WeatherTalk: The ambiguity of a long-lead snow forecast

No weather forecaster can know on Sunday how much snow will fall on Thursday or Friday.

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Contemporary atmospheric modeling allows for a weather forecaster to mention a chance of snow as much as five to 10 days in before it occurs. Unfortunately, these early-warning snow forecasts seem to put people into a state of mind which combines, depending on the person, various degrees of agitation, anger, excitement and dread. For a lot of people, the ambiguity of these long-lead snow forecasts leads to irrational expectations.

No weather forecaster can know precisely the other details such as temperature or wind speed, which can change a light snow into a blizzard or a wet road into a skating rink. These details do not begin to merge with reality until a day or so before the storm.

John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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