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Forecasting the weather in certain situations remains an uncertain and complicated business.
Forecasting the weather in certain situations remains an uncertain and complicated business.

Weather words you ignore

In more than 20 years as a meteorologist, I learned plenty about how people interpret weather forecasts. Perhaps the most interesting (frustrating?) thing is that people ignore the words "chance" and "scattered."

For example, here's a typical summer weather forecast that I have written many times: "Breezy and warm with a chance of scattered thunderstorms developing this afternoon."

However, when I said those words on TV or on the radio, here's what most people heard "It's going to storm today."

When I write forecasts similar to the one above, I include the words "chance" and "scattered" for specific reasons.

The word "chance" is used because meteorologists can't always determine with certainty whether it will or will not rain. For a variety of reasons, some people won't accept that. Yet the truth is, for all of the monumental leaps the science of weather forecasting has made over the last 50 years, the atmosphere remains too complicated for man or machine to accurately predict what it will do in the future in all situations.

Perhaps TV station promotion departments have something to do with it. Maybe they have oversold their meteorologist's abilities. Perhaps some meteorologists themselves have positioned themselves as better than they are. Whatever the reason, there are still many times when conditions of the atmosphere are such that we are unable to determine with certainty whether it will rain or not.

The word "scattered" is used because we often have situations in which some areas will get rain and some won't. This situation is common in Milwaukee, especially in the summer. Atmospheric conditions are often such that individual storms can occur and bring heavy rain to one part of town while others remain dry.

I can't tell you how many times I've taken phone calls that went like this:

Caller: "I thought it was supposed to rain today."

Me: "It did."

Caller: "It didn't at my house."

Me: "That's true. The storms were scattered. Some plac…


Warm temperatures to return this week

How chilly has this spring been so far? Through Saturday, high temperatures in Milwaukee since April 1 have included:

  • One day in the 30s
  • Fifteen days in the 40s
  • Twelve days in the 50s
  • Eight days in the 60s
  • Zero days in the 70s
  • One day in the 80s

How does that compare to average? The average highs in Milwaukee from April 1 through Sunday include:

  • Three days in the 40s
  • Twenty-six days in the 50s
  • Eight days in the 60s.

For the first time in a while, the upcoming week's high temperatures are going to climb to above normal levels. It'll be temporary, which I'm sure surprises no one. Nevertheless, most parts of southeastern Wisconsin will enjoy at least two and possibly three days this week with highs in the 70s.

As I write this on Saturday, indications are that 70s are likely both Tuesday and Wednesday and possible again on Thursday.

The locations that might not join in on the party in the 70s are those within a mile or two of Lake Michigan. It is cooler near the lake season, which means winds from the east transport lake-chilled air inland.

Here's what high temperatures look like through next weekend:

Sunday: Mid to upper 60s.

Monday: Mid to upper 60s.

Tuesday: Low to mid 70s, much cooler near the lake.

Wednesday: Mid to upper 70s, much cooler near the lake.

Thursday: Upper 60s to low 70s.

Friday: Upper 50s to low 60s.

Saturday: Mid 50s to near 60.

Sunday: Mid 50s to near 60.

Yes, cool temperatures return for next weekend. I don't know about you, but I'll worry about that when the time comes. For now, I'm looking forward to the 70s!