Often we get accused of covering the bases with the use of precipitation probabilities. But it is the best way to convey the potential for a specific location to get wet.Here’s the definition as used by the National Weather Service Offices.
Below is a table that defines our PoP ranges, their associated qualifying terms and the equivalent areal term we use in the forecast to try to describe the coverage of precipitation events for convective events.
PoP Value Qualifying Term Equivalent Areal Term
20 slight chance/ isolated or widely scattered
30,40, 50 chance/ scattered
60, 70 likely/ numerous
80, 90, 100 none/ none
When I was in Indianapolis I tracked the validity of precipitation proabilities and plotted a reliability curve. Over the meteorological summer months of June, July and August the forecast of rain chances and the actual rain occurrence was nearly on the money. There was one notable exception.
When forecasters called for a 70 precent chance or rain, there was measurable rain about 80 percent of the time. There was a slight bias to pull back a little on the POPs, particularly twenty-four hours out, due to the possibility that the anticipated convective precipitation might steer slightly north or south of a specific location.
When you hear a probability or rain it means the chance of getting measurable precipitation at your location during a particular twelve hour period. It really has little to do with intensity or duration. Climatology (over a long period of years) suggests that on any given day in July there is about a 30 percent chance for showers in the Twin Cities.
Last evening was a great example of a 30 percent probability in the Metro area. Around 330PM thunderstorms developed and were moving southeast from just south of St. Cloud to near Blaine. Thunderstorms split Target Field. One produced a downpour in the western suburbs. The other, a stronger storm, resulted in a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for parts of Ramsey and Washington Counties.
Measureable rain was reported at St. Paul Holman Field, while the International Airport didn’t see a drop of rain. There was a report to the National Weather Service in Chanhassen of a brief tornado touchdown on Coon Lake in Anoka County.
Despite the forecast of relatively low probabilities of rain on Thursday and Thursday evening, it does appear that a couple of spots will get wet. Here’s the national graphic for potential rainfall on Thursday and Thursday night.
Enjoy today’s sunshine and comfortable temperatures.