Today, I Become Part Of The Great Resignation. And I Feel Fine.

When I left broadcast meteorology on the last day of November in 2017, I was more than ready to go. I had been passed up for three promotions, yet I had the qualifications for all of them. I had an MBA secretly in my back pocket, and I took at job in the business world a few days after presenting a weather forecast in front of a chromakey.

Today, I leave that job.

When I joined, my focus was business intelligence – or a fancy way of saying “making business dashboards.” Over time, my position leaned into the decision scientist, data liaison, quality assurance, testing, database design, ETL, and algorithm development space as new data sources were created throughout the organization. I created a significant amount of value, and for only the second time in the last 1.5 years, I went into the office today. Since the pandemic began, this was my office 99.5% of the time:

After Christmas, I’ll start a new job. I’ll be going downtown often. I’ll be paying for parking. I’ll be in a room with people. I won’t be a SME for a while. It will be different, but here’s why I’m ready for it and how I know it was time and is time for a change:

  1. Give yourself three strikes. There will be days of success, and there will be days with failures. When I started my job, I had a great boss, and we were aligned. But it was a matter of time before that boss was pushed out, the new one was looking to make a mark, and the personal and political attacks came. Strike one. I was fortunate to move to a new team that worked with my existing one. I got to do more of the things I was good at, but a personal passion of mine was to work in sustainability. For years, I talked to those in the organization about recycling, reducing overhead, and other environmental sustainability efforts; I won an award within the company for pitching some of these ideas. Finally, my company developed a sustainability arm, there was an environmental sustainability leader opening, and I applied. I interviewed as the only internal candidate, and I pitched my highly profitable ideas. Despite this, I didn’t get the job. I was very qualified, but no offer came. Strike two. A few months ago, I got assigned to 100% hands-on-keyboard development work. I get that the work needed to be done, and I saw – at a high-level – the importance of the project. But I’m not a developer; I’m a business guy who knows some things about data. Strike three. The search was on, and a great opportunity came. Each of the three strikes gave me pause and an opportunity to reflect. I don’t like seeing strikes, and – frankly – I hope I know I never see them. I, however, allowed myself a count and time for reflection along the way. Was this really want I wanted to do? Was this the environment that I wanted around me? Was this the cultural fit I needed to succeed? You know when it’s time to get off the field; one of those ways is getting three strikes.
  2. Little things can matter. Is there flexibility in your job? Do you feel safe? Are you appreciated? Seemingly small things can have a significant impact on your happiness. In my “Strike Three” above, I was having a daily meeting with that team every day at noon (preventing me from going to lunch with other people and coworkers). This seemingly small daily meeting was a bottleneck. But there can also be sneakier bottlenecks or ones that wear you down over time. The phrase “merger and acquisition” is a bit of a misnomer; one often happens ahead of or without the other. When a company acquires another company, the merger piece takes time. When you work in a technology space, that often means you have legacy systems and new systems…and different credentials for each. These credentials expire over time. And there’s a possibility you can get locked out with the only way to get back in through a service desk and an IT ticket. Your productivity and success is a function of the tools you use, especially in a virtual, work-from-home world. Fatigue is real, and small tokens of respect – the “you get a lunch hour,” “thank you for your hard work,” and “I’m your boss, and I support you” matter. Along the way, assess your happiness as you work hard.
  3. Personal and political attacks are a red flag. If you aren’t valued or respected, take it seriously. You should not be making repeated mistakes, but know that you can’t take on the blame for larger scale, organizational-level mistakes or missteps. Mistakes will happen; take ownership of them, but don’t take on unnecessary blame…especially repeatedly. If the blame is fair, accept it; if it’s not, it’s a signal of a bigger and more personal problem. Those that are volatile and excessively blame others are unlikely to do you favors, and those close to them are likely not worth your time either (and are probably feeding the monsters).
  4. In time, you should be growing and – if you want to – advancing. I’ve learned a lot over the last 4 years, but I’m still in the same position. I want to advance in time, and I’ve found one of the best ways to do this is not vertically. When people talk about the “great resignation,” I think they are saying a few things: 1) there’s a lot of quantity but not as much quality of jobs out there, 2) the job and talent market is increasingly competitive, and you should strongly consider asking yourself if the benefits you have now are as good as you could get elsewhere, 3) people are realizing how stagnant they are, 4) people are realizing that they have at least some power in a world of large corporate influence, 5) one of the most powerful weapons employees have is to resign.
  5. Happiness, joy, and success are still king. It’s pretty simple: are you happy? Are you successful? Are you joyful? Is what you today checking those boxes? If not, how are you going to get those checked? Can it be done in your current environment? How do you get there? Whether you think life is short or life is long, disappointment, frustration, anger, and sadness is no place to wallow; now is the right time to be happy, successful, and joyful…or at least work towards getting there. Go forth and find them!
Posted in Reflections | 5 Comments

Is Cincinnati Cloudier Than Seattle This Year?

Think of the cloudiest place you know. Is it Seattle? Or Buffalo? Or Portland, Oregon? It may be your neighborhood.

There are different ways to measure cloudiness, but looking at the really cloudy days gives an idea of often we are truly gloomy. In Cincinnati, we’ve had 41 days with an average daily cloud cover of 90% so far in 2021, 49 days with an average daily cloud cover of 100%, and 90 days with a 90%+ cloud cover :

We’ll focus on these numbers here, but – as an aside – is this year cloudier than most? The daily average cloud cover so far in 2021 is 61%, but this is not as cloudy as 2017, 2018, 2019, or 2020 year-to-date:

But lets go back to the thought of 90%+ and 100% cloud cover days. Are we cloudier than other long-term climate sites near Cincinnati? For comparison, Cincinnati has had 90 and 49 days of each, respectively, so far this year. Dayton has had 87 90%+ and 49 100% cloud cover days so far in 2021:

Columbus, Ohio has had even fewer of those days (87 90%+ and 42 100% cloud cover days):

The counts for Indianapolis are even lower (76 90%+ and 43 100% cloud cover days):

It’s clear we’re in a local maximum for cloud cover, and I intentionally highlighted areas to the north that are closer to the Great Lakes and in colder air…suggesting the possibility for cloud cover, especially in the colder months of the year.

