Sunday, December 03, 2006

Winter’s Arrival Unclear

Criminal Punishment for Improper Forecasting

Following on to my “Autumn Fatigue” posting, the weekend’s Shanghai Daily (2-3 December 2006) provided an update on the expected arrival of winter. As you might recall from the earlier posting, seasons are defined not by the calendar, but rather than actual temperature. Winter, specifically, arrives in Shanghai following five consecutive days with highs under 10°C (50°F).

Winter is generally expected to arrive during the first 10 days of December but Chen Zhiqiang of the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau advises that “Now it is still hard to predict when the winter will truly arrive this year”. This is partly due to an abnormally long summer, combined with high temperatures and higher rainfall than normal in November.

How much of his reluctance could be due to an amendment to the meteorological law? The newly adopted law provides for meteorologists to receive administrative sanctions and/or criminal punishment for improperly forecasting important weather phenomena.

Perhaps, and just perhaps, sanctions should be in place for putting improper data into a meteorological model, or possibly for inaccurate computation, or even for choosing the wrong model.In a world where the theoretical science continues to develop and the models are insufficient for accurate predictions, I just wonder how many more people will enter the field of meteorology in Shanghai.


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