Response to Criticism
Thanks for your nice note.
(For those of you from out of town, Geoff Fox is a charmingly
energetic TV weather forecaster in Connecticut, who also writes
an interesting weblog http://www.geofffox.com/ )
Here are a few thoughts about TV weather reporting from
someone who doesn't have a television:
Other than astronomy, weather produces incredibily interesting
images and data. Spoken words are often less interesting and
less intense, except for the 60 words (30 seconds) saying what
has happened and what will happen tomorrow, which could be a
Thus intense visuals, nearly independent of the spoken voice,
could be beautiful and informative. It must be possible to
construct graphics that depict today and tomorrow in context of
this year, or what it was like this time last year. The graphics
would stand nearly alone, as the voice describes what will
And then images: perhaps an intense (there's that word again)
pastiche of short clips, similar to the end of Annie Hall, could be
constructed (with some explanatory typography) of the day's
weather events in the state, or nation, or world. Television is
keyed to low bandwidth of the voice (it is that low bandwidth of
the voice that leads to the chronic impatience of television).
Oddly, television is often thin visually and much like radio, except
the viewer sees someone talking. The idea is that television
should take advantage of its inherent visuality. So perhaps the
personality of the weather person could be heard rather than
seen, as beautiful visuals show up on the screen.
Thus weather reporting should have the visual richness and intensity of commercials, which do exploit television's inherent visuality and usually avoid talking heads.
A few years ago I was stranded in a hotel in Washington DC
during a snowstorm and tried to find out what was happening by
looking at the Weather Channel. It was hard to imagine how the
content per minute could be thinner and so unvisual for such an
interesting topic. I longed for the richness of the internet, which
does not march along to slow linearity of the voice, and which
could provide what I needed to know along with wonderful
Finally, two underlying ideas might help the audience
understand the inherent difficulties in forecasting the weather:
(1) If you watch a storm on radar moving across the state, it is
clear that dramatic weather events are often patchy; that is, a lot
of rain one place but nothing 10 miles away. So the forecast will
be right in one place but not in an adjacent area.
(2) A pretty good forecast on average is that tomorrow will be like
today; or that 5 days from now will be like that day a year ago.
That is, naive persistence-forecasting is not all that bad.
-- Edward Tufte