So maybe if we go north and away and far away from Florida, it’ll get cloudier than Cincinnati, right? Chicago’s 90%+ and 100% cloud cover day count is 40 and 40, respectively:

Maybe it’s cloudier in the tundra of Minneapolis?

Counts are even lower there compared to Cincinnati! Maybe downwind of Lake Michigan? Nope. There have only been 36% completely overcast days in Grand Rapids, Michigan so far in 2021:

Alright…clearly Cincinnati is a cloudy place. But what about the Pacific Northwest? It’s known for its gloom, right? Portland, Oregon has had 29 completely overcast days so far this year, and 78 days with 90%+ cloud cover:

Maybe Seattle is cloudier? While Seattle has had more 90%+ cloud cover days than Cincinnati, Cincinnati has had 11 more 100% overcast days than Seattle year-to-date:

So…where is it cloudier? There are cloudier places! Three cities in the United States that are cloudier than Cincinnati are…Rochester, New York:

…Pittsburgh, PA (with 101 90%+ cloud cover days so far in 2021):

…and Detroit, Michigan (with 107 90%+ cloud cover and 56 100% cloud cover days year-to-date):

So I suppose it could be worse, right, Cincinnati? We are – by some accounts – cloudier than Seattle, but there are at least a few places gloomier than the Queen City.

Posted in Weather | 1 Comment

Lessons In Grief: What 25 Years Without My Father Has Taught Me

I was 11 years old. I was so young that I remember playing with Legos on the family room floor. At the time, I found it a point of pride to answer the phone in the house, but at 5:15pm that day a quarter-century ago, I didn’t know that the man on the other end of the phone would reply “Ummm…is your mother there?” and likely be a police officer or firefighter looking to deliver terrible news to my family. That evening was a blur, with friends and family coming to the house, and me being whisked away with the distraction of games and other fun activities.

My father and I at Kings Island, around 1990


As I discussed in a blog post back in 2015, my father was a passionate pilot who came to Cincinnati in 1979. Nearly all of the planes he flew were based at Lunken Airport, and that’s where I spent a weeks of my childhood with him. We also traveled as a family a lot; I look at my time like the career of The Beatles: a partnership built on love and care with many good memories but which also ended too soon. He died in a plane crash on September 17, 1996.


Now 25 years later, I have learned a lot from my father’s death, but I also have many questions. Because of my loss, I’ve also had to help, assist, or grow with people who have experienced tragedy. If you’ve lost someone you care about – whether it was recently or years ago – I want to share some things I’ve learned as an unfortunate veteran of loss.


1) It’s okay to grieve, and you should grieve.
Weakness – including sadness of frustration – are often dismissed or frowned upon in the world. There is a seemingly constant pressure everywhere to be strong and resilient. But – despite what everyone tells you – you should and must grieve when you experience a loss. Pushing hard-to-deal-with feelings aside only prolongs and delays the pain and keeps the healing that it found through hardship away. If you don’t take the time to process the loss or emptiness you’re feeling, your grief will just be waiting for you until you get to it, and the lack of resolution within will bring you down eventually. Grieving is not something you should fear; in the end, you’ll see that it was a path to your own peace. If you’re a person of faith, know that Matthew 5:4 says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”


2) You’re going to need to re-visit grieving sometimes. During the pandemic and through months of stress and strain, I realized that I never fully grieved. Grieving isn’t a process you go through and just put away; losses you experience – to some degree – last a lifetime. There will be many times you realize you didn’t resolve all of the issues or needed help. I wish my father was around when I was growing up to teach me about relationships or how to deal with highly political job environments. It would have been nice for him to guide me through career changes, too. He wasn’t here, and sometimes it’s just nice to have that voice to guide you…including when everyone else is quiet. In those moments, it’s easy to get frustrated or even angry. Why did he or she leave? Why where they taken from me? You can’t be too busy to work through it; you need to talk to someone, but you also need to understand that you can’t just deny feeling sad or frustrated – which you should be. You didn’t know that 20 years after they were gone that you would win an award and they would not be there. You didn’t know that after a tragedy would come a celebration that just felt emptier than usual because you just lost someone. There’s no way around it; you must work through it. Grieving is like rest; when your body and mind need it, there’s no substitution for it. And when you help others with your grieving, you’re going to need something constructive – perhaps even your own grieving – to heal and recharge.


3) Mentally prepare yourself for supporting others and their losses that may be bigger than yours. I remember I was in college when I got a call from the family member of a close friend. He said my friend wanted to see me immediately. He was grieving. His sister had just killed his mother, and he said I could help him with the grieving and calm him down. While I was happy to help my friend, my loss was far more extreme than mine. I had lost my father suddenly, but he had just lost his mother and likely contact with his sister for many years to come. How was I to help a friend through this? Somehow, when I walked up to my friend minutes later, I assured him we would get through this no matter how awful things seemed right now and gave him a hug. Outside of sleeping, I spent the days that followed sitting next to my friend. That experience reminded me that giving someone a hug, holding someone’s hand, and listening to them helps both you and others grieve. You don’t have to solve their problems, even if they are bigger than yours or what you think you can handle; the goal is to be their friend and support them unconditionally.

