Sunday, January 12, 2020

A brain teaser for a rainy afternoon

We are having much warmer temperatures in north Georgia this January than usually occur. It is expected to reach 70°F (21°C) on Wednesday. We’ve also received a lot of rain lately, lots and lots of rain. It’s ultimately good for the grass, I know, but right now my back yard (British, garden) is saturated, spongy to walk on, downright unpleasant.

But enough about me and my problems. I want to ask you a question.

Something I either heard a meteorologist say several years ago or read in a newspaper or magazine article that was written by a meteorologist — I can’t remember which — Is now stuck in my brain. What I want to know from you is (a) do you think it is true? and (b) is there a difference?

Here it is:

When you hear a weather person say there’s a 60% chance of rain tomorrow, it doesn’t mean there is a 60% chance of rain in 100% of the viewing or listening area. It means there is a 100% chance of rain in 60% of the viewing or listening area.

Years ago my friend and workplace colleague Sanford J. Epstein, a 305-lb. Jew from Burlington, Vermont (as he often referred to himself, and who always wore a bright Kelly green suit to work on St. Patrick’s Day and changed his name tag to read “Sanford J. O’Epstein”) said “If there is a difference that makes no difference, then there is no difference.”

Is the “60% of 100% will have rain” versus “100% of 60% will have rain” puzzle easily dismissed simply by applying the Epstein Rule, or is there a true difference?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Think about it awhile; don’t jump to a conclusion prematurely.

The Bible says it rains on the just and on the unjust. I believe that. I also believe that it rains more on the just than on the unjust, because the unjust stole the just’s umbrella.

You heard it here first.

16 comments:

  1. The answer to your question is that the meteorologist is trying to make an educated guess without too many people saying he is wrong.

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    1. Emma, I'm sure you are right but you answered a question I didn't ask.

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  2. I think it is a 60% chance of rain in 100% of the viewing area. But really I think he is just trying to cover himself in case it doesn't rain at all.

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    1. Bonnie, you are one up on Emma; you answered the questions and then ou answered one I didn't ask!

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  3. I suspect that you also have to factor in the time that the forecast covers.

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    1. Adrian, I suspect that no one is going to answer my question.

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  4. My first thought is that mathematically it's the same, which means that from the perspective of any one precise location it's the same, but there is a difference in meaning between saying it's (a) definitely going to rain but they aren't sure where, and (b) there's a good chance it will rain and they are sure where.

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    1. Tasker Dunham, finally! Someone answered my quesion.

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  5. I live in the Pacific Northwest, so it's a moot point. It's going to rain. Period.

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    1. Pam, you are a pragmatic person who cuts to the chase.

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  6. I had to read your final paragraph twice because in the middle of a drought here I'm hoping it rains more on the just.
    Everything is becoming back to front.

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    1. kylie, I'm assuming you count yourself among the just. Your last sentence is enigmatic. Please elaborate.

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  7. In our current drought I'm hoping the rain falls more on the just.

    Everything is becoming back to front

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    1. kylie, I'm assuming you count yourself among the just. Your last sentence is enigmatic. Please elaborate.

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  8. I think there is a true difference. I don't think I always agree with your friend. We may not see or care about it, but it may matter in the grand scheme of things.
    And because I couldn't resist;
    Whether the weather be cold, Or whether the weather be hot, We'll weather the weather. Whatever the weather, Whether we like it or not!

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    1. Kathy, I think there is a true difference too. See Tasker Dunham's comment above for what the difference is.

      I like your little poem a great deal!

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