NOAA Predicts Polar Vortex is Unlikely to Return... Which Means Nothing
I’m a Floridian who grew up thinking winter just meant not using the A/C and I HATE winter. When I saw that the NOAA issued a prediction that the western U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and New England were supposed to have above-average temperatures, and I never wanted anything to be so true in my life.
Unfortunately, wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true, and this is especially true of weather forecasts.
Modern forecasts have improved over the last few decades as a result of improved computer technology and increased access to global data. Numerical forecasting makes predictions based on current observations of hundreds of variables and extrapolate the patterns into the near-future.
This becomes significantly less accurate as you attempt to draw a conclusion about several months of data several months in the future. Last year, for example, the outlook stated that the drought in the Southwest was likely to be more extreme than any anticipated cold weather.
In an interview with Scientific American, Mike Halpert, the acting director of NOAA’s climate prediction center warns that extreme winter weather is basically impossible to predict.
The best meteorologists can do is provide a “probabilistic outlook,” based on what is more likely than not to happen relative to an average condition in a certain region. Likely is the operative word here, as superlatively likely does not preclude other outcomes from possibly occurring.
So yes, you might as well go get that box of sweaters down from the attic.
Image Credit: National Science Foundation [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons