Climate change: The evolution of weather forecasts
Unlike the mid-1990s, when Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, the stars of the blockbuster hit Twister, were still young and the envy of every amateur weather enthusiast, today’s armchair meteorologist has become a trusted source for thousands of weather junkies.
Enter into the picture The Weather Network’s Official Observer Club: an exclusive, by invitation-only Facebook group starring untrained meteorologists and weather hobbyists.
It’s a club for weather fanatics who like to share their observations, said Joyce Clements, a member of the club for the past two years.
Clements, who is a homemaker by day and moonlights as Saskatoon’s unofficial weatherwoman in her spare time, said she decided to join the club after seeing a television ad on the Weather Network’s station.
“I grew up on a farm, I love to do gardening and everything that I do outdoors relies on the weather so I’ve always been interested in the weather,” said Clements about why she decided to join the social media group.
Clements said she relies on a mix of traditional sources, such as the Environment Canada website, a weather station and two rain gauges, as well as basic observational skills to inform her followers on Facebook and Twitter.
“Mostly what we’re doing is observing with our own two eyes,” said Clements who posts updates about twice a day.
Lately, however, Clements said she’s been tweeting away, thanks to the extreme weather conditions in Saskatchewan.
“This year, coupled with the amount of tornadoes that have been in Saskatchewan, the thunderstorm activity in Saskatoon for the month of July has been a lot more active than it ever has been in the last 10 years,” said Clements who grew up just outside of Yorkton.
Saskatchewan’s sometimes volatile weather is a conversation starter, said Environment Canada’s climatologist David Phillips of why there’s such an interest in the climate in the province.
Whether the information is from trained people or weather nerds, people want to know what’s going on, said Phillips.
“Saskatchewan is big sky country. You look at one horizon to the other and you’re sure to find weather,” said Phillips.
“In the winter time, it’s going to be blizzards, wind chill and Paul Bunion snowfalls. And in the summer its plough winds, hail storms, gully washers and tornadic events,” he said, adding that Saskatchewan is a “good viewing province” for weather tracking thanks to its “fantastic road system” which allows people to be in touch with nature.
Despite the growing interest in the weather, however, Phillips said he has “mixed feelings” on the armchair meteorologist phenomenon.
“You don’t need to have a PhD from MIT to talk about the weather” he said, but when it comes to extreme weather conditions, such as tornadoes, it’s best to leave to it the experts.
“I worry about the Sunday sailors, the storm chasers that grab a picnic basket and head off to chase things that they don’t know very much about.”
Not only do they put their own life in danger, but they also put the lives of other people at risk by creating traffic jams and driving in hazardous conditions.
“That could put people who are just caught out there driving at risk.”
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