Mind over motherboard
A non-thunderstorm event in Southeastern Louisiana on Monday served as a prime example of why meteorologists cannot only rely on the often publicized "computer forecast models."
In the pre-dawn hours of Monday, October 6 (12z), a squall line of nasty thunderstorms flared up ahead of a weak cold front draped across the Lower Midwest (Fig. A). Several reports of hail and wind damage were taken from multiple locations in Eastern Texas (Fig. B). Some 240 miles from the forecast area, a first glance at radar would have us double-checking the early call of a mostly dry afternoon with only isolated showers. But, after a weekend cold front, unseasonably cool and dry air remained in place in the upper levels and the decision was made to maintain a mainly dry forecast as any thunderstorms encountering this air mass would tend to weaken and dissipate quickly.
By 9am (15z), the storm complex was holding its own (Fig. C), still producing severe thunderstorms crossing the Texas/Louisiana border and advancing southeastward. An ongoing trend through the morning, often reliable high-resolution rapid update radar simulations were continuing to depict the line of storms rumbling through the Baton Rouge Metropolitan area before falling apart (Figs. D, E). In sports terms, this was gut-check time for meteorologists. Admit defeat, save some face and take to social media changing the dry afternoon forecast to include possibly strong thunderstorms (a big bust), or stay the course and maintain the belief that, less than one hundred miles away, an impressive line of thunderstorms would suddenly vanish? In a case of good timing for this decision making process, 9am meant a crucial piece of daily information, one taught early in most collegiate meteorology courses, was just being released. The morning balloon sounding was ‘hot off the presses' and would confirm the morning assertions of a dry mid and upper level atmosphere over Southeast Louisiana (Fig. F). Notice the deep pockets of dry air circled on the sounding. Via the multi-agency conference feature, NWS Chat, National Weather Service forecasters confirmed this belief. While some regional forecasters would lunge towards the crafty models, we elected to side with the text books in hopes that everything this science had uncovered through years of research wasn't succumbing to the automation of weather analysis.
A nail-biting three hours later, the noon radar (Fig. G) (18z) image showed the line of thunderstorms weakening and being shunted away from Southeast Louisiana upon encountering the extremely dry local air mass. By day's end, Southeast Louisiana enjoyed the mostly dry day originally expected (Fig. H) and the moxie of modern forecast models had been stifled at least for one day by wily veteran text books and old-school analysis. Mind indeed prevailed over motherboard.
In our social media age, any amateur forecasters can glance at a model and mock-up a forecast. As evidenced on Monday, and fortunately for the degreed few, meteorological intuition and forecasting skill and experience still go a long way.
You can get forecasts from Meteorologist Josh Eachus weekdays on 2une-In from 5-7am and News 2 at Noon from 12-1pm. Additionally, you can get the fastest and latest forecasts and weather news by checking in with wbrz.com/weather, connecting with Josh on Google+ and following him on Twitter.
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