My father and I in Vancouver, Canada, 1994


4) Life goes on quickly for others and far more slowly for you. By the way, no one tells you this, and it’s frustrating. A week after my father’s death in 1996, I went back to school. People were happy to see me, but they didn’t know my father, and they didn’t understand my loss. From their point of view, I was just not at school for a week. My teachers came to my father’s funeral, but – again – they were just there to support me; my loss was not their loss. In hindsight, all of the adults that came to my father’s funeral and visitation over the previous weekend were back to work on that Monday; they were likely sad or still reflecting that day, but some had moved on. Fast forward to the clock 6 or 12 months in the future, and even more people had moved on. They were healing a lot faster than I was. At some point, your life, too, must continue. Being alone or isolated in your healing is not ideal. You’ve been dealt a blow, and it doesn’t seem fair. But this reality means it is important for you talk to someone, including a medical professional. There is no shame in talking to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Talking to friends is good, too, but you must quickly realize that they will grow tired of listening, especially without incremental progress; friends are not designed to keep you afloat after a significant tragedy or loss. As this blog post shows, you are not alone. A network of friends will help, but your help from them will be limited. Do not hesitate to talk to someone, and stay connected to the ones you love.


5) Keep your memories in a form that is up to date. I still have the C-tapes where my father recorded home movies. Physical media breaks down over time, so those C-tapes have gradually worn out. During the years I was grieving, recovering, and going through life, my memories on video have been sitting in a drawer…slowly breaking down. I realized this a couple of years ago, and I have converted over many of the individual tapes thus far. Those tapes are one of only a few ways I can hear my father’s voice again. I’m glad I remembered about these tapes and got the tools to keep the memories alive; I encourage you to do the same. Put your memories in a form where you can enjoy them for years to come. More importantly, keep a record of dates, times, and who is in the photos and videos you keep. You may not want to hear this, but other people you may know may die in the years that come; this is a reminder to not just treasure your time with them, but this is also a reminder to use their knowledge to help you know as much as you can about your memories. Who is in that photo? When was that video taken? Is there a good story that goes with that photo that you’ll want to tell your kids?

My father and I on the observation deck of the World Trade Center, 1992


6) A loss is a great time to see who really cares. When the funeral is over and people have to go home to their home and job, who will still contact you? Who will send cards? Who will call and see if you’re OK? Who actually cares about your happiness and well-being? A loss or tragedy can really do a number on you, but it’s also a teaching moment. You deserve friends that care and want you to be happy. Don’t make drastic moves, but take note of who just says “I’m sorry for your loss” and who actually cares about your health and peace.


7) Your mind will likely work differently after a significant loss. The times of loneliness in life seem longer than the times of joy. You’ll spend many hours of your life after a significant loss searching for answers, trying to understand why the healing isn’t coming faster, why you don’t feel better, why others around you never seem to bear the burdens you have, and why everyone else has seemingly forgotten about the loss you all just went through. You may also wonder what you could have done to prevent your loss. Why did my father go flying that day? Why did he fly an experimental plane? Why didn’t he tell me about that plane? I could be angry and upset; I have every right to be. But I’ve also learned that I could better spend my time talking to a professional, talking to a friend, or grieving. Your loss is part of your story. Being bitter will not help you; you can’t just wish them back. Life goes on, not backward. Your story, however, will be different because of the losses or tragedy you experience. Let that be your strength, not a weakness.


8) Days will get better, but the loss never completely goes away. As you get older, the memories become less clear, the number of days you don’t think about them or think about them as much increase, and the pain and frustration go down. Despite this, there will be days where you wish you were there to learn from or listen to the person you lost. Some days will feature reminders of those you lost, and some days will go smoothly without these memories entering your mind. As days go by, you also see what people told you along the way – “you will get through this,” “brighter days are ahead,” and “life goes on” – become true.

One of the last photos ever taken of my father in Alaska, 1996

I’ve learned a lot about happiness, success, and joy in the last few years. Many would say my father died doing what he loved. He did love flying, and it brought him joy. I could be upset from losing him in my life, but I – instead – am thankful for the limited amount of time we shared; we accomplished a lot in our years together. In time, you have to find a way to let the pain go and focus your life on what is good.

Rest in peace, Dad.

Posted in Reflections | 6 Comments

Does This Year In Cincinnati Seem Unusually Cloudy To You? You’re Right.

If you’re thinking 2021 has been very cloudy, you’re right. Including today (which is likely to change with late day sun, but we’ll use data through 4pm today), today was the 10th completely cloudy day in Cincinnati:

We’ve not only had 10 days with 100% cloud cover in February; we also had 15 days with no sunshine in January:

This means we’ve had 25 days so far in 2021 with no sunshine:

That also means 47% of all days so far this year have been cloudy, and 88% of all days so far this year have had more clouds than sun. Is this unusual? It is. Through this date in 2020, we only had 20 completely cloudy days, but 86% of all days through February 22nd had 50% or more cloud cover:

2019 had a similar start through this point in the year; there were 21 days with no sun, and all but 5 days had clouds winning out:

2018 YTD had fewer 100% cloudy days, but only 9 out of 53 days had less than 50% cloud cover:

Compared to 2018, 2017 year-to-date had fewer days with more sun than clouds:

2016 had a more even distribution of days by average cloud cover and fewer overcast days:

Recent history would suggest that it’s not unusual to have more clouds than sun in February, but 2021 so far has been among one of the cloudiest. The average daily cloud cover for Cincinnati month-to-date is about 80%, and only one February – 2018 – has been cloudier:

…and the year so far is also quite cloudy compared to other recent years. Only 2019 – with 57% of all days through this point in the year having 90%+ cloud cover – beats 2021:

A big reason why it has been so cloudy recently is the amount of snowfalls. Despite being about 1/2″ behind average for total precipitation in February so far, nearly 22″ of snow has accumulated so far this month in Cincinnati…and when it snows like that, it will be cloudy:

The only next few days will be slightly brighter than the month so far, but a mix of sun and clouds is about as soon as it gets through the middle of next week.

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What Happened To All That Snow You Had Forecast?

Just before 6pm on Monday, February 15th, I posted these words on social media: “Trolls and haters…this is your time to shine, and bring your worst.”

And they came.

There is no denying my forecasts for snow in the days leading up to the event were very different than reality. And just so we’re clear, here’s what I had forecast last night:

This is a large amount of snow for the Cincinnati area. But note that I have lower totals to the east where I felt sleet and freezing rain would be mixing in. Models become increasingly more aggressive with the presence of sleet – at the expense of snow – by midday Monday, and my forecast had changed:

By this point, sleet was falling, and I had accounted for the sleet and freezing rain rain accumulations…but I hadn’t cut snow totals significantly yet. But what was with the sudden change?

