Winter Weather Hysteria Survival Guide

Winter weather on social media is a pandemic of extreme nature. Paralyzing snowfall model predictions. Bone chilling cold that would make any normal person re-evaluate what latitude level they call home. Buzzwords like “polar vortex” and “record breaking cold / snowfall” get thrown around like candy at Halloween. All of this goes viral on social media, causing reaction from ranging extreme joy to deep depression.

One tweet or one Facebook posts could get shared thousands of times. At the root of all of it, it is only one single image. That one image gets blown out of proportion. Why? It is only one model idea for one model run at one time, and it can change quickly.

The truth of the matter is these model ideas, are simply just that: ideas. Due to the way models are wired through physics, they have biases. Some models run warm, others run cold. Certain models are more sensitive to moisture output, others are more conservative. Some handle wind and upper level energy differently. Guidance can run fast, or run slow pending on how it is geared to show what the model is designed to.

One image from one run by one model does not factor all of this in. The result is deceiving and misleading.

What is also deceptive is these charts display 10 to 16 days worth of output. There could be several storms in the time period which could make up that amount.

Models lose their value at longer ranges as the above image indicates, which is yet another reason why looking at 240 hour or 384 hour snowfall output should have the disclaimer “FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY” attached to it, but those that share those images rarely say that. It loses the shock value to add followers and and get shares.

The truth of the matter is that more times than not, it is science fiction and unlikely to verify over the forecast period.

A forecaster who discusses trend and uses ensembles in discussions is far more worthy of your time that those the simply post for shock value. Explanations such as this that gives analysis on what could happen is far more useful.

The atmosphere is always changing, and it changes faster than any piece of computer guidance man has created to this point.

Just one model run later by the same model, what looked like a heavy snow period for Northern Maine over 240 hours doesn’t look so severe, and southern and eastern areas barely see flakes.

It would be doubtful that the same source who posted a high impact snow map would follow up with a chart showing lesser amounts.

Rule of thumb: if model charts are being shared without any sort of explanation attached to them, be concerned about the knowledge of the one supplying that information.

Stick with those forecasters who have integrity and can objectively guide you through the winter season with a rational and balanced approach. Avoid those that want to present shock value as a source of attention.

For forecasts and discussion covering all of the state of Maine, please check out my website, like and follow the Pine Tree Weather Facebook Page. I am also on Twitter @WesternMEwx.

Special thanks to and to AccuWeather for use of their charts.

Always stay weather aware!

– Mike Haggett



Mike Haggett

About Mike Haggett

As a Mainer for nearly five decades, Mike understands all too well the ever changing weather forecasts and surprises given the location and geography of the state. Spending much of his time as child outdoors fishing in all four seasons, keeping track of the weather was a must for personal safety. Living firsthand through the impacts of weather through many types of storms and phenomena, the idea came to mind for him to analyze it closer in 2011.