Tuesday, December 19, 2006

World Weather Forecasts Right or Wrong?

When I am planning a trip, I check the weather reports for some time ahead to get an idea of what to expect and what to pack. Today, though, I had two emails that gave me pause for thought. Both concern the local weather where the senders live.These emails made me wonder if I rely too heavily on the accuracy of weather forecasts. Here are the emails.

From friend Teena (AbFab-Australia.com) in Sydney, Australia, where in about 48 hours, it will be the first day of summer:
"Man, it's pouring and freezing this morning, a bit of a change -- a max of 21 C (70 F) expected after these hot balmy days. I woke in the night and my arms were freezing outside the covers . . ."
My local paper, the Toronto Star, reports Acuweather forecasts today in Sydney should be partly cloudy, with a high of 26C (79 F). In light of Teena's email, both reports seem a shade optimistic.

Then I heard from Sharon, of StarthrowerFoundation.org, who's in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
"Claudy and Louisena, two of the students we sponsor in high school and who work up in Sen Rafayel, had walked down the mountain today (a distance of about 28 kms/17 miles) to tell me about a bad storm last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They called it a cyclone and 'inundation' -- the river rose and overflowed its banks and the rain was torrential. The floods and high winds wiped out most of the banana trees and gardens. All the trees are denuded, wooden houses fell down, all the animals -- chickens, pigs, goats -- are gone. There's water in every house, including the schools, with most of the materials and student records ruined or swept away. I had just bought 200 lbs. rice and 100 lbs peas, so I sent half of it back with them when they left. They desperately need clothing, particularly running shoes and Tshirts. We can always buy food in here Cap-Haitien. As far as we know, no one has been killed."
This sounds like a fairly strong storm, with possibly a tornado, but I can't find anything on web news about this. Perhaps this part of Haiti is not well covered in the mainstream media.

So I checked the newspaper's forecast for Santiago, Chile, where it's supposed to be sunny and in the high 20s C/low 80s F during the day, and down to 11C/52F at night. But then, Santiago gets this forecast most days of the year, it seems. When I was there last year this time, it was exactly like that. Great climate for vineyards!

But it made me wonder: Is the weather where you are what the forecasters told the rest of us it would be? Or is it totally off?

Edit: To the Weather Guy with the detailed stats sites for weather: thanks for your links, though I'm unable to post your comment due to tech probs.
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