Over the last few days, it has been very clear that we would have moisture moving into the Ohio Valley on Monday. Here’s a total precipitation (all precipitation types melted down to liquid) forecast through Monday from the NAM model run early Sunday:

So we we’ll have precipitation Monday, but how much of this is going to be snow versus sleet versus freezing rain? That depends on the temperature. In meteorology, you multiply the liquid-equivalent amount by a factor to create a “snow-to-liquid” ratio. A temperature near freezing would align with a snow-to-liquid ratio of 10:1, but temperatures in the low 20s would support a ratio of 12:1-17:1. And remember, some of that liquid-equivalent could be rain, freezing rain, or sleet…or a mix of all of those. Let’s assume the 0.66″ is right and all snow, though. Here’s the snow-to-liquid ratio math for 0.66″:

If this 0.66″ is right, a forecast of 6 to 12″ is appropriate, but you want to be as specific as possible. 8-12″? 6-9″? But what if this 0.66″ isn’t right? What if it’s 0.40″ of total precipitation? Here’s the math on that:

That’s a lot less snow. If the models went from 0.66″ to 0.4″ (a drop in 0.24″) of precipitation, your snow totals are probably going to go down by at least a couple of inches. In reality, 0.2″ of liquid-equivalent fell at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport between 1pm and 8pm Monday! Many models – so far – are not close with this total.

Let’s revisit the temperature issue, including in the vertical. Here’s what the same model (Sunday’s 7am NAM model) is showing for the vertical temperature profile for 10am Monday morning:

This a complex graphic, but know that altitude increases moving to bottom to top in the graphic, and the red line is the temperature. The red line is left of the 32° line, and this mean the temperature is below freezing (and at least by several degrees) over a large depth of the atmosphere. This suggests we will see snow and avoid freezing rain, sleet, and rain.

Fast forward the clock to 7am Monday morning. Here’s the actual/observed temperature profile from Wilmington, Ohio:

The surface temperature is close to what is shown above, but note the temperature line (red) is closer to the freezing line (blue) compared to what is shown above. The temperature, though, is still below freezing, so snow is still the focus.

Let’s fast forward the clock to 3pm Monday. This is same model (NAM) but only looking 9 hours into the future from when the model was ran. It has a temperature near 32° just a few thousand feet above Cincinnati. This layer of air is warming.

Suddenly, our forecast for snow is not looking as good. Remember, this is a modeled temperature profile. Weather balloons only get launched early in the morning and early in the evening. Monday evening’s weather balloon launch from Wilmington, Ohio shows even warmer air aloft:

Courtesy: NWS Wilmington

Uh, oh. The temperature is a few degrees above freezing 6,000′ above the ground. This means snowflakes well above the ground are falling into this warm layer, melting, and then refreezing as they fall several thousand feet toward the ground. This is also known as sleet. Of the total precipitation that falls, more of it is falling as sleet (and less as snow) when this happens. This is a key reason many didn’t get slammed with snow. Many models were too wet with this system, and many did not capture the warm air invasion/advection aloft.

You may say: “Well, Scott, aren’t you a meteorologist? Isn’t it your responsibility to see this?” And to that I say…with what? How do I know what the temperature is at 7,000′ above the ground at every hour of the day? As I said above, weather balloons are launched twice a day in Wilmington, and the morning weather balloon was suggesting snow. How about data from an airplane? That data does exist, but it’s expensive and not publicly available. Plus…an airplane has to sample that air. So how would I know about this temperature change aloft as a forecaster? I must – in part – follow model guidance to see this. I can review guidance and compare it to reality (surface reports, satellite, radar)…but to a point. I can’t see, sample, or collect everything. And today, the things I couldn’t see….temperatures a few thousand feet above the ground and how much precipitation would fall…were not something I could understand without modeling.

The impacts of this system were good (roads were terrible, visibilities were reduced, accidents happened), but the precipitation type and amounts were off. And now you know why it’s not as easy as it looks.

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Is January 2021 in Cincinnati Cloudier Than Most?

Does this month seem cloudier than usual to you…or does it just feel that way?

Tuesday was the 13th day of January 2021 so far with 100% cloud cover between sunrise and sunset:

In other words, half of all of the days this month have had no to extremely filtered sun. There have only been two days so far this month with more sun than clouds during the day. Is this unusual?

The average of the average daily cloud cover for January 2021 so far is 78%. Compare that to 80% for all of January 2020 and 2019…and the 85% average daily cloud cover for all of 2017. This month has been cloudy, but three January’s since 2011 have been cloudier. As a first pass, January 2021 actually hasn’t been that cloudy for January standards; this is because January is often a very cloudy month.

What’s the story with January 2020, 2019, and 2017? January 2020 only had 11 100% cloud cover days, but 90% of all days (28 out of 31) had 50% or more cloud cover:

January 2020 was quite wet, with 4.14″ of precipitation. January 2019 had 14 completely cloudy days but only 6 days with 50% or less cloud cover:

January 2019 was also an active weather month with 4.11″ of precipitation. January 2017 had less precipitation (3.67″, which is 0.67″ above the monthly average), but it was quite cloudy. 81% of all days in January 2017 had 80% or more cloud cover:

There is a loose relationship between monthly precipitation and cloud cover for the month overall (of course, it’s not that simple). Interestingly, there was less than an inch of snow accumulation in January 2020 and only 4.2″ of snow accumulation (that’s below the monthly average of 6.5″) in January 2017. January 2018 had more snow accumulate (6.2″) but had less cloud cover.

Hang in there; the average daily cloud cover will increase in the next few months. Over the last few years, average cloud cover in February has centered between 70 and 90%:

By May, percentages drop to the 60 to 75% range:

By July, these percentages drop into the 45 to 65% range:

Data confirms brighter days are ahead, but this will be a gradual transition spanning the rest of the winter and spring.

