Wednesday, April 23, 2008

KC Meteorologists' Forecasts Only Slightly More Accurate Than Blind Guessing

An interesting statistical analysis of the accuracy of Kansas City's meteorologists was posted to the Freekonomics blog over at the NY Times. The report by Missourian J.D. Eggleston found that with all KC media, accuracy takes a back seat to sensationalism.
“There’s not an evaluation of accuracy in hiring meteorologists. Presentation takes precedence over accuracy.”

According to the author's data, most stations are within their target of 3 degrees when they make a prediction one or two days out. But if you look forward 3 or more days, their accuracy gets exponentially worse.

“All that viewers care about is the next day. Accuracy is not a big deal to viewers.”

When predicting the highs and lows one day out, KCTV 5 and WDAF-TV 4 are the worst. When you look four to seven days out, channel 4 and KSHB 41 take the worst of the worst crown. So much for that "most accurate" weather forecast rating Gary keeps touting and which was paid for by his station.

“We have no idea what’s going to happen [in the weather] beyond three days out.”

The report also found that in most cases the weekend forecasters are more accurate than their chief "meteorologist's". Yes, we're looking at you Katie Horner, who was bested by your weekend sidekick, Devon Lucie.

Although we like Mike Thompson's opinions about the global warming crowd, he too is less accurate than his weekend replacement. Even Gary Lezak and Bryan Busby run behind their weekend counterparts when forecasting four or more days out.

The report will, no doubt, be more canon fodder for the guys over at, who recently celebrated their one year anniversary and were largely responsible for the lack of prime time television weather preemptions by local media over the past 13 plus months. We all thank you, guys!

The winning (read as most accurate) forecaster was none other than NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). This would seem to indicate local TV stations should go back to hiring half naked weather bunnies and leave the "science" to the professionals.


I am the best!!!! said...

It's nice and convenient that KSHB & Gary "Sleazak" don't bother to mention WHO says he's number one. They're so full of sh!t.

Everyday this year the sun will rise and there's always at least a 1% chance of precipitation.

Why is it that with every other job in the world there's a mugh higher expectation of accuracy in your duties... except weathermen. Boy, I'd sure like to be wrong all the time and get paid for it.

Ed said...

Previous commenter: WeateRate is a completely independent forecast rating service. They evaluate precipitation and temperature out to 3 days (I believe). They evaluate markets around the country and try to sell their branding to the one station in each market that is #1. If that station doesn't buy, they don't have a presence in that market. KSHB has been way ahead of the other stations for YEARS in forecasting (severe weather... eeeh).

That said, there are tons of short-sighted conclusions in the study. Great data collection, poor and unresearched conclusions. Read the comments in the NYTimes article and you'll see all the valid rebuttals.

Comment about being "wrong all the time and get paid for it" is also short-sighted. It's only predicting the future. Sigh...

... although, I must say that the Katie Horner picture is priceless.

I am the best!!! said...

Hey ed,

You're not by any chance a weather forecaster, spotter, or otherwise defender of those who are?

So "being wrong all the time" is a little too strong? How about 50%? How many jobs let you be wrong 50% of the time? How about students who are only making 50% on their grades? Oh yes - that's right: you're either fired or a failure.

There's nothing wrong with "predicting" the weather. But the way Gary tooted his horn on KMBZ 980, he doesn't just predict, he's the best in the NATION! I was listening to him thinking to myself I wonder when he was going to say that only GOD can predict better than him.

These people need to get off their high-horses and be real folks and quit acting like God's right-hand-man when it comes to predicting the weather. But they can't do that. To do so means they're mortal after all; and if they're mortal and make too many mistakes, then they can be replaced at the station.