Minimize the surprise

When I worked for NOAA and the National Weather Service as chief meteorologist of the Twin Cities Office, our Director General Kelly would say, your job is to minimize the surprises. He meant that our customers should have increasing confidence in our information.

Forecasts were particularly valuable when it came to warnings of hazardous weather, including snowstorms, floods and tornadoes. It was a bold charge that required some risk taking and perhaps resulted in increase caution and a sense of over alarming.

In the middle 80’s, we were still forecasting river crests without putting additional expected precipitation into the models. Subsequently, the forecast would be Stair-stepped when we we enter observed rainfall into the model, increasing the crest forecast. When we began to improve the forecast of short term precipitation we had indeed enhanced the river flood forecast and elimated the Stair-stepping.

More than a week ago the Weather Service River Center in Chanhassen started to focus on a crest of 37 to 39 feet for Fargo as the water began to rise on the Red River. Since the precipitation was minimal during the past week the forecast appears to be coming in very close to the 37 foot prediction.

Rises on the Crow River in the west metro resulted from the rapid melt of snow downstream that had a water equivalent of more than four inches. About a half inch of rain fell on the 10th and 11th bumping up the crest forecast a little higher than previously expected.

A moderation from this brief intrusion of colder air begins on Sunday.


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