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Has This Month And Year Been Cloudier Than Usual in Cincinnati?

Several people have reached out to me on social media recently about how cloudy this year, winter, spring, or month has been in Cincinnati. Does the data support it? How do we answer this question?

Quantifying cloud cover is difficult because clouds in the sky appear at different layers and with different opacities. One way to measure cloudiness for a period of time is by looking at the average sky cover between sunrise and sunset. This definition is particularly convenient since it is calculated daily by the National Weather Service for long-term climate sites like Cincinnati. For this analysis, we will use this average sky cover metric which is defined as:

The average sky cover between sunrise and sunset in tenths of sky covered. The minimum of “0” (0%) means no clouds observed, “10” (100%) means clouds covered the entire sky for that day. (Source)

Admittedly, data quality is not great from 2010 through 2013, but it is better for more recent years. Also, we’ll use 4pm on May 11, 2020 as cut-off time for this analysis

There are many ways to present the data, so let’s start with just the month of May:

blog_may11_may2020

We’re 11 days into the month and 10 out of 11 days (91%) have had at least 50% cloud cover. Is May usually this cloudy? Does it seem more cloudy than last May? Here was the distribution of cloud cover in May 2019:

blog_may11_may2019

About 84% of all days last May had 50%+ cloud cover, and 22 out of 31 May 2018 days had at least 50% cloud cover:

blog_may11_may2018

There were 23 days in May 2017 with more clouds than sun, and 15 of those had at least 70% cloud cover:

blog_may11_may2017

May 2020 is young, but if the month had ended today, it would be the cloudiest May in the last several years:

blog-may11-maycloudcover

It is worth noting that early May tends to be more cloudy than late May with temperatures rising and a lean from stratus to cumulus clouds…so this average of 70% cloud cover is likely to change and will probably decrease.

How about the year to date so that we can make an apples-to-apples comparison of this year to previous years? So far in 2020, there have been 38 days with 100% cloud cover (Monday was one of them):

blog-may11-ytd2020

Also note the left-leaning tail on the data towards more cloud cover. 81% of days so far in 2020 have had 50% or more cloud cover. In 2019, about 82% of days through May 11th had 50% or more cloud cover; we also had 4 more days with 100% cloud cover through this point in 2019:

blog-may11-ytd2019

Through this point in 2018, there were 15 days with 20% or less cloud cover…compared to 5 days in that same time during 2019 and 2020:

blog-may11-ytd2018

From a year-to-date perspective, 2017 had more 50%+ cloud cover days than 2018, 2019, or 2020…but fewer 100% cloud cover days than those same years:

blog-may11-ytd2017

Finally, 2016 year-to-date had relatively few overcast days compared to 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2018:

blog-may11-ytd2016

How does the average daily cloud cover so far this year compare to other recent years? We’re averaging about 74% cloud cover each day in Cincinnati thus far in 2020; this is about the same as it was in 2017, slightly more than in 2018, and slightly less than in 2019:

blog_may11_ytdaverage

I will remind you that data quality issues affect the averages from 2010 through 2013, but it is clear that the last four years-to-date have been cloudier than the four that came before it. So what is driving this? This is not an easy answer, but here are some high-level thoughts:

  • March 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017 had 8, 10, 11, and 7 completely cloudy days respectively compared to 8 in March 2016, 8 in March 2015, and 2 in March 2014.
  • March 2020 had no days with 0%, 10%, or 20% cloud cover.
  • February 2020, 2019, and 2018 had 11, 9, and 14 100% cloudy days whereas February 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014 each had 5 to 8 completely cloudy days.
  • January 2020, 2019, and 2017 all had left-tailed cloud distributions, whereas 2018, 2016, and 2015 had more even distributions.
  • Overall, cloud cover in January, February, and April between 2017 and 2020 was a couple to few percentage points higher than in those same months of 2014, 2015, and 2016

Relative to averages, precipitation surpluses are 2.85″ and 0.94″ since January 1st and March 1st, respectively. It makes sense that a wetter than average start to the year is likely a frequently cloudy start to the year as well.

The more complex answer is not as easy to pinpoint. Temperatures several thousand feet above the ground have an impact. The timing of weather systems, wind speeds at the ground and aloft, and snowpack can all influence cloud cover.

And, in case you’re wondering how Cincinnati’s 38 days so far in 2020 with no sunshine compares to other cities…

Denver has has 3 of those days:

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Minneapolis has had 25…

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…and the infamously cloudy Seattle, Washington has had 25:

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Brighter days are ahead, so hang in there!

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Thank You, John Lomax

John:

This post is long overdue, but I owe you – at bare minimum – a very large thank you for all you did for me years ago, especially from late 2015 to the end of my time working with you in late 2017.

It was clear both off and on-air that we respected each other from our first day working together in November 2011. We wanted each other to succeed, we wanted to laugh together, and we enjoyed each other’s conversation. Lunch time was went I usually saw you, but we would occasionally spend hours working together from the middle of the night to the middle of the morning. We were serious when we needed to be, and we were silly and fun when it was appropriate.

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While your days and responsibilities have been fairly consistent over the years, my days and responsibilities in the 2010s were increasingly difficult and mentally challenging. You saw how I wanted to grow, but you also saw – first hand – the confines of my environment and situation. You knew that I was often unhappy and yearned to make a change in my life that would make me feel more successful.

In late 2015, I made the choice to pursue an MBA, and I was pleased when you supported me. When I was applying to Xavier’s Williams College of Business, I asked you to write me a letter of recommendation…and you did. The assistant dean for the College of Business later told me that your letter and recommendation was a one of high endorsement and played a key part in my admission. For this, I am forever grateful. Your words and support activated a new path in my life.

