NO EVIDENCE’: Experts Continue To Debunk WaPo’s Claim About The Shutdown And Weather Forecasts

From The Daily Caller

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

  • There’s no evidence the government shutdown is making weather forecasts less accurate, according to experts.
  • The Washington Post reported the shutdown has impacted the accuracy of NOAA’s flagship weather model.
  • However, NOAA and other meteorologists who fact-checked the claim found no evidence to back it up.

The Washington Post reported more than 10 days ago that weather forecasts were less reliable because of the ongoing government shutdown. Since then, however, evidence has mounted against that narrative.

The latest rebuke of The Post’s narrative came from AccuWeather. The weather and news site issued a correction to a story published Thursday on the reliability of weather forecasts during the government shutdown.

Can you trust weather forecasts during the shutdown? “Absolutely!,” reports AccuWeather.

“A previous version of this story that appeared on this page seemed to imply that government weather data could not be trusted during the shutdown even though the intent of our story was to point out that government data is continuing to flow through regular channels, and that our meteorological colleagues at the National Weather Service are working hard, as we are, to keep people safe and informed. And they are doing so without paychecks. This updated version of the story better communicates that idea.”

Likewise, University of Washington climate scientist Cliff Mass fact-checked the claim that weather forecasts were less accurate because of the government shutdown, which was precipitated by a fight over border wall funding.

“I think these claims are baseless,” Mass wrote in a blog post Monday. “I have looked at many other fields and the answer is the same: there is NO EVIDENCE that the initialization of the U.S. global model has been degraded as a result of the partial government shutdown.”

President Trump talks to reporters after addressing closed Senate Republican policy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as Vice President Mike Pence looks on as the president departs after addressing a closed Senate Republican policy lunch while a partial government shutdown enters its 19th day on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young.

Mass isn’t the only weather expert to weigh in. Meteorologist Ryan Maue also fact-checked The Post’s report and found the evidence lacking. (RELATED: Jeff Flake Backs Tax Redistribution Scheme To Cut CO2 Emissions)

“I do not find evidence (as of yet) for this claim in my verification statistics for the NOAA global weather model,” Maue tweeted in early January. “While problems could arise at any time — the model breaking — so far, that’s NOT happening.”

The Post’s Capital Weather Gang reported on Jan. 7 that the ongoing government shutdown is impacting the National Weather Service (NWS), including the forecasting ability of the federal government’s flagship weather model.

The “current Global Forecast System — or the GFS — the United States’ premier weather model, is running poorly, and there’s no one on duty to fix it,” the Post reported, calling potential forecasting problems a “national security risk.”

The Post relied on testimony from one furloughed NOAA contractor and a “drop-out” in forecast accuracy on Christmas Day. The Post’s article spawned a flurry of alarming press coverage that weather forecasts couldn’t be trusted.

That would be a troubling prospect for people living in, say, the Northeast and Midwest where a major winter storm is forecast to hit this weekend.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives for a press briefing on the 27th day of a partial government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives for a press briefing on the 27th day of a partial government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

Neil Jacobs, a deputy administrator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), wrote an op-ed to respond to alarming coverage. Jacobs contested claims of a “drop-out” and that forecasts were unreliable.

“The decrease in accuracy around Dec. 25 was neither a dropout nor unexpected, and a similar trend was seen in the well-regarded European model,” Jacobs wrote in his op-ed, published Jan. 11. “The fact that the accuracy was above average during the 10-day span prior to this shift gave the appearance of decreased performance.”

“Contrary to statements seen in the press, NWS employees do not just go in and “fix” model code every time there is a dropout,” Jacobs added. “The production code is locked down, and upgrades are performed on a systematic basis.”

“Proper evaluation of forecast model skill requires a very methodical approach, and conclusive results are obtained by monitoring statistics over months to years, not daily or even weekly fluctuations,” Jacobs wrote.

The Post has yet to update its dubious article despite multiple fact-checks and the op-ed response from NOAA’s Jacobs. The Post’s Capital Weather Gang did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

Update: The Washington Post updated its January 7th article to include a response from NOAA’s Jacobs. However, The Post did not change its headline despite there being no evidence the shutdown has made weather forecasts less accurate.

