Journalists are a little obsessed with asking about extremes. The driest day in history, the most rainfall in Pennsylvania, the highest temperature in Laredo. National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Cobb and Texas Tech grad student (in the Atmospheric Sciences Department) Jennifer Daniel gave a hands-on breakfast briefing to a couple of dozen reporters Saturday morning.
Cobb showed reporters how to find context for reporting on extreme weather events: "how abnormal is it, where does it stand within the record of the community you're reporting for."
That meant a lot of playing around with the National Climate Data Center and the NWS Climate Prediction Center. If you're interested in these places on the web, Omaha World-Herald reporter Nancy Gaarder recommends googling 'em. (I like bookmarks.)
Gaarder said, Steve Cobb could give us information over the next week to ten days. For what we think summer's going to look like, news Climate Prediction Center, where we looked at what, say, drought might look like.
Trainers worked to explain about temperature: what does it mean when it's above or below normal? We looked at predictions of below normal moisture through election week in the southwest United States. (possible election story! how does precipitation affect voter turnout? just kidding.)
Also, breaking news: climatologists are everywhere. "These people are very helpful," Gaarder testified. Ask 'em for help! NWS has 122 regional offices, people.
We talked about the Palmer Drought Index, a long term index developed by Wayne Palmer that uses algorithms to approximate soil moisture through recorded temperature and precipitation. Palmer Drought gave us a way to look at long term trends. But newer models index hydrological drought differently.
We talked about El Nino, the Southern Oscillation. NOAA offers a weekly el nino status and update worth looking at. If this next 3-month period doesn't move the needle a little, we'll continue to be in a neutral event.
And of course, we learned to use the acronym THINK:
is it TRUE
is it HELPFUL
is it IMPROBABLE
is it NECESSARY
is the source KNOWLEDGEABLE
Not bad for first thing in the day.