From the time I was applying to Xavier until the time I started a new job, I asked you to not share the fact that I was working on an MBA with our co-workers. Being the “camp counselor” that you are, you were true to your word. Along the way, I needed your mental support and coaching…and you were there. You listened, you encouraged, and were a friend. You often spotted me “over there in the weather center” sneaking a peak at case studies, reviewing flash cards, and posting on class messaging boards, but you never said a word. When others wondered why I was not pleased with coming in to assist for severe weather coverage in the middle of the night, you knew that it was because I had tough mid-term exam coming after a grueling shift ahead.

Amazingly, I made it to the end of my time as a broadcast meteorologist without any of our coworkers knowing I was working on an MBA; I don’t know how I kept 15 graduate-level courses a secret, but I did it. I left swiftly and suddenly, as I hoped I would. Not all friends would keep quiet, but you did.

It is a shame I don’t get to work with you on a daily basis anymore, but I was thankful we got to catch up in September 2019 over food and coffee.

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I am looking forward to catching up with you again soon. Until then, I want to publicly thank you for years of support, recommendation, and friendship. There’s a reason so many in the Tri-State trust you; it’s because you’re one of the good ones.

Warmly,

Scott

 

 

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Loving The Weather While Working In Business; Why I Partnered With WHIO Weather

Just over 2 years ago, I left my career as a broadcast meteorologist behind with an MBA in hand and a new career path in business intelligence beginning. I’ve found success in my second career, but – as you might expect – I still love the weather. Indeed, myself and everyone I know said I did the right thing by leaving where I was to go where I am now…but there’s still that love for meteorology that lingers within you…and you still wish things had worked out in weather.

When I finished up my MBA at Xavier in the summer of 2017, I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time. I was likely to leave broadcast meteorology by the end of the year, so starting projects at my current employer wasn’t the right choice. What should I do with all of this free time? How can I stay involved in weather? And then a path opened up.

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Insert Kirstie Zontini – pictured above at the right. She’s a meteorologist at WHIO-TV in Dayton, Ohio. I’ve respected WHIO for a few years, especially given their history of hiring degreed meteorologists and having their meteorologists be certified by the American Meteorological Society. McCall Vrydaghs, pictured above at the left, is the chief meteorologist at WHIO. I had the chance to meet both of them just over a week ago after several months of virtual partnership.

In very late 2017, Kirstie reached out to me on Twitter with great praise for both my time in meteorology – including my graphics and the data within – and my success with getting an MBA. I was quite flattered and appreciated her comments…but the conversation about my career transitions eventually turned to a conversation about how I was creating social media graphics and finding the data often used within them, including these pavement conditions and power outage maps:

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Now the dots start connecting: perhaps there’s a path to working with Kirstie that brings some of our ideas to a platform where hundreds of thousands of people can see it. After all and keeping myself humble, my social media pages have a small fraction of the reach that a station like WHIO-TV has.

At first, I tried a “simple” programming route with Kirstie; maybe we can pull some data already on the Internet and let the on-air weather graphics machine do the heavy lifting. Well, that didn’t work…so it was time to move onto the advanced topics. Kirstie’s a great broadcast meteorologist, but – and even she will admit this – she’s not a computer programmer. The next step was to get resources, and Kirstie did just that after connecting with engineers and the IT department; this was no easy feat, and from my side of the fence this was a clear indication that she was passionate and dedicated to tackling some these weather projects.

Once we had resources, it was time for me to use computer programming to pull, clean, and process weather data that WHIO wanted. My first project was to pull Ohio Department of Transportation and Indiana Department of Transportation pavement temperature and wetness data. I found a way to pull the data, and Kirstie got the data into her weather graphics machine and built the graphic (formatting, colors, and all). Here’s the latest version of Kirstie’s graphic:

Next up: power outages. We started this in early 2019. Once again, I pulled the data from Duke Energy, DP&L, and Ohio Edison…and Kirstie did the data importing and graphic building. Kirstie had to color-code all of these counties one by one and for each outage category!

Ironically, Kirstie and I had completed this map and the automation behind it prior to the Miami Valley Memorial Day tornado outbreak in late May. While immediate attention went to the loss of life and property, the attention after those concerns goes to “when am I going to get my power back?” WHIO used the fruits of our programming labor immediately after the tornadoes:

That’s a powerful weather story following a tornado. Seeing this is like being a coach on the sidelines and watching the players on the field succeed. I may have retired from broadcast meteorologist, but it makes me happy to know I still have a stake in the game.

Kirstie and I have also automated a lot of behind-the-scenes processes, including automated river, UV index, and air quality forecasts just to name a few. We’ll be working together in the coming months to make additional data-driven graphics.

So why did I do this?

I still love the weather. When I left meteorology, I had a lot of “gas in the tank” and ideas; why let those go to waste? If someone wants to learn something you’re passionate about, why not support them and mentor them? If you have a chance for a partnership, why not take that chance to do something great? Perhaps most importantly, why sit on my ideas and knowledge when it can be used by others to help others – and in extreme cases – help keep people safe? Didn’t I make that commitment to the community as a meteorologist…and especially after tackling an ethics-based MBA?

I’m thankful for my partnership with WHIO, and I’m thankful to still be involved in meteorology…even if I’m cheering from the stands.

