Hello, I'm An...Expert

On Expertise

To be honest, the upcoming weather hasn’t been on the forefront of my thoughts over the past week. With the rapidly expanding reach of COVID-19, I’ve been spending much more time determining what the best steps for my family are in the near future.

A story has repeated in several countries over the past several weeks: relative complacency about the virus has led to disastrous results. Does this mean that it’s time to panic? No! But it is time to be prepared and adjust our behaviours if we want to avoid the unnecessary deaths seen in other countries whose health care systems have been overwhelmed.

So what to do? I think in this case it’s imperative that we listen to the experts. The reality is, whether in health care, meteorology, emergency management, or any other number of fields that have direct impacts on our lives, there are highly educated and trained people who have prepared for challenges that seem foreign to us. It’s easier than ever to find “armchair advice” with almost anything, but there’s a huge difference between an internet opinion and a career of preparation.

Nobody is correct 100% of the time. In the field of meteorology, where believe it or not we are actually quite good (and getting better), mistakes happen. City planners make mistakes. Doctors make mistakes. The difference with experts is how frequent and how severe those mistakes are. Experts make fewer big mistakes, period. It’s easy to remember the failures, and hard to remember all the times they do their jobs well and we don’t notice.

Taking A Break

That said, we’re going to be taking a break from posting forecasts on A Weather Moment. The reason is two-fold. First, I expect to have significant disruptions to my normal schedule over the coming weeks and finding the time to analyze and write forecasts may be difficult. The second, and I think more important, issue is that now is the time to listen to experts. While I am a meteorologist by trade, this web site is not my outlet of official capacity. For the next while, I highly suggest you check for your forecasts from one of the two official Canadian sources:

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada: The official source for meteorological information in Canada and the only agency with authority to issue watches and warnings. Staffed by expert meteorologists with human intervention for the first 48 hours. Offers point-based forecasts, so available locations are limited.
  • The Weather Network: Canada’s largest private-sector weather forecasting firm. Employs a smaller team of meteorologists that modify a gridded data set to produce forecasts. As a result, forecasts are available for a larger number of locations, but the relatively limited size of their team means many forecasts are heavily dependent on the underlying model and can be susceptible to bias/model insufficiencies.

I personally utilize ECCC for my information. They tend to have fairly accurate forecasts and typically correctly forecast things models tend to struggle with (such as those terrible southerlies when ridges depart). These are official outlets staffed by experts who have years and decades of experience in the field.

I don’t have an exact date when we’ll start the forecasts up again. I’ve been pondering for quite a while what the future of the site is. There’s a ton of work I’d like to do on the site that I simply don’t have the time for when writing forecasts 3x per week. My general feeling has been that I’d like to move towards writing forecasts only for significant events to better contextualize them, increasing the amount of climatological analysis, and greatly improve our tools. During this break, I’ll certainly be pondering exactly what the format looks like when we get back at it. If you have thoughts on that, feel free to let us know in the comments!

Regarding COVID-19

In addition to your weather forecasts, now is the time to listen to our health experts on what to do as the global pandemic arrives in our communities. There are very real and tangible steps we can all take to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and ease the burden on our health care system. A true signal of success will be if in 4+ weeks we are able to look back and feel like we overreacted. For information regarding the virus, here are your official sources:

If there’s one thing that has been made clear in several countries around the world is that by the time it seems bad, it’s actually much worse. We humans are exceptionally social creatures, and reducing our time with each other is difficult. But by taking measure such as ensuring the practice of good communal hygiene, working from home (where possible), eliminating large gatherings, and essentially holing up for a couple weeks, we will be able to significantly reduce the impact of this disease on our community.

So don’t panic, just prepare and begin changing your behaviour. By listening to, and acting on, the advice of the experts responsible for our well-being, we can all do our part in helping our communities manage the coming storm.

All the best to everyone reading this; we hope that you and those close to you are able to stay healthy as we all work together on this challenge. AWM will be back sometime in the coming weeks!

