Weather plays an enormous role in the way people feel, and the way they act. It may even play a role in how they vote. I’ve done the math, and gathered data all the way back to the 1870’s (as far back as weather data goes in Washington, DC). Can this weather historical information on previous election days tell us what to expect for our next Presidential election outcome?
Since 1872, in Washington, DC:
A Republican has never won an election with a maximum daily temperature greater than 74*F.
A Republican has never won an election with a maximum daily temperature less than 51*F.
A Republican has never won an election when the temperature was below freezing.
A Republican has never won an election when the low temperature of the day was higher than 56*F.
If it rains, there is a 62.5% chance a Democrat will be elected. If it rains more than 35/100ths of an inch, there’s a 100% chance, based on history, that a Democrat will be elected.
The average daily temperature is 53*F when a Democrat is elected, but 52*F when a Republican is elected
A Democrat has never won office with a difference between high and low daily temperatures more than 26*F.
The chance of a Republican outcome is 76.4% if the difference between the daily high temperature and daily low temperature is more than 20*F
Based on temperature alone, if a Republican is elected, there is a higher potential for energy usage to heat and cool the indoors to be lower than if a Democrat is elected.
Since 1950, there is a much higher fluctuation of El Niño and La Niña intensities during years in which a Republican is elected versus a Democrat.
If the low temperature is either 50*F or 51*F, there is an equal chance of election for both major-party candidates.
A Republican has never been elected when the high temperature was exactly 62, 65, 67, 69. Or 72*F, or when the low temperature was 35, 43, 44, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, or 55*F.
Likewise, a Democrat as never been elected with high temperatures of 61, 62, 63, 67, 68, 69, 70*F, or 72*F, or when the low temperature was 33, 35, 36, 37, 39, 41, 43, 44, 47, 50, 55, or 56*F.
Neither party has been elected on days with high temperatures of 62, 67, 69, or 72*F, or low temperatures of 35, 43, 44, 47, 50, or 55*F.
...that leaves room for a third party…
The Dilution of Expert Weather Forecasting:
Technology is becoming more and more overwhelming these days. Instead of waiting for the evening television broadcast to see what the weather will be, you can simply look at your cellular phone for weather anywhere in the world.
It’s particularly discouraging for a meteorologist like myself to see such an interesting, expansive science, and a highly complicated and mentally intensive trade like weather forecasting, be diluted by cell phones, wrist watches, and web apps.
Furthermore, in many cases, TV weather-casters are broadcasters by trade, not skilled meteorologists. Graphic designers of smartphone weather applications are just that- designers, not scientists. While they may have great interest in the science of meteorology, their expertise lies within design, or broadcasting, or looking good on TV, or in social networking- not in delivering the most accurate weather to the populous.
As a meteorologist, I think one thing should be very clear: It doesn’t matter how accessible it is, or how you dress it up…if the weather forecast isn’t accurate and properly communicated, it’s only misguiding, and potentially endangering people.
What Being a Meteorologist Really Takes
First and foremost, it takes education to do the meteorology job the best that it can be done. Sure, there are many folks out there working in some facets of meteorology without a degree, but education is key. If weather forecasting was as simple as reading a couple lines of data off a computer screen, then everyone could be a meteorologist (and we’d never have any wrong forecasts). But, it takes an understanding of complex physics, math, dynamics, chemistry, geography, even biology! You don’t need a college degree, but you must be educated.
All of that education doesn’t amount to much more than a pile of practically useless knowledge unless you know how to apply it…and that’s what you get with experience. No meteorologist ever shines right out of the bag…meteorology is something that must be applied to be fully learned. Again, if it was as simple as reading a textbook and applying the method, anyone could pick it up instantaneously and do it. But, it’s not. Experience is crucial.
Forecasting weather is an art that has no clear correct answer, until it happens. That’s one of the main reasons many people leave the career field behind- it’s never perfectly cut-and-dry. Because meteorology is so dependent on so many natural and man-made variables, and no two weather patterns are exactly alike…it takes a lot of thinking outside the box. There is no “user’s guide” for meteorologists- you must think, sometimes hard and deep, and never really be totally confident until the time passes.
It doesn’t matter how great of a forecast a meteorologist makes, if it wasn’t communicated correctly, it was wrong. If I told you that It was going to rain this weekend, but didn’t tell you anything else, that wouldn’t help you out very much. If I told you that we would have red flag conditions, and you weren’t a fire-fighter or a forest ranger, you likely wouldn’t know what I was talking about.
The key to a successful meteorologist’s job is to decode data, turn that data into information, then transform that information into knowledge, and then communicate that knowledge to the point that it is understood by all. You have to know who you are talking to, how it impacts them, and how you can help them make the best decision from a meteorological standpoint.
An effective meteorologist never really quits. Just like a police officer who is always on duty, whether they like it or not, or wear the badge and gun or not, the best meteorologists are always somewhat aware of what is going on with the weather. The Weather Channel’s “Weather Geeks” term wasn’t created by them…it’s a real thing that describes a passionate meteorologist.
