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Meteorology Tech Run Amok

May 22, 2011

Now that the digital technology in teaching workshop is over, I can get back to being a science malcontent.

Two nights ago, there was a lot of severe weather in the Kansas City area.

I tuned in to our local NBC affiliate and they were offering blow-by-blow coverage. They have this new technology that enables them (and you) to overlay radar images on interactive maps and they were demonstrating this about a wall of thunderstorms North of Savannah, MO. But they were so caught up in the tech that they repeatedly reported the weather as being West of Savannah, MO, and were doing things like zooming in (and calling attention to) the football stadium. Finally, after identifying the weather as being West of the town about 4 or 5 times, they finally corrected it as being North of the town although the viewer could see that the weather was distributed North.

The odd thing about this was that all the technology really did nothing to clarify the situation on the ground. It, at best, misled some people in the viewing area about their risk. While this technology can aid the viewer and the web user of the affiliates’ weather products, it should be used judiciously and meteorologists would do well to consider how they navigate around these new digital technologies, prior to an emergency situation, in ways that inform (rather than mislead) and provide appropriate levels of caution when needed. Also, did we really need 1 hour and 40 minutes of non-stop coverage of it?

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