Bob Groeneveld: Odd Thoughts

Odd Thoughts: Weather the app’s inaccuracy

Is it hot in here or it is just columnist Bob Groeneveld?

I have a “feels like” thermometer.

Indeed, it appears that all of my outdoor thermometers are “feels like” thermometers.

Either that, or none of the weather apps on my phone can be trusted.

Now, there’s a novel thought: the idea that the weather predictors seldom get it right! I seems that some things don’t change at all, regardless of the changes in technology.

Actually, my forecasting app is usually pretty accurate… eventually.

For instance, I’m writing this on Sunday and my app assures me that on Thursday, the day you get to read this, there is a 30 per cent chance that my neighbourhood will be inundated with less than a millimetre of rain.

Now, these days, I am looking forward to the prospect of any rain at all. Our water comes from a 15-foot well, and no rain means laundry gets done at the laundromat. That’s our version of Stage 1 water restrictions.

Trouble is, this morning, the same app told me that there was a 40 per cent chance that Thursday would bring about a millimetre of rain.

And yesterday it predicted that Thursday (we’re still talking about the same Thursday, folks) offered a 60 per cent chance of providing between three and five millimetres of rainfall.

Early in the week it optimistically declared a 90 per cent expectation of 5-10 mm of rain on Thursday.

That last became the prediction for Friday this morning… but now it’s hinting at 1-3 mm, and just 60 per cent, at that

It looks like our hopes for a better well level are now pinned on Saturday’s expected 15-20 mm… although that expectation has been downgraded to just 60 per cent in the past couple of hours.

I will predict that, by the time Saturday rolls around, there will be a 40 per cent chance that my weather app’s prediction will be 100 per cent right when it tells me there’s a 30 per cent chance that 10 per cent of the rain we expected on Thursday will fall on Sunday… or not.

But it is always wrong about the temperature.

And yet… it won’t really be wrong at all.

Not the predicted temperature – not one day all summer has it predicted the temperature accurately enough to win a kewpie doll at the fall fair.

But the current temperature, that’s another story.

There’s the old joke about the radio weatherman sticking his head out the window and still getting the weather report wrong.

That’s my app on temperatures.

It very helpfully offers me two current temperatures at any given moment: there’s the “actual” temperature and the “feels like” temperature.

I guess the latter takes additional factors – wind speeds and humidity and the like – into account, so it can tell me that, although the “actual” temperature outside is 27 degrees, it feels like 30.

Thing is, nearly every day this summer, my app’s “actual” temperature has been two, three, and sometimes four degrees shy of what my own thermometers have been telling me. My thermometers have been in perfect agreement with my app’s “feels like” temperature for my neighbourhood.

In fact, the only time my app gets the “actual” temperature right is when it’s the same as its “feels like” temperature.

Now only one really pertinent question actually remains. Why the heck do I bother to pull out my phone and check my weather app to determine that it’s simply too darned hot to do anything outside today anyway?


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