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75 thoughts on “NO EVIDENCE’: Experts Continue To Debunk WaPo’s Claim About The Shutdown And Weather Forecasts

  1. In the USA, one third of the government is shut down.
    There is a great panic amongst Democrats in the USA to reopen the government, before the population notices that removing one third of the government has made no difference to them.

      • I guess your idea of “superbly accurate” differs greatly from mine. Often times they can’t even get the weather right within 8 hours. You can forget about 3 days.

        • The models are computer code…if computer code required constant tending to function properly, T.I., IBM, Apple/Mac, Microsoft would be out of business faster than a sand salesman in the Sahara

          • Agreed, Bryan A.

            Our local (Seattle) weather guy on one of the TV/Radio stations is always saying something to the effect “I want to wait to see more model runs before I commit to xxxx”. If the model run wasn’t right the first time, why would you think it would be right 100 runs later? It really means that when he sees something he likes (bias).

          • But radar isn’t a forecast, it’s real-time. The problem is no one knows what that front will look like a few hours from then. They can make educated guesses, but it’s still just a guess.

    • We’ve already noticed that it makes no difference. And Accuweather’s forecasts seem to be MORE accurate than usual (who knew that would happen?), so WaPo, as usual, is engaged in much ado about nothing.

      But what else did you expect from them? They aren’t the brightest bulbs in the bin, you know.

      • The Propaganda Press has abandoned any pretense of honesty in reporting in the Time Of Trump. They use to make an attempt at making their misinformation plausible. Now they just spew nonsense.

        • Best yet was a couple days ago when the MSM reported that they had seen absolute proof that Trump was going to be indicted for asking Cohen to lie to Congress. that was bad enough that even Mueller finally had to come out and state publicly that the story was completely made up.

      • “And Accuweather’s forecasts seem to be MORE accurate than usual”

        Random chance. Broken clock fallacy.

        • Not really the broken clock fallacy. Sometimes, the PC people are supplanted by those who are less PC and more accurate in their results.

  2. During the 2013 Government Shutdown (when Senator Ted Cruz was filibustering the funding legislation to stop ObamaCare implementation), President Barack Obama and his mal-administration did everything they could to make the shutdown as painful as possible to every American. Obama and his minions shut down everything possible to make the pain as painful as possible on everyone, even things they could have kept reasonably open, they shut down.

    In this shutdown, the Trump Administration has done everything possible to lessen the impacts to Americans and those going without pay. He has already signed the back pay legislation to promise the workers that w=once this over, their bank accounts with auto e-payments will be made whole again… like it never happened even though many haven’t had to go to work for weeks.
    Meanwhile Trump is trying to secure the Southern border despite Democrats wanting an Open Border in obeisance to their George Soros “Hate Free America” pay-master. Without a secure border to control immigration, immigration law and policy means nothing but lip service.

    So who cares more about Americans? Democrats or Republicans?

      • errata: “The Obama mal-administration even closed unmanned historical markers.”

        Obama – By far the Worst US President since James Buchanan in 1860. James Buchanan’s mal-admin lead to the US Civil War. Buchanan’s divisiveness drove the wedge of separation ever deeper between the North and South. Just like Obama always did by playing the race card for his political advantage with his base to the great detriment of the larger nation, ever dividing the US. Once the current generations are long dad, future historians not burdened by political blinders will undoubtedly acknowledge Obama’s abject malfeasance.

      • Yes, for example: Obama withheld survivor benefits to family of troops killed in Afghanistan. He closed the World War II Memorial just as a group of veterans came to Washington to visit it, having barricades erected to do so. Meanwhile, the mall was opened for thousands of illegal immigrants to demonstrate for citizenship, led by Nancy Pelosi.

        • The Honor Flight vets found the barricades and set them aside.. They weren’t forbidden to enter the WWII Memorial, but simply blocked.

          My favorite episode of Da Stoopid by that lack-of-admin was putting traffic cones on the federal highway that drives by Mt. Rushmore to keep people from seeing that memorial. As a result, people driving on THAT highway, got out, threw the traffic cones into the ditch and went on their way, enjoying the view of the four Presidents. They also broadcast the videos of their civil disobedience, much to the delight of the rest of us.

