In the middle of a sunny day, we say “I’m roasting. I’ve got to get out of the sun.” While on a cloudy day, we say “I’m cold. I wish the sun would come out.” On a rainy day we complain “I’m wet and miserable.” When it’s hot and dry again we moan “I’m frying to death.”
Yes, the weather is exasperating -- but global warming aside -- at least it’s not our fault. Unlike when we drench ourselves trying to water the lawn. No, the weather is one thing we can tackle as well as the next guy.
I’ll give you a test:
Me: What does a 35% chance of rain mean?
You: It means there’s a 65% chance it won’t.
And the buzzer goes off. Baaah.
That’s technically not what it means, and after a summer of buckets of rain, and me hiking through hard-driving sheets, I’ve learned you and me and half the world and even some meteorologists don’t understand the chance of rain.
This makes a technically, mechanically and statistically challenged person feel good.
So here’s a nod to all you similar clansmen and women. You know who you are. You can hardly use a hair dryer without blowing a fuse, start the car without strange bells and whistles, slice a pineapple without blood.
My lack-of-knack came from my father, ole mister flummoxed when it came to screwing in a light bulb. He taught me to screw up my mouth instead and make some pretty good fish faces. Still comes in handy.
But the weather, ah yes, there’s something in this hi-tech world we can manage on an equal footing with everyone else. We simply read the weather report, sob or rejoice, grab the umbrella or sunscreen, and go on with the day.
No hammers or hard drives required. We don’t need to hurt ourselves, cause a catastrophe, analyze high and low pressure systems, wind fronts or wind chill or wind gusts, or why we can’t point a remote straight up and change the clouds.
We should work on that.
You: So what does a 35% chance of rain mean?
Me: You asked for it. Here goes:
According to the smart people who can’t boil an egg, it’s all about PoP, and we’re not talking about my Dad again. PoP, or Probability of Precipitation, is the confidence (C) you’ll see those drops somewhere in the forecast area, and the percent of that area (A) that will suffer, IF it occurs at all.
It looks like this: PoP = C x A. It sounds like this: IF, IF, IF, IF, IF . . .
In other words . . . IF there’s a 50% confidence it will pour, and an expectation it will ruin outdoor weddings in 70% of the area IF it does, the PoP is .5 x .7 which equals 35%. Or a 35% chance someone will cry. I think.
Time for a fish face?
Don’t fret. One study says three-quarters of the population doesn’t understand and calls the weather guy or girl an idiot.
I turn to my hiking partner, the statistically savvy and annoying husband.
He explains the 35% chance of rain this way:
Let’s say you have a coin with three sides. One side is heads or rain, one side is tails or no rain, and one side is expensive Gortex rain gear. There’s a one-third chance someone will need that gear and all you have to do is find them.
My Dad (way in the past): I mean what I mean and I say what I mean you know what I mean.
No, I don’t. But then again, I can’t open a cereal bag without a blowtorch. But I can pack my silly fish face wherever I go. Somehow, I know the rains will come, and sometime, I know I’ll need to laugh at the weather.
October 7, 2018