Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Partly Unclear with a Chance of Vagueness 

Apparently, according to weather reports on television and radio, Toronto is "gonna git it" tomorrow. Prophetic warnings of commuter armageddon are forecast with dire warnings of 10-15 cm of snow during tomorrow's rush hour. Now, I realize that if you live in Newfoundland where you just got hit by storm winds that knocked out power and accumulations of 46 cm of snow, that kind of forecast is probably picnic weather. But in Toronto it really could snarl traffic, public transit and just generally suck.

My point, however is that the weather applications on my phone in no way indicate any of the emphasis of human reportage. Temperature, wind and precipitation levels and types are all shown but unless Hurricane Sandy is rumbling towards you, you'd think everything is hokey-dokey. I use a couple of different weather apps and the most accurate one, from the Weather Network may show a red animated banner if a nuclear assault is imminent but for 10-15 cm of snow, it just lists, "10-15 cm" of precipitation, type: snow. The app I use most often because it gives a very good "at a glance" weather report is called Partly Cloudy. It shows the weather in a sort novel way that resembles a cross between a barometer and a volvelle.

Partly Cloudy iPhone screen shots, image via the Cult of Mac

There is a slight learning curve to looking at weather in this way and despite being a good and quick summation of the weather, it definitely won't call your attention to anything unusual. Tomorrow's forecast should really have some kind of warning or arm waving involved. I mean, if you were to ask someone, they'd tell you tomorrow will suck. The commute will be slow because it's going to snow a lot and be cold. In a few words you know what and when to expect crappy weather and how to dress. Despite all the information given in this app, you almost have to analyze the data to know what it will be like. Never mind that it uses the incredibly useless and almost completely meaningless Beaufort Wind Force Scale to tell you wind speed. Going by any of the weather applications on my phone you'd think tomorrow might have a flurry or two. Nothing more. Another thing that bothers me about the Partly Cloudy app is it doesn't accurately tell you sunrise or sunset. If you run or bike, one thing you like to know is how much daylight you have left.

I don't really need any weather report to know tomorrow will suck. I have a dentist appointment. The fact that I'll need a sled and a team of huskies to get there should come as no surprise. You know that thing in literature where the weather indicates or reflects the mood of the protagonist? Pathetic fallacy. Yeah, that thing. Well, the weather always bites when I go to the dentist. Cold, wet or windy. Take your pick. Tomorrow I'll have all three with a side of Novocain.

UPDATE: It turns out Toronto could get anywhere from 20-40 cm? The nature of two storms sort of swirling together like a Dairy Queen Sundae means the actual accumulation of snow is difficult to know – until it has already happened. I noticed my Weather Network iPad app does, in fact, provide a big pop-up warning upon weather warnings. However the day turns out, our office is empty today as anyone here can work from home, which sounds like what a lot of people have done. Today, the possibility of being able to work from home eases the impact of storms just by removing that many commuters from the roads. As bad as it is today, it sounds like it was worse in 1944 (worth checking out this article for the photos alone).

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