      • Forest Service roads and trails were blocked off.
        Scheduled work parties of Washington Trails Association and
        other volunteer groups had to find city, county, and state lands
        to go to. This was a totally unnecessary disruption.

        Our local (central Washington State) weather forecasts have been very accurate.
        Unfortunately.

  3. WaPo’s motto says that “Democracy Dies In Darkness.” If that is indeed the case, then WaPo should quit turning off the lights of sound journalism. Democracy can die from ignorance as well.

    • Long recognized that GFS can’t get cloud cover correct, which the moisture low in the upper layers of the troposphere. Without correct cloud cover, it can’t get anything more than 4 days out correct. ECMWF is your only hope beyond 3 or 4 days.

  4. Assuming the Weather Channel’s 5 day forecasts for Northern Ohio are based on the NWS’ global weather model, my observation is that their forecasts this week have been every bit as unreliable as those from a month ago.

  5. Absolutely stupid. Any good meteorologist knows that the european models have a better track record and we can survive just fine on them in conjunction with Canadian and Japanese models. The US climate models have been running way hot in the far-term anyway.

  6. WUWT needs to move to a better comment engine like Disqus so we can “thumbs up” comments we like rather than adding a comment indicating we agree. CTM, can it be done?

  7. charles said:

    “However, The Post did not change its headline despite there being no evidence the shutdown has made weather forecasts less accurate.”

    People in glass houses….

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/12/27/extra-atmospheric-co2-increased-red-spruce-forest-growth-106-since-1989/

    Headline: “Extra Atmospheric CO2 Increased Red Spruce Forest Growth 106% Since 1989”

    Figures from actual study: around 60% of the 106% was due to CO2.

    Justification for false and misleading headline: Dr. Isdo said “The number one factor responsible behind a 106% increase in red spruce basal area increment since 1989 is — you guessed it — rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2!…”

    So there you have it. Being the larger of the factors makes it OK to say that 106% increased growth is due to CO2.

    • Funny…headlines blaming human GHG emissions for global warming never break-out the human attribution to separate it from natural causes, either.

          • Jeff Alberts said: “The question is, Phillip, will you?”

            Yes. They should correct the headline, and make a note of why it was changed.

            “So, Phillip. You compare a headline claiming 106% growth, when the actual was 60%, still significant; to a headline where there is no evidence for the claim. One oversells, one is an outright lie (WaPo).”

            The study says that there was an increase in growth of 106%. That figure isn’t the problem. It’s attributing all of that to CO2 that is wrong. Around (rough calculation) 60% of that was due to CO2. WUWT defended the headline and refused to change it, saying:

            “Dr. Isdo wrote it this way: A CO2-induced Stimulation of Red Spruce Forest Growth Since 1989 (20 December 2018)
            The number one factor responsible behind a 106% increase in red spruce basal area increment since 1989 is — you guessed it — rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2!… give it a rest!) MOD”

            What do you think about that?

            They are comparable in that they are both incorrect. They should both be corrected. Do you agree?

          • “They are comparable in that they are both incorrect. They should both be corrected. Do you agree?”

            Yes they should be. The problem is, the WaPo story would be a complete non-story if the headline were made accurate. Idso’s would still be a story.

        • So, Phillip. You compare a headline claiming 106% growth, when the actual was 60%, still significant; to a headline where there is no evidence for the claim. One oversells, one is an outright lie (WaPo).

      • You are correct. I thought the text in italics had been added by WUWT. Regardless, if WUWT is going to publish articles calling people out for not correcting headlines, it might be nice if they could demonstrate some leadership by example.

        • Ah yes Phil Schaeffer the concern troll. Let me make it clear. You and you alone are the only one who keeps calling for a headline correction on an old story. If you can get get the original news source to change the headline, then we’ll change ours to match. Otherwise, it stands because it’s a repost of that story. I’m getting tired of your whining about it. As I’ve said many time before, if you want to keep it up, you’ll go back into the bit bucket.

          • Anthony Watts said:

            “If you can get get the original news source to change the headline, then we’ll change ours to match. Otherwise, it stands because it’s a repost of that story. I’m getting tired of your whining about it.”

            Craig Idso doesn’t use the words in your headline in his article, or its title. Neither did the study that his article was about.