Big Changes in 2012

A Weather Moment is proud to continue serving Winnipeggers and the surrounding communities into 2012. As this site continues to develop a community, we plan to bring several additions to the site to help create the go-to place for your weather needs and curiosities this year. Several improvements and additions are already underway, and I thought I’d just outline some of the new things coming up for the site.

More Content

Writing about the weather can be a feast-or-famine affair. Since I started the blog, I find there are stretches where you could write a lengthy post each day about upcoming weather, followed by 2-3 weeks of…well…nothing. However, what’s the point of coming to a site that doesn’t update for 2 weeks? So with that in mind, we plan on providing more regular content. There are several aspects that will help with this:

  1. The tentative plan is to have a M/W/F posting schedule, with additional posts as needed given various weather setups. Please have patience as over the next month we try to meet that schedule and/or decide on other setups that might work better (e.g Mon/Wed/Sat). We are aiming for 3 posts a week, though.
  2. When there are stretches of no significant weather, we plan on tapping into the original plan of doing more educational posts on how various aspects of the weather work. I’ve been disappointed that I haven’t really followed through on that promise for the blog, and it will be rectified this year!
  3. In order to keep up with all this, I’m privileged to announce that Scott, who previously ran, blogged, and forecasted at steinbachweather.ca will be joining staff as an occasional writer. I have full faith in his analysis and forecasting skills and think he will be an excellent addition to the writing team! Some of you are familiar with him, I’m sure, and he is excited to come on board and be a part of this growing community. So people know, I’ve now added a small label at the bottom of each post so you can see who the author of it is.

Expanded Site

The second main goal I have for 2012 is to being to provide tools on this site that will help facilitate forecasting. Over the past year, I’ve developed several exciting new tools that are unlike anything available on the internet right now. I plan on providing them on A Weather Moment to help the community develop their own forecasts and add to discussions. With the tools I aim to provide by the end of February, three things will be much easier:

  1. Viewing model data
  2. Viewing satellite & other real data
  3. Access to text bulletins such as the FOCN45 Prairie Weather Outlook and the SPC’s Day 1/2/3 Severe Weather Outlooks.

As these tools are added to the site, I hope to enable this community to further their understanding of the weather and to have the skills and tools to make informed weather decisions by yourselves!

WX-Central Mobile

As the person who maintains the mobile version of U of M Weather Central, I plan on doing a significant upgrade to make it the best place to get your weather information while on the go. Expect that to be finished sometime in the second half of this year. If you aren’t using it yet, I highly recommend you check it out (and not just because I made it) at http://tinyurl.com/mobilewx.

Lastly, as this site is always a work in progress, always feel free to get in touch with us by e-mailing any questions or suggestions to aweathermoment@shaw.ca.

The Rest

I’m very excited for the future of this site. With Scott’s help, we want to help build a passionate community of enthusiasts and amateur forecasters by providing the topics, forum and tools.

User Photos: One thing I want to strongly encourage people to send in their photos during significant weather events. The two best ways to do it are to either e-mail them to us or attach them to a comment:

How to attach a photo to a comment

How to attach a photo to a comment.

The last post about the record-breaking temperatures is the most commented on post since this site began! Thanks all for contributing to the conversation! I hope you stick with us and enjoy the ride this site will be going on this year. Won’t be long before we can talk about thunderstorms again!

Design: I am continuing to update the page’s design, to make it better able to support new features in the future and to make it aesthetically pleasing. I’d love feedback on it as I go, and don’t be surprised if you see a new thing here or there when you’re browsing the site. I’ve also done quite a bit of work on the mobile version of the site, so if you’re using an iPhone or iPod, give it a try! I’d love feedback on how it looks on older iDevices (i.e. iPod Touch 1G/2G/3G, iPhone 3G/3GS) as well, if anybody is using them!

And that’s all the site news for now! Back to the weather…