The dangers of sharing long-range snow forecasts

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — As the accessibility of weather data continues to expand, so does the number of sites aiming to hype up large snow events over a week in advance. The publishing of these maps too far in advance exposes the dangers of long-term snow forecasting in search of clicks on social media.

Michelle Drouin is a Professor of Psychology at Purdue Fort Wayne and has studied all forms of media for over a decade.

“Fear appeal is something that really will appeal to people,” said Drouin, “So if people have something to get worked up over, they likely will.”

Drawing up fear is the goal of social media posts and maps that show snowstorms that are over a week out. The sharing of these maps is irresponsible due to the inaccuracies with long-range forecasting.

“As you get to the longer forecast ranges, and especially looking at individual models. Those are just based on the initial conditions of the atmosphere,” explained Nathan Marsili, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Northern Indiana, “These storms that are being forecast seven to ten days out still either haven’t developed yet or over the ocean, where there’s not a way to get a good initial condition. So the models have trouble trying to forecast how that’s going to evolve.”

Drouin says the opportunity for users to be anonymous allows these posts to become common.

“I think sometimes, disinformation stems from boredom, people want to, you know, cause havoc and this is a way to do so,” Drouin added, “They can do it on a larger scale than if they’re just bothering a neighbor or person who’s walking by.”

As with everything on the web, it is important to trust the source. WANE 15 or the National Weather Service makes accuracy a priority. As trained meteorologists, we understand how to interpret the models and responsibly share the information.

“Sometimes there’s a really good agreement and the based on your pattern you’re in that you can have a significant storm, you can have that confidence five to six days ahead of time,” Marsili said, “But there are other situations where we could have a narrow band of heavy snow, that that’s going to depend more on very small scale factors that you can’t have confidence in that far out into the future. So that might be more of a day, even one, two days before the event to really start messaging it.”

The goal of the LIVE Doppler 15 Fury Storm Team is to inform you when we feel confident in a winter storm arriving, by sharing posts on social media and updates on wane dot com. Typically our maps will start off broad but become more detailed within a couple of days of the event. You can always find the latest forecast information here.

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