Weather Forecasting and My Outdoor Event

This article originally appeared in North American Clean Energy magazine Sept/Oct 2018

10% chance of rain. Mother Nature, “Hold my drink.” Boom, there goes your outdoor event! We plan, we worry, we then watch the forecast for weeks and days prior to the big event. Forecasting weather is a science. There is truly only one thing you can’t control…the weather.

Utilizing satellite information, algorithms based on the data output and even historical referencing and finally output data that mainstream society can understand, we make plans. We even use personal weather station data to provide a direct link between the weather station and software, allowing users to record, process and distribute data on a local or even global scale. We pull up the images on our wireless device and smile or frown. On the day of our outdoor event, we hope that fifty percent chance of rain is in our favor or we hope that "they" are just plain wrong in their forecast.

Meteorologist use a variety of models to predict tomorrow's weather. A slight miscalculation and the entire forecast will become incorrect or may change dramatically. This butterfly effect makes the predictive model even more uncertain for days to come as meteorologist utilize many tools for predicting your weather. These tools include persistence forecasting, which refers to whatever the weather is doing today, it will continue to do tomorrow. Then there is synoptic forecasting, which applies knowledge of atmospheric laws. Statistical forecasting factors in records of past weather patterns. Computer forecasting calculates all the data to produce models of what the future may hold.

Forecasters can show us images to tell us where the air is mild, and where the warm and cold fronts are located. They can even pinpoint stormy weather. Looking at images, along with variables such as wind speeds, directions or pressure patterns, they can develop a forecast. This includes the direction a storm is heading and if it might dissipate or grow stronger. Remember science class experiments where we were to use dozens of dependent variables? What if there were no controlled variables? One can equate weather forecasting as an example. Our energy source is the sun and other than rising and setting on a consistent schedule it is an independent variable because the Earth spins. This spin causes differential heating, or consistently changing air pressure and temperature. Those fascinating clouds we all daydream to, drift in different patterns and different concentrations of gases affect our forecasting ability in our little "experiment".

Leaving the weather up to chance is very risky. Just utilizing a free weather app may provide you a forecast, but leaves out critical data, such as the actual distance of the storm or length the storm may be in-the-area of your event. Thus, having access to precise and even real-time weather information is critical to ensure that you know when to get people to shelter and then when it is all clear to resume your events activities. If at all.

Outdoor events take lots of planning and effort on the part of the organizer. There is so much uncertainty and unfavorable weather can really impact an outdoor event. An organizer can even look to organizations such as Pellucid Corp and DTN, offer real-time weather data for events. They consult using high-end weather computation software, online forecasting services, and precision weather instruments. Another option you as a planner may consider is a personal weather system (PWS). An easy-to-install, well-built, and sturdy system can measure temperature, relative humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind speed and direction, and rainfall.

Personal weather stations range in price depending on the quality and accuracy of the equipment. Another nice feature of a PWS is the receiver/console. You can also upload your weather data either directly to the Internet or to your personal computer, laptop, tablet or hand-held cellular device with a wi-fi connection. This information can be shared with weather networks such as the Weather Underground’s Personal Weather Station Network. Over 30,000 people contribute data to these networks. This useful information improves the accuracy and specificity of weather reports that are issued to the public and can help you with current and future outdoor event planning.

Sure, short-term forecasting seems more accurate, but when they nail it months out; WOW! Professional Meteorologist and specialized, subscription-based weather organizations are great tools to have for your outdoor event planning. We have all heard the advice "if you want to know the weather just stick your head outside". Give me a time machine and I will do just that. Until there is a tested, working-model time machine, help the meteorological society and you may consider a PWS. Next time, you can help someone forecast the weather for their outdoor event.