tell you because it’s a trade secret. If I violated this principle I would be forced to double-park in Philadelphia — and we all know how ugly that could turn out to be.
As my friend Bob Pierce points out, scattered showers could mean rain drops falling several inches apart. Partly cloudy skies may indicate a Communist plot disguising mostly sunny conditions. As any reasonable person will readily say, I am never in error about the weather. When my predictions turn out to be incredibly accurate, I simply take credit for the accomplishment. When these reports appear a bit off the mark, I promptly blame it on the U.S. Weather Service. It seems fair to me.
Consequently, some people actually assume I know what I am doing. In all fairness, I should say these are people who don’t know me very well. I should say that, but I won’t because I have no intention of confessing to meteorological fallibility. So, on occasion, weather questions get thrown in my direction. Here are some of the things people commonly ask about.
The difference between a watch and a warning can be quite confusing. A watch is when conditions indicate the possibility of bad weather developing. A warning is when it is already going on.
In the next couple of months or so we’ll be thinking of things like freezing rain and sleet. Freezing rain occurs when rain falls but freezes after it hits the ground. Sleet is moisture which has frozen before it hits the ground.
A wind chill factor is the combination of temperature and wind causing the loss of body heat, wind chill of 30F or lower being a frostbite hazard.
This time of year generally indicates a strong possibility of strong storms, and we wonder what meteorologists mean by wall clouds, funnel clouds, and tornadoes.
An area of clouds that extends under a bad thunderstorm is called a wall cloud. The time for concern is when it starts rotating.
A funnel cloud is a spinning column of air above the ground and coming from a cloud. If it reaches the ground it’s called a tornado.
People often ask about dew point and virga, too. Dew point, according to the National Weather Service, is “the temperature to which air must be cooled at a constant pressure to become saturated.” Virga looks like streaks of water from distant clouds. It is actually rain (or other precipitation) that evaporates before reaching the ground.
By the way, a cyclone is not a big storm; it’s just an area of low pressure.
I hope that answers some weather questions. For those few who question my infallibility, check out a couple of weather service web sites:
www.weca.org/nws-terms.html
or www.noaa.nws.gov

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail:
dr_james_lee@hotmail.com