Weather doesn’t stop when it’s quitting time. It doesn’t take holiday breaks (or even lunch break). As a meteorologist, you may have the day off, but not everyone does, and the weather may be impacting them. A great meteorologists doesn’t have to be at work all the time, they just need to be aware, alert, and constantly have their customers, clients, and general public in mind.
A passionate meteorologist learns from their not-so-great forecasts. A passionate meteorologist learns from the mistakes of others, and applies new methods and approaches to ensure discrepancies are fixed the next time around. A passionate meteorologist isn’t always perfect, but is trusted because of their dedication to be accurate, to clearly communicate, and become more and more of an expert.
-Dan, the Weatherman
Eastern New Mexico, West Texas, and the Texas Panhandle have not been having the best weather the last few days as upper-level disturbances combined with a collision of cool, northern air and warm tropical air have produced persistent severe thunderstorms during the evening hours, enhanced by daytime surface heating. Below is a [textbook] radar image of a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado moves from Southeastern New Mexico into West Texas, northwest of Midland and Odessa (rural Andrews & Ector Counties) this evening (September 17th).
At the time this image was produced by the radar (and warned for by the National Weather Service), it was unknown if any tornado was actively on the ground. Nonetheless, there was certainly some heavy rain, even large hail, produced by this storm, while strong indications of a tornado were present, as seen in the image on the right showing green colors adjacent to red colors (where the hook echo is noticed).
Green colors indicate airflow toward the radar, and the red show airflow away from the radar. When they are next to each other in a strong storm such as this, meteorologists read this as an indication of strong rotation.
This was a supercell thunderstorm- a large, dangerous storm. Not all create tornadoes, but nearly all can produce strong wind gusts (seen as the outflow boundaries labeled above), lots of lightning, heavy rain and flooding, and large hail.
And, they all look pretty much the same on radar. They all have some sort of hook, or rotation within them. Nearly all have a double-tail. And, in most cases in the United States, they are oriented with the hook-echo facing south, open to the southeast, and the tail facing north or northeast. This is the case because the hook serves as the inflow device for the storm...the mouth, if you will. This storm is fueled by warm, moist air....and through much of the United States, that comes from the Gulf of Mexico (to the south/southeast).
If you ever see one of these guys on the radar, go ahead and stay inside!
Dan, the Weatherman
During the middle of August, portions of southern and eastern Louisiana were devastated by flooding produced by extremely persistent, heavy rainfall.
It is estimated that over 40,000 homes were destroyed. In some places, over 30 inches of rain (2.5 feet) was recorded in one day alone.
There have been several speculations and estimations of the amount of rainfall that actually fell through the region, but the general consensus is if you were to bottle all of the water up into one-gallon jugs, you would have about seven trillion jugs. Seven Million Gallons. Although difficult to compare to Hurricane Katrina, this is about three times as much water (that fell from the sky).
Since the Olympics were kicking off at the same time, we can compare Louisiana's recent floods to about the equivalent of 10 million Olympic swimming pools.
7,000,000,000,000 gallons x 8 lbs/gallon = 56,000,000,000,000 pounds
The rain had to come from somewhere.
Assuming that the clouds were at about 1000 feet off the ground, or 300 meters,
Work Done = Mass (kg) x Gravity (m/s^2) x Height (m) =
Work Done = 25,401,172,720,000 kg x 9.8 m/s^2 x 300 m = 7.4679448x10^16 Joules, or nearly 21 Billion Kilowatt Hours.
That's enough energy to supply nearly 2 million houses (given the US's 2014 average) with electricity for an entire year.
In reality, this rain was scooped up by evaporation, mostly from the Gulf of Mexico. all 56-trillion pounds of it was suspended in the air, and dropped over Louisiana by the energy of 74 quadrillion joules.
Now, like most men, I'd like to think I am pretty strong. I'm no body-builder, and I used to be able to lift more before I hurt my back. But, even in my prime, I was proudly a member the 225lb-bench-press-club, on a good day.
But, even my pride cannot fathom 56 Trillion Pounds, lifted into the air and then displaced over half a state. But, Job in the Bible (I think he was the world' first scientist, just a hunch) even said: "He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight." (26:8).
Well, they eventually burst and, undeniably, displayed how powerful our atmosphere is that I steadfastly believe God created. I'll put it this way...if anyone can create a machine that can suspend that much water weight, disperse it over that much area, in that amount of time, all without any electricity or gasoline to create 21 Billion kilowatt-hours of energy...I rest my case.
- Dan, the Weatherman
It was my day off.
Why does bad weather always happen on my day off?
But like any other Sunday, it started off perfectly normal. Sunday’s are pretty slow-going in my family, at least I’d like them to be. But, sometimes with a job that doesn’t stop at quitting time, you take advantage of the time when weather seems to be behaving to accomplish things other-than-work.
The past Friday had brought us a very tall, strong thunderstorm, dropping hail stones as large as golf balls just to the south of us during the mid-afternoon. Later that night, despite computer model guidance, we caught another spurt of potentially destructive thunderstorms moving in a line straight through us.
