Sat, Aug 15, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Meteorologists bicker about forecasts

‘HYPE’:Several weather experts hotly criticized Next TV weatherman Lee Fu-chen, whom they said ‘jumped the gun’ on forecasts for typhoons, inciting public panic

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

A rare heated exchange among the nation’s meteorologists broke out online yesterday, as they debated on the appropriateness of giving forecasts on typhoons before they form.

The dispute began earlier this week when Next TV weatherman Lee Fu-chen (李富城) forecast on Facebook that two typhoons would soon be heading toward Taiwan, which could affect the nation by Friday next week, saying people should “hide in a ditch.”

Central Weather Bureau Director-General Shin Tsay-chyn (辛在勤) first described Lee’s comments as “hype,” adding that there indeed is a massive depression system in the Pacific Ocean.

However, he said that there are still a number of variables that need to be monitored over the next few days.

Despite its criticism of Lee, the bureau yesterday said there are two tropical depressions east and southeast of Guam. The one southeast of Guam is moving northwest at 15kph, while the other appears to be remaining still.

The bureau forecast that the two depressions could turn into tropical storms by tomorrow, without specifying which of the two would form first, adding that they would be named Goni and Atsani, meaning “swan” and “lightning” in Korean and Thai respectively.

Formosa TV weatherman Lin Jia-kai (林嘉愷) also criticized Lee on Facebook, saying that Lee simply saw the European weather authority’s forecast model and claimed that another typhoon as strong as Typhoon Soudelor, which devastated Taiwan last week, would hit the nation next week.

“The weather forecast was produced by a computer analysis,” Lin said.

“However, computers are not omniscient. There is a margin of error. The greater the period of time, the greater the margin of error,” Lin said, adding that there was a significant difference between the European forecasts from yesterday and Thursday.

He said meteorologists worldwide would have seen the growing trend, but most would not “jump the gun” with a forecast.

“One cannot base a weather forecast on one source of information and arbitrarily make predictions, even if the source has a high level of accuracy,” Lin said. “Even though two typhoons appear to be moving on a similar trajectory, their impact will be different depending on the speed, intensity and the weather systems surrounding them.”

Taiwan Typhoon and Flood Research Institute director Lee Cheng-sheng (李清勝) earlier this week said that 41 tropical storms and typhoons have formed in the area from 1950 to 2013, adding that only four had seriously affected Taiwan.

Lee Cheng-sheng said inciting a public panic was unnecessary, adding that there is still time to prepare for tropical storms and typhoons after they form.

In response to the criticism, Lee Fu-chen said that Lin and the other meteorologists should all just shut up.

“Does a forecast not mean that you should warn the public in advance? They [the other meteorologists] should change professions if they cannot do that,” he said, adding that other meteorologists’ weather forecasts were becoming boring; like “government policy announcements.”

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top