Over Reaction To Weather Forecasts Considered Harmful

In recent years we have seen a number of changes in the way our institutions, especially schools, react to forecasts of severe weather. This is partially because we have gotten better at forecasting weather and partially because the schools systems are afraid of being sued if there were injuries or deaths due to severe weather. I honestly don’t think students are any safer at home. The fact of the matter is that they are just more distributed. Consequently, while the chances of lots of students getting hurt are less, the chances of some students getting hurt is probably greater.

But there is a greater risk of preemptively cancelling schools every time there is a possibility of rough weather. That is that every time we over react to the forecast and nothing actually happens we erode the credibility of our weather forecasters. As a result we encourage people to disregard predictions of rough weather. This is dangerous. Our weather forecasting capabilities are getting incrementally better. We are constantly getting better computer models that can more accurately predict what is going to happen and computers are getting more capable every year. And yet these models are only good if we heed their warning.

We should be making better emergency plans and tailoring our reactions to what is actually predicted. Instead, we have school systems which would rather make it somebody else’s responsibility to keep their students safe. It is all an issue of avoiding liability. We are teaching our children to overreact to threats of all kinds instead of rationally evaluating risk and making solid contingency plans. I think we will regret this in the long run.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.