Normal springtime protocol here in Texas had me up all night Friday monitoring these storms, answering clients’ questions, and advising local government officials. Of course, since computer models and smartphones seemed to dismiss any idea of thunderstorms that evening, it was a little nerve-racking contradicting sources that the general populous blindly considers “credible”. But, I’d been bit before by these, and it was my job to beat the accuracy of such weather sources. And I did, but it cost me my long-needed rest. Who needs it anyway, I suppose.
I’m a weatherman in Texas during the springtime, what should I expect?
So I find myself out for my standard Sunday morning run. It’s a 3-mile course around the neighborhood- and most folks are still fast asleep as I jog the empty streets. It’s peaceful, and it isn’t too tiring unless I end up on a street running against the wind.
Just resistance training, I suppose.
After church, a quick look at the latest computer weather forecast model output perks my ears up a bit. That storm wasn’t there this morning! I was thinking of the storm as if it was already occurring…but my radar screen as blank. It wasn’t due for another four hours.
Weather forecasters like myself are trained to forecast weather that will occur, and if that fails, keep close tabs on weather occurring and extrapolate its movement and intensity through time and distance. But, in my line of work, if it’s happening, it’s too late. Here comes another Friday night, on a Sunday afternoon. And one of my client organizations has got a crew of airplanes they would like to bring into town this afternoon.
Supercell thunderstorms are typically the most violent, although we have to consider than any thunderstorm can be deadly with each strike of lightning topping roughly 100 million volts. Supercell thunderstorms also have the potential of carrying damaging wind gusts, heavy downpours that lead to flash-flooding, hail stones, and even tornadoes. And it was a supercell that I was forecasting.
Small hail, I said. Gusty winds. Should move through pretty quickly.
Several phone calls later after alerting what seemed half of the city of a strong (and hopefully not severe) thunderstorm that hadn’t even formed yet, and trying to convince the skeptics, it was time to sit back and hope for the best. What’s the best? An accurate forecast? No bad weather (but a big-time false alarm on my part)? Meteorologists are torn. I just parked by truck underneath a big tree in my front yard, just in case a sizable hail stone happened to target my windshield- I had already nearly totaled my other truck in a hail storm earlier in the year.
It’s funny. When the neighbors see the neighborhood weatherman parking his truck under a tree, they start moving their vehicles too.
He must know something we don’t.
And, there it was. Finally, a blip on the radar screen, exactly where I believed the storm would begin to build. If my forecast was correct, it would travel nearly fifty miles, slowly gaining strength, before it hit my town. That gave about an hour and a half of validation of my forecast (at its projected speed) before it impacted my clients and the local area.
Dinner’s Ready. My wife is such a sweetheart. Anyone who marries a meteorologist signs up for a non-routine lifestyle and plenty of days, or nights, of taking care of the house and family alone while their meteorologist lesser-half stays glued to the radar screen. But, dinner always seems to be ready right before the storm hits. I guess that’s why laptops and cell phones were invented.
Dang. As the storm moved closer with the intensity I had predicted, the National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. This means large hail, and damaging winds instead of the small hail and not-quite-so-damaging winds I had predicted. For my local government clients, I have to alert them of this warning, even though I personally don’t agree with it. They understand…it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and the National Weather Service usually does a pretty good job.
Who would be right?
Ping, Ping. Pea-sized hail began to fall, but only for a few seconds. Then, a crack of lightning real close by. A house up the street has some really tall palm trees, they seem to be lightning magnets. Out went the power. At least dinner was out of the oven and on the table. But my internet connection was now lost, and so was my radar screen. If it didn’t come back within a minute or so, I’d have to tether my cell phone to my laptop and regain connectivity- but it did.
The rain and gusty winds came for about ten or fifteen minutes, followed by the cold-pool of fresh air. Thunderstorms create a pool of cold air in their wake because the energy that fuels them- and the energy used by the atmosphere to evaporate their rainfall- exists in the form of heat. As this energy is used up by the atmosphere trying to neutralize itself, heat is lost, leading to what is known as a “cold pool”.
Phew. Everyone is happy. How often does that happen? Forecast right on the money, and a non-damaging thunderstorm. I’ll hang my head high and finish dinner. Gratification from a “job well done” by the local emergency manager- a sigh of relief.
Any meteorologist that says they’re always right is, well, wrong. But this time, it paid off.
It’s always a gamble, and sometimes the weather cooperates with my forecast, and sometime it doesn’t. It’s the times that it doesn’t that make me second-guess my forecast for the time that it does, and I have to make a determination of how I communicate my uncertainty, with absolute certainty. When you’re paid to beat smartphone weather applications and the evening news weather anchor, it’s no joke. People put their lives, their property, their business, and their trust in your hands- and it only takes one incorrect forecast, or one sleepy eyelid, and that reputation is gone.
- Dan Schreiber (Meteorologist)
Dan Schreiber is a freelance meteorologist with experience