Winter weather "wishcasting" is not "forecasting"

When I was a kid growing up in suburban Detroit, I would watch Doug Hill forecast the weather. The mere mention of snow would trigger my crazy button. Thoughts of a winter wonderland, a day filled with skating, sledding and no school. My hopes were high. As each hour passed, I would listen to the forecast on the radio and my selective hearing would take hold. In my head, one to three inches turned into a foot.

Meteorologist Steve Rudin at 4 years old

Even as the forecast was refined, I would only hear the biggest numbers. It did not matter if they were talking about Ann Arbor or Detroit. It was all the same to me. Back then, when a couple inches were in the forecast, a “Travelers Advisory” would be issued by the National Weather Service. Today, it is known as a “Winter Weather Advisory.” Once again, in my mind, it did not matter if it was an advisory or warning – we were all going to be snowed in (for days!).

Fast forward some 30 years later and the world of social media. While technology has changed, we still tend to see and hear only what we want, especially if it is reinforced by multiple posts from different sources on several platforms. A simple tweet and map post on Facebook a couple weeks ago caused a huge kerfuffle amongst “wishcasters” from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic. Like a hypnotic trance, what snow lover could possibly resist the thought of 30” of snow? Once again, hopes were dashed. Nothing materialized for us except a light dusting.

Over the weekend, word started going around about a potential storm by late Wednesday and Thursday. In a matter of hours, maps with outrageous snow totals started to flood the internet. Everyone suddenly became an expert. Some went as far as posting maps with “80 percent certainty.”

As the storm develops and moves our way, remember “wishcasting” is not “forecasting.” It is fun to dream, but more important to keep things in perspective.

This is not Snowmageddon.