As part of this initiative, I came on McCall and Kirstie’s podcast – “Cloudy with a Chance of Podcast” – recently. Hear more about our partnership, changing, and my transition from broadcast meteorology to the business world here:

•WHIO On-Demand page: bit.ly/2GxtQWg
•iTunes: apple.co/2Gxu4g4
•Stitcher: bit.ly/2sJ4CCt
•Google Play: bit.ly/2BGOwMl

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18 Ways To Become A Better Meteorologist

I’ve often reflected on my days working as a full-time meteorologist, and I wish I had learned some key lessons much earlier in my career. Alternatively, I wish there been someone to be honest and tell me these lessons of life years ago. Being a meteorologist is a challenge, a gift, a pain, and a reward. It’s easy to get lost in your career and model data, but after 10 years working as a meteorologist and 1.5 years working in the business world (and also time to reflect of my previous career), I wanted to share 18 ways to be the best meteorologist you can be:

1. Realize what your job really is. Suppose you’re an NBA player. What is your job? Is it to score the most points? Is it to be the game MVP? Is it to get the least number of fouls? It’s none of these. It’s actually to get the most number of people in the stands and watching you on TV as possible. It sounds selfish, but without tickets being sold and audiences watching you, you’re likely to be out of a job because your team needs to make money. Now suppose you as a businessperson at a local firm. What is your job? Is it to make the most numbers of sales in your peer group? Is it to give your customers a new product or service every month? Is it to build your resume? Just like the NBA, it’s none of the above…and it’s really to maximize the company’s profits and brand ethically, sustainably, and responsibly. Now you’re a meteorologist. What is your job? It is likely to increase your company’s profits. If you’re a operational meteorologist in the private sector, it’s to get people paying for your forecasts or seeing advertisements where they are posted. If you’re an National Weather Service meteorologist, you’re in a unique position: your job to to issue forecasts, outlooks, advisories, warnings, and watches that protect life and property…or create tools that fulfill this mission. If you’re a broadcast meteorologist, your job is to sustain or boost ratings through marketing and accurate forecasts (perceived or reality). You don’t have to have the best forecast to make the most money; you just have to have superior perception or superior value to customers.

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2. Start looking at those you forecast for as customers. Speaking of customers: those who see your products and forecasts are not “viewers” or “the public.” They are customers. If you think back to your summer jobs in high school and college, you served customers with a smile and by giving those who came into your business a product or service with value. People who read your forecasts or hear your weather presentation should be treated with respect and dignity; there’s no inferior customer, and you should work to give them what you want within reason.

3. Data and insights are the best way to be different. So you have a good forecast, and you need to make the company money through your customers. What’s the best way to attract them to you? Your bright and cherry personality? Your good looks? Your wonderful smile? Your baritone pipes? Talking like you’re on old time radio? Try a more humble approach: data and perspective. You have storms moving through; they are threatening and strong. What do your customers want? They want to know where the storms are, where they are moving, and what impact they will have. Your shiny personality won’t save you; you need to know how to use radar (reflectivity, velocity, spectrum width, and all of the dual-pol products) and know the threats before the National Weather Service does. They want to know where power outages are. They want to know whether this is normal; that’s where your experience comes into play. They want to have minute-by-minute updates of what conditions are like; knowing where to find airport and local weather sensor data will enable you to tell your customers with confidence what is and isn’t happening. Knowing where to find field and model data that no one else can will give you an advantage over your competitors but will also inform your customers. Telling your customers is one thing; showing your customers is another. Are you getting that data that tells your weather story into your forecasting or weather presentation system? You should be. If you’re not, figure out how to make it happen! Learn and innovate!

4. Aggregate and organize data behind the scenes. This will save you a lot of time and enable you to focus more on what’s important. Programming will help you assemble model guidance and quality control it so you don’t have to waste time each day when you’re forecasting. Surprise! There’s an earthquake! Are you ready? How are you going to be a source of information to your customers? If they get valuable insight and information from someone else, you risk losing your reputation and credibility…and, more importantly, perhaps your job and company’s profitability.

5. Ask your customers want they want, and give them some of what they don’t. Let’s go back to that NBA game where you’re a point guard. What do your customers want? They want to be entertained! They want you to win the game, especially by a game-winning-buzzer-beating shot! But let’s say you’re not a big 3-point player; on occasion, take a 3-point shot. Your fans won’t be expecting it or even want you to take the long shot, but they will be happy if you make it. As a meteorologist, that means things like explaining vorticity at a very basic level and why it matters. It also means varying your style; take a dare to be different at least occasionally, even if your customers like a pattern.

6. Forecast specifically, and lead with what you know. Your customers can get a wishy-washy forecast for “a chance of storms today” from anywhere. Lemme guess; you have the word “details” in the tease to your forecast? Your customers have seen that. Give your customers an accurate forecast. Say “scattered showers and thunderstorms between 1pm and 7pm” with confidence. Some days, you’ll have models that are out to lunch. Tell the people what you know. When is the most likely time for rain? Can you say with confidence that the rain will be light? How would you describe the coverage, even if you’re a little off? What will happen, and what is to be determined? Don’t focus on potential or what won’t happen; focus on what is certain.

7. Don’t be a National Weather Service repeater. Be a meteorologist. If your prime responsibility is to just relay what the NWS says, you’re not using your degree in meteorology, and they are. You don’t need to tell your customers about every alert the NWS issues, including non-life-threatening alerts like Flood Advisories. If you feel that the National Weather Service is slow to the punch on an alert (or warning), tell your customers; you don’t need to wait for their blessing. They aren’t waiting for you, and you have the same degree (at least you should), so get movin’!

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8. The best starting forecast is the last shift’s forecast. It’s a lot easier to use the previous shift’s forecast as a starting point. Ask yourself: do I have justification to raise high temperatures 1° every day for the next 5 days. Think of your customers: do they care? Is it better to be consistent or forecast every shift not even considering the slew of model data the previous shift reviewed? Humble yourself, and recognize that there is value in your predecessors’ work. It’s also a lot less work to use the previous forecast as a starting point.

9. Don’t be so eager. If you’re willing to work turn-around shifts or go to work on a few hours of sleep, you’re likely too green. Don’t be a sucker. Say “no” at least occasionally. Do your job, and go home. Don’t get walked all over. If you’re working all of the holidays, weekend, and non-prime-time shifts, you’re getting the shaft. Over time, you should be advancing. You’ll look like on your “green years” and shake your head if you’re not careful.

10. Perspective requires research. When you’re going into a severe weather event, do you know the last time a tornado was confirmed in your area of responsibility? Do you know how rare an EF-2 or EF-4 tornado is for your area? When an insurance firm says that the damage caused by storms in your areas responsibility is estimated at $1 billion, does that seem right? If you’re expecting a high of 100°, are you prepared to answer questions from your customers about how often your area of responsibility sees a high of 100°? Regardless of what you do as a meteorologist, you need to provide perspective on weather events. Being a smiling face and personally won’t cover for you when you have to explain weather to your customers.