            Feel free to provide a reference to the source of the headline if you think I’ve got this wrong, and you have my word I’ll shut up about it.

          • Wasn’t talking about that headline, but the one you keep whining about – raptors. Mostly what you do here is whine about how you think we should do things according to your viewpoint.

          • Anthony Watts said:

            “Wasn’t talking about that headline, but the one you keep whining about – raptors.”

            In that case you restated the false and misleading claim from the daily mail headline in your own words. But you’ve made it clear that I’ll never win that battle, so there you go.

            What about the headline I am talking about? I provided a link to the article so there can be no confusion as to what I am talking about. Do you stand by it?

          • Cricket cricket…. Cricket cricket……

            At what point is it reasonable for me to accuse you of refusing to fix an obvious error that you have been made aware of in plain, clear and indisputable terms?

            Should I wait till comments are closed, again?

            (You have been answered several times now, drop it!) MOD

            [NOTE THIS UPDATE IN THE STORY: (you may have missed it)

            Update: The Washington Post updated its January 7th article to include a response from NOAA’s Jacobs. However, The Post did not change its headline despite there being no evidence the shutdown has made weather forecasts less accurate.

            Once again, if you can get the Washington Post, Mail, or any other outlet to change their headline, we will of course change ours. As for the IDSO article, you are the only one claiming it is false and misleading. CO2 is in fact the major driver of tree growth, and the details are clearly spelled out in the article. If there was NO factor from CO2, you’d have a point. Headlines are designed to pique interest. Readers get details from the body of the article. Meanwhile, as the mod said before, “drop it”. You don’t run this website, and your constant complaining is tiresome. Really, you don’t do anything here but complain. – Anthony] [edited for clarity]

        • “You are correct. I thought the text in italics had been added by WUWT”

          My first clue?

          “Follow Michael on Twitter”

  8. This story on NPR set off my b.s. detector as well: https://www.npr.org/2019/01/18/686451007/how-the-government-shutdown-is-affecting-weather-forecasts

    Particularly this bit:

    >> In California, where rain and wind caused car crashes and flooding in some areas, local officials have less flood information than they usually would. Stream gauges maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey aren’t being calibrated, which means they aren’t necessarily making accurate measurements of how much water is flowing in the rivers.

    >> That made at least one local official nervous this week. “We use stream gauge data on a moment-by-moment basis,” explains Christopher Berry, the watershed manager for Santa Cruz, Calif. He usually relies on USGS data to know whether the river that runs through the city will flood.

    >> “This is the first time I’ve ever had to say I’m cautious about whether we can rely on the data, because there’s no USGS staff working right now,” he says. <<

    Right. Questions not asked: how often are they calibrated? How many are overdue for calibration? How does Berry know when they get calibrated and when they are overdue? How does he know that *any* are overdue? How far off do the gauges get between calibrations? 1%, 5%, 10%, 50%, 100%?

    I would doubt they get calibrated more than once a year, and I would assume that they get calibrated on a schedule throughout the year and not all at once (perhaps with fewer calibrations in the winter.) Since the govt shutdown has been in place for about a month, only those needing calibration during that month might be inaccurate: so only one in twelve might be off. Depending on how much they drift between calibrations, the result of the lack of calibration would be between minor and nil.

    • When I was doing hydraulics as part of my Mech. Eng way back in the 1960’s, stream flow measurement was by means of a stone or concrete weir, with calibrated depth markings DEPENDING UPON THE GEOMETRY. Now, this is California, so I suppose that earth tremors COULD shift the markings – but my opinion is that this is just yet another excuse by a lazy civil serpent.

  9. The Post did not change its headline despite there being no evidence the shutdown has made weather forecasts less accurate. –>

    Why should they: it’s not about truth but about subscribers.

  10. All the USA weather service has to do is to look up the last 30 year figures, average them, no fiddling please, and am sure that they will be near enough.

    W hat goes around still comes around.

    MJE
    t

  11. I have a simple question regarding the accuracy of the state weather forecasting data during this forced sabbatical the depts. concerned now have.
    How would anyone ever know, if the data is more accurate or not?

