How Meteorologists Forecast Winter Weather - - No One Gets You Closer

How Meteorologists Forecast Winter Weather


TEXOMA -- When it comes to forecasting winter weather, it is never an easy job.

A meteorologist comes in, looks at the weather pattern for past few days, then looks at the current weather conditions.  

"That is the foundation for a good forecast because you can see if the computer models looking into the future have a good grasp on the current atmosphere," says KTEN Meteorologist Cathy Corbett.

The computer model forecasts are put together using super computers which run very complex mathematical equations to try to simulate future atmospheric conditions. The computers start by taking in lots of information including current surface observations like temperature, moisture, and wind speeds.  They also take into account upper air observations. Those are collected by weather balloons with sensors that go up into the atmosphere collecting temperature, dew point, and wind speeds.

"Now the weather balloons are only sent up twice a day and in only 102 locations throughout the United States, about 1000 world-wide. Think about how many cities and towns we have in our country and only about 100 upper air observations are taken. There is a lot of weather data not collected," says Corbett.

Our nearest weather balloon launch site is Fort Worth, TX and Norman, OK nearly a 150 mile gap of upper air data not put into the computer models.

"And winter weather, one degree off can make all the difference in the world whether we get frozen precipitation or rain," says Corbett.

"Of course computer models are great to give us some insight that we might not normally have. We use about half a dozen here at the station and I tell you some days you come in and just want to throw them all in the trash.

"You have to use them with caution, they are really just for more guidance. They do tell us some things by doing all the calculations that they do which are very important but when it comes to using them it is just another tool. Really the most important thing to have is lots of experience, lots of knowledge, and knowing the weather patterns," says KTEN Chief Meteorologist Alan Mitchell.

So when it comes to winter weather, a human forecaster with experience is going to be your best friend over a computer forecast model.