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Man bites dog

Posted By Russ Roberts On December 13, 2011 @ 11:33 am In Complexity & Emergence,Data,Environment,Fooled by Randomness,Risk and Safety,Science | Comments Disabled

Two hurricane forecasters admit that while their models fit beautifully in hindsight, they were incapable of predicting the future (HT: John Hiller):

Two top U.S. hurricane forecasters, revered like rock stars in Deep South hurricane country, are quitting the practice because it doesn’t work.

William Gray and Phil Klotzbach say a look back shows their past 20 years of forecasts had no value.

The two scientists from Colorado State University will still discuss different probabilities as hurricane seasons approach — a much more cautious approach. But the shift signals how far humans are, even with supercomputers, from truly knowing what our weather will do next.

Gray, recently joined by Klotzbach, has been known for decades for an annual forecast of how many hurricanes can be expected each official hurricane season (which runs from June to November.) Southerners hang on his words, as even a mid-sized hurricane can cause billions in damage.

Last week, the pair dropped this announcement out of a clear, blue sky:

“We are discontinuing our early December quantitative hurricane forecast for the next year … Our early December Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts of the last 20 years have not shown real-time forecast skill even though the hindcast studies on which they were based had considerable skill.”

I salute Klotzbach and Gray for their integrity.

Interestingly, I can only find mainstream media coverage of this story in the Ottawa Citizen [1] and a blog at the Houston Chronicle.

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