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11. Force yourself to get away from work. You can’t work all of the time. Time out some of your social media posts. Get a good significant other. Make friends. You need distractions from work or you’re going to burn yourself out. If you must post on social media during your days off, however, use your office tools to post data to a website where only you (or others, if you want) can grab it and post it; this is a good way to post your brand while not at work. Your job should only be a part of your life.

12. Be ready to move at any time. Whether you’re a National Weather Service meteorologist, a private sector meteorologist, or a broadcast meteorologist, it is highly likely you’re going to have to move during your time as a meteorologist. You’ll likely need to do it to advance. Suppose you’re in broadcasting, and you want to be a chief meteorologist. Do you think you’re going to get the job from your current chief when he or she leaves? That’s probably not going to happen. It does happen, but it’s not likely. It’s far more likely that you’re going to have to move to Omaha, Boise, San Antonio, or Huntsville to get your chief gig. And then you have to love that town and city and connect with it. Are you willing to do that? Now suppose you’re an NWS meteorologist and want to be a lead forecaster. Are you willing to move to North Platte, Nebraska to do that? You may have to. There aren’t a lot of meteorologist jobs in any given town, so if you want to advance in the industry, you’ll need to pack yourself or your family up and move at least once…and likely a few times before you’re in a semi-permanent spot. Going back to the earlier example, even the best NBA players got traded or went to a new team after a while.

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13. Corporate consolidation is not your friend. The modern way of doing big business – so it seems – is to buyout a company and collect their revenue while paying down the debt. Every good business, realistically, needs to monitor their cash flow (both revenues and costs) and increase profitability. One way to do this is to scale. If you stay with your company long enough, they will likely be bought. Even The Weather Channel got bought by IBM. The National Weather Service is likely exempt from this clause, but the broadcast and private sector will see this for years to come. When you get acquired, the rules change. Managers get fired and replaced with new ones. The expectations and demands of jobs are different. The culture changes, and – unfortunately – the ethics of your employer can change. If you don’t like your new company, there are a decreasing number of employers for which you can work (they are consolidating). If you leave Company A and go to Company B, there’s a chance Company A will buy Company B, and your soliloquy about “poor working conditions here at Company A” will come back to bite you. Leave on good terms as much as possible because the grass isn’t always greener and everyone is buying up land.

14. Ask yourself two questions frequently: “Do I enjoy doing this?” and “If not, how much longer am I going to do this?” When you first start in meteorology, you’re going to be bottom man or woman on the totem pole. You should be, but – in time – you should also advance. Unfortunately, some people don’t advance, and some – even worse – get demoted over time despite good performance. Meteorology and communication are inherently linked, and – despite what you may or may not know – companies often know who they want to communicate more than who they believe is the best meteorologist. With everyone marketing themselves as giving the “more accurate” forecast, companies need to position themselves to have an advantage. They will do that in any way possible. Your responsibilities may not be purely meteorology. Your schedule may be affected by what a company wants to do with you. You may be paired up with people that you like or don’t like. Your team may be great, or your team may not be great. Too few meteorologists regularly review their current situations and ask themselves if they are happy and successful. If you aren’t happy, set a time limit for how long you’re going to do what you’re doing. You’ll need to pay your dues early in the game, but you’ll also need to move on if you’re getting a raw deal.

15. Be careful what intellectual property you create for your company. If you’re not happy where you are, be mindful of what you’re building for your company. Do what is asked of you…but if you’re on your way out, don’t go sharing every idea you have or implementing new competitive advantage tools to make the company better. That idea you’re sharing or implementing may be the company’s once it leaves your lips. Instead, share your brainy ideas in a place and with a company that appreciates you and what you’re developing.

16. You aren’t ready for office politics, but you can and should learn them quickly. There is no high school or college course – that I know of – that prepares you for office politics. Careers in meteorology – like all forms of business – have politics. Companies put people where they want. Companies have their top picks and their bottom picks. You’ll have your days where you feel valued, and there will be other days when you feel very unimportant. Office politics is a complex game that you should not be a master at. Instead, I suggest distancing yourself from problematic people, not insulting others, and laying low. If you’re frustrated, don’t make a scene, and be respectful when solving problems. It is often better to be quieter and watch (and learn from) others who harm themselves and their career for fighting the law (and watching the law win).

17. There will always be someone younger than you who wants your job, and they will do it for less than you. It’s the truth. If you get greedy, companies will find someone else who will take less of a salary and fill your seat. Follow the trends of companies who hire meteorologists. Who are they moving and why? Who are they hiring and why? The trends will help you know whether you should stay or get out of the way.

18. The hardest thing to predict is human behavior. You will, however, be much better prepared if you look for clues and red flags constantly. Circling back around to the NBA player example above, being a basketball player is more than scoring points. You are part of a business, and if you aren’t giving what the business wants, your days are numbered. Understanding what the business wants you to do and mastering that goal is your number one job objective. Business needs, however, change…so you must be willing to listen, learn, and innovate. You must anticipate and monitor your company’s business goals and opportunities and prepare for them. If you’re the leagues best scorer, but the fans and business want close games to drive ratings and create a certain experience, you better strategize how and when you put points on the board. As a meteorologist, this means understanding your business, what they define as value, positioning yourself to fulfill the company’s goals.

Remember that most meteorologists that start their working life in meteorology usually end their working life in another field. It’s okay to evaluate your happiness and success frequently, and it’s okay to make a change. As long as you’re in meteorology, strive to stand out and be different in a positive way. Do they have “one of you?” If so, there’s a better fit for you elsewhere…or you should showcase a different talent. Michael Jordan wasn’t an actor, and he wasn’t in movies and getting endorsements because he was made for the big screen; he got the right kind of attention and he gave his customers want they wanted.

Posted in Reflections, Weather | 1 Comment