Use History to Predict the Weather

I love weather. Seriously — I’ve always been a closet meteorologist. You know, the guy who attempts to predict the weather without knowing a lick of science. Just by looking at the clouds, or maybe sticking a wet finger in the air to test the wind, I’m able to come up with a pseudointellectual prediction — a forecast sprinkled with terms like troposphere, low level disturbances, and cumulonimbus. I have no idea what these terms really mean, of course, but the people on the Weather Channel sound like freakin’ geniuses when they use them.

When I travel, weather is always the first thing on my mind. It’s a funny thing to be so concerned about, because it’s not like we have any control over what the sky decides to do. However, predictions (whether they’re my own, or that of a “professional”) rarely affect my plans — I’m just curious, that’s all. I’ve got a lot of Internet tools in my arsenal of weather-prediction software, but my favorite is Weather Underground. They have, in my opinion, the best web-based radars, and their forecasts have proven to be the most accurate. They also have a feature I recently stumbled upon that will help predict the weather when traveling: the Trip Planner Weather. Horrible name, I know — but the thing is awesome, trust me. Here’s why:

For instance, on Sunday I’ll be going on a float trip down the Niangua River, and camping at Bennet Spring State Park near Lebanon, Missouri. (Locals pronounce it “Le-buh-nun.”) If I plug Lebanon into the Trip Planner, and set the dates for August 15 and 16, the program gives me the following statistics based on historical records:

  • The Average High Temperature is 85 F with a historical range of 75 F to 95 F.
  • There is a 15% chance of a Hot Day (temperature over 90°F / 32°C).
  • There is a 0% chance of a Freezing Day (temperature below 32°F / 0°C).
  • The Average Daily Precipitation is 0.07 with a historical range of 0.00 to 1.23.
  • There is a 5% chance of a Precipitation Day.
  • Average Cloud Cover is mostly sunny.
  • The Average Wind is 6 mph with a historical range of 2 mph to 15 mph.
  • There is a 90% chance of a Humid Day (dew point over 65°F / 18°C).
  • There is a 40% chance of a Sweltering Day (dew point over 70°F / 21°C).

Actually, the Trip Planner defaulted to the nearby city of Fort Leonard Wood, MO, but you get the point. Next week, I’ll give you an update on whether or not history can predict the future. If so, I’m one step closer to coming out of the meteorological closet.