TUESDAY JANUARY 9 - SNOWFALL FORECASTS: THE NUMBERS GAME


With a big snowstorm in recent memory, I wanted to comment on one issue regarding snow forecasts.

You've undoubtedly noticed that almost all forecasts of snow are given as a range of numbers: for example, 2 to 4 inches, or 4 to 8 inches. A range is used partly because of the uncertainty in forecasting snowfall amounts, and partly because snowfall can vary widely over even a small area. If you get under a heavier band of snow for a few hours and the town 20 miles down the road doesn't, you can easily end up with considerably more snow.

Now about that range of snowfall amounts. Too often, people focus on just the higher number. For example, a forecast of 6 to 12 inches might be remembered or repeated as "up to a foot," and all of a sudden the lower limit of 6 inches is lost in the shuffle. The fact is, the lower limit is just as likely to occur as the upper limit - there's no reason to favor one over the other.

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