Even if we take the hurricane out of the equation, though, the fact remains that services like the Weather Channel are on fairly shaky ground when they try to predict the weather 10 days in advance. Nese says that at that timeframe you’ll likely have just as much success looking at the “normal” weather conditions for that area during that time of year rather than trying to predict things based on computer models. Yet that hasn’t stopped weather services from telling you exactly what to expect 10 days in advance – or in the case of Accuweather, a full 15 days early.
“Forecasting services put a specific number on there just like they do on day one, and that’s always bothered me,” says Nese, who used to work at the Weather Channel. “It gives the false impression that we have the same certainty seven days down the road.”
Indeed, none of the weather services communicate their level of uncertainty on these long-term forecasts, except by hedging through less forceful language (like “isolated thunderstorms” instead of just “thunderstorms”). As such, it’s fair to say that many people may be reading too much into these long-term forecasts when planning events down the road, whether that’s a vacation or a Labor Day cookout.
“I would say the trend is that clients do look at that,” says Julie Sturgeon, who owns the travel agency Curing Cold Feet. Still, she thinks that on some level most travelers realize there’s a degree of uncertainty with such long-term forecasts, and that they mainly look at them for peace of mind.
“They have this desire for their vacation to be good, so if they see crappy weather 10 days out, they say, ‘How do they know that?’,” she says. “But if it’s giving them the answer they want, it’s true.”
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