PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The wrath of Mother Nature certainly was no surprise.
The science of meteorology told us it was coming days in advance, but we want to know more. We want to know how much and when and where.
“I think it’s the most difficult thing we have to do in forecasting,” says KDKA Meteorologist Dennis Bowman. “I’ve been saying that for decades.”
But scientist, like Bowman and KDKA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Verzyla, love a challenge. So, they delve into their computer models and raw data, and start crunching.
“There are three probably main issues at play – the track, the timing and the temperature,” says Verszyla.
But that’s just a start.
“If you just relied on those big three, you’d probably get burned 50 percent of the time,” Verszyla adds.
So ahead of the storm, they look for more.
“Now we have to figure out how much liquid are we going to get,” Verszyla says. “If you melt snow down, you get this amount of liquid.”
And, in what form will it fall?
“If you throw in some rain and some sleet, then it’s a whole different ballgame than if it all falls as snow,” Bowman adds.
Get all of that right, and still, there are variables from hilltops to valleys, neighborhood to neighborhood.
“That’s why you give a range,” Verszyla said. “Three to six inches, maybe it ends up six and a half. At the end of the day, did you still know it was going to snow, sure. Maybe you got a little more than what was our high end of the range. This just how it goes.
And still, the unpredictable can happen, as it did with this latest blast of winter.
“Who would have [thought] that some of these bans would take their hat off and stay a while over Apollo, Leechburg, and New Kensington and Natrona Heights,” said Bowman. “All of a sudden, you’ve got an area that you thought was going to be inside the four to six range, and you end up with a foot of snow.”
“Sometimes, Mother Mature just wins,” Verszyla adds.
KDKA Radio’s Bill Rehkopf interviews AccuWeather Meteorologist Carl Erickson: