Summer's not that far off, so I'm starting to hear a lot of "Will this be a really hot summer?"

When long-range forecasts are reported on the news, they're usually presented in a highly simplified way. Typically, a prediction such as "warmer-than-average" or "wetter-than-normal" is given without any qualification, and no indication of how confident forecasters really are in their prediction.

In reality, long-range outlooks from the National Weather Service are issued as probabilities that the climate will lean one way or the other, say towards colder-than-average or drier-than-average, and the probabilities usually don't stray very far from what you'd expect by chance. That is, the confidence level in the forecast usually isn't that high.

Tomorrow night, I'll explain what the Weather Service's long range outlooks actually mean, using the forecast for the upcoming summer as an example.

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