Weatherman or Apocalyptic Soothsayer?
By March 8, 2006 2:39 PM
It's Wednesday morning, and I'm looking out the window in downtown Denver and not seeing any snow.
This time yesterday, I was being assured by weathermen and women that several inches of snow would be blanketing the Metro Area by late last night. Before I went to bed last night, it was a little chilly but there was no moisture in the air (unless you count my dog lifting his leg on the trash can). I checked the weather report, which said that there would definitely be heavy amounts of snow starting to fall in the morning.
When I woke up this morning and looked out my bedroom window, it was a little hazy but there was no snow. I went downstairs and checked the weather on Channel 2, where the weatherwoman was somewhat anxiously pointing out that there was snow starting to fall over Hwy 36 outside Boulder. They showed a live camera feed, and it looked like a light rain. Whatever -- I trust the weatherwoman. She continued on with the forecast and said that there would definitely be several inches of snow by the end of the day.
Look, I don't deny that being a weather forecaster is a difficult job, particularly in Colorado where you have this massive mountain range that must play havoc with any potential storm system passing overhead. The job also comes with a fair amount of pressure (no pun intended), because everybody knows when you are wrong. If you're an accountant and you screw up somebody's W-2, nobody saw you do it. No smart-ass at the bus stop is going to say, "I thought you knew how to prepare somebody's taxes, dumbass!" I don't feel terribly sorry for weather forecasters, because they get paid a lot of money to basically throw darts, but I do respect the pressure that they face from the general public.
But as I was watching the weatherwoman this morning backpedal on yesterday's forecast, a similarity occurred to me: they have a lot in common with those apocalyptic soothsayers who insist that the world is going to end but are never correct. These soothsayers might predict that the world will end on August 1, 2005, and when it doesn't, they just say that they were reading the wrong tea leaves and that the world is really going to end on January 17, 2006. When that doesn't happen, they give themselves a little more time; the world is really, really going to end on May 27, 2010.
The same thing happened yesterday, though on a much less dramatic scale. Weather forecasters (I'm not calling them "meteorologists"; I don't care what you say) were saying there would be a lot of snow on Tuesday night. When it didn't come, they said, "Oh, it's going to snow tomorrow morning!" When that didn't happen, they said, "You won't believe the inches of snow that are coming this afternoon." The last I heard, it was absolutely, positively going to snow at about 4:00 p.m.
I'm not trying to bash weather forecasters here -- like I said, I'm sympathetic. But until this morning I never realized how similar they sounded to the end-of-the-world, sandwich-board wearing folks that wander around bigger cities than ours. In fact, it might be sort of fun to be a weather forecaster because, in a sense, you always have another chance. Your entire life is revisionist history.
So, anyway, it's going to snow. When?
I told you, it's going to snow.