    • Automated stations should keep reporting.
      Manually read stations, may or may not be read.
      Stations that suffer a malfunction may or may not be repaired.

      It’s not so much that the data is less accurate, it’s that there may be less data during the shutdown and having less data would make the forecasts less accurate.

      That said, there is no evidence that there is less data either.

  12. I would have to say that 99% of all “daily issued” weather forecasts are for seven (7) days (current day + the next 6) ……. and that 99% of the people that read, hear or see said forecasts, …… only about 70% hope that the “current day” forecast will be correct, ……. and only about 50% think that maybe the “day 2” forecast will be correct, …….. and no one, even the meteorologist issuing the forecast, believes that “day 3 thru 7” forecast has little more than a 5% chance of being correct.

    And that is the very reason that 99% of the “weather forecast” reading, hearing or seeing populace and 100% of the meteorologist issuing the forecast do it every day and many do it several times each day …….. simply because they know the weather can change at a moments notice.

    • For me, the 7-day serves as mostly a warning of potential problems. For example if the weather man is telling me that the expect a major snowstorm in 5 days, I make a point to get outside work done this weekend because there’s a good chance I won’t be able to do it next weekend.

    • “And that is the very reason that 99% of the “weather forecast” reading, hearing or seeing populace and 100% of the meteorologist issuing the forecast do it every day and many do it several times each day …….. simply because they know the weather can change at a moments notice.”

      Which means forecasting is pretty lousy, little better than reading entrails.

  13. Lookin’ out the window at a balls-on accurate forecast, dammit.

    I recall well the nineties, when the prelude to the shutdown on the right was a gleeful, “wait ’til people get a load of how many fed. workers are ‘unnecessary'”. The press gleefully ignored that, and dug up a series of “hard times caused by shutdown” stories. Our local paper ran page one photo of a walrus at National Zoo who would die of neglect ’cause of “Newt’s” shutdown. The press won so big, “shutdown” became a dirty word for Rs, to the point where Ds would threaten Rs with a shutdown and Rs would cave, they didn’t want to face the press. They knew the press would blame Rs and not report that Ds shut it down. As several above comments note, it got to where Obama could go with awesome displays of the power of a shut down gov’t.

    The networks and newspapers are diminished, but still seem to be able to write this as a “hard luck from shutdown” story. They are having a harder time with it, so few of those stories that they’ll need to make up a few. And they will.

  14. It’s currently 0 F with near-zero visibility, NE winds and boatloads of snow. Just like NWS has been predicting all week. Even though they are not getting paychecks, they are still updating the discussions every few hours.

    I’m very grateful NWS employees are still on the job even while they are being shit on by their employer and some of the posters here. I’m sure the local NWS employees would much rather be at home watching it snow rather than traveling in horrid conditions to get to the office. Widespread power failures are possible with this storm. If that happens, will they be at home taking care of their families, or still at the office making forecasts for a bunch of ingrates?

    • Trailer Trash, it appears that a lot of those government employees are at home but they are NOT watching it snow, to wit:

      Pornhub reports jump in viewership amid partial government shutdown

      As the partial government shutdown heads into its 28th day, Pornhub has reported a spike in traffic — coinciding with the same time some federal workers have stayed home from work.

      The site’s Insights team analyzed data from Jan. 7 to Jan. 11, and found that not only has PornHub seen an almost six percent increase in visitors, it’s also seen a “distinct shift in the hours during which people are watching porn.”

      Read more @ https://www.foxnews.com/tech/pornhub-reveals-spike-in-viewers-during-partial-shutdown

      Of course, when you addicted to “watching porn” during the week days …… ya don’t quit just cause your home due to the “shutdown”.

  15. A few less tokenism hurricane season forecasts and a lot less 30 years till doom government forecasts would be helpful.

  16. From an ex-NOAA forecaster who has been through shutdowns, The NWS is running almost normally. You could say even supra-optimally, as there are no useless wonks at the Regional or National HQs to bollox up the works. Electronics Technicians would be either on duty or called in as needed to repair any necessary equipment. Employees know they will be paid; employees who are not “emergency” category will likely be paid for time they were not on duty anyway. It’s a nice paid vacation for them, if prologue is predictor. The source of stories must be considered, as they ALL have agendas these days.

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