And now, fake weather forecasts

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 16, 2017

Here on the East Coast, we were hit with a major snowstorm on Tuesday. You probably read about it, even if you live somewhere else; the forecasts were all over the national news, with predictions of a potential disaster. Then something very interesting happened.

In the last hours before the snow arrived, forecasters saw a shift in their models. Metereologists realized that most East Coast cities would have much less snow than they had predicted. It would still be a major storm, but not a huge one.

So at the last minute the forecasters changed their predictions, right? Wrong. The National Weather Service meteorologists put their heads together and decided to continue predicting a catastrophe. “Out of extreme caution we decided to stick with higher amounts,” said Gerg Carbin, who heads the Weather Prediction Center in Maryland.

You see, the forecasters decided that it would be good for us to expect a huge amount of snow. Then we’d all be prepared, and we’d be pleasantly surprised when the snowfall was less than we had anticipated.

Where I live, the snowfall was a bit less than a foot—not the the 18 to 24 inches we had been told to expect. We were all plowed out by nightfall. And yes, we were relieved.

But then the next day I learned that the forecasters had deliberately given us misleading predictions, because they thought they knew what was good for us. That attitude worries me, frankly, more than the prospect of two feet of snow.

We’re known for years that media outlets provide us with the news that the broadcasters want us to hear, and sometimes the editors tilt the news one way or another, to accommodate their own political perspectives. But now the weather forecasters, too?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: brehany4valloire4245 - Mar. 21, 2017 12:27 PM ET USA

    Jimmy Breslin once called William Randolph Hearst's JOURNAL AMERICAN "a paper where you couldn’t believe the weather report"!

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Mar. 18, 2017 1:24 AM ET USA

    What has happened in recent years in my Southern city is when we have had severe flooding because of heavy rain,it was too late to evacuate. The authorities were criticized for not anticipating this disaster. So when they decided to evacuate in anticipation of flooding,and no flooding occurring,they were castigated again. Having endured great inconvenience and loss of life several times in the same year,our citizens are now less apt to feel that conspiracies are afoot when flood season arrives

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 16, 2017 11:42 PM ET USA

    Very strange indeed. So from now on, should you expect forecasts exaggerated "for your own good"? Will all forecasts be fake, or only select ones? Which ones will be fake, and who decides and how? What's the point of this? What if there is real severe weather coming and nobody believes the forecast anymore?

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Mar. 16, 2017 10:31 AM ET USA

    Phil, why does this surprise you? The climate forecasters et al. have been doing the same for years. For example, in the 1980s my professors brought in millions in research funding because of their claim that acid rain damaged trees. A tree expert came for a seminar and told us that trees thrive in acid rain. Utter silence from the professors. In our atmospheric chemistry course we calculated the temperature rise if all the earth's biomass were burned. If I recall correctly, it was 2 degrees C.