Record-Shattering Snow This Winter? Take It With a Grain of Rock Salt
We're going to have the snowiest winter in recorded history this year! If you believe this, chances are you recently read a terrible knockoff of The Onion. The junk site in question wrote about predictions of "record-shattering snowfall" this winter, and it's a bunch of malarkey.
The article is called "Meteorologists Predict Record-Shattering Snowfall Coming Soon," and it goes on to quote a "doctor of global weather sciences" and "senior administrator of meteorologists" as predicting "a massive cold-front sooner in the year than has ever happened, which will produce not just record-breaking snowfall [...], but record shattering snow storms across the board, affecting the entire United States."
Whoa, that's terrifying! And it's also a load of sleet.
The article talking about the "record-shattering snowfall" is just a bad hoax written by a bad hoax website that masquerades as a bad satire website. The site in question is called Empire News, and as Gawker's resident debunker Hudson Hongo over at Antiviral constantly has to reiterate, it's a satire site that's low on satire and excels in writing hoax articles in order to generate viral clicks on social media.
On Saturday, Empire News also published a slightly-closer-to-satire article titled "Funnel Cake Stand Survives Category F4 Tornado," which documents the peril that Meemaw Jane's Funnel Cakes faced in a Nebraska town ravaged by a tornado a few months ago.
Not only is there no such thing as the two job titles referenced in the article, but there is no scientific skill in predicting record-breaking snowfall across any region — let alone the entire country — this far in advance. Heck, we often have trouble pinning-down snowfall accumulations while the storm is happening. This is why many meteorologists and weather bloggers (myself included) are cautioning folks against taking The Farmer's Almanac's predictions of a very snowy winter for more than entertainment value.
Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang wrote an article at the end of last month discussing winter weather forecasts issued this far in advance.
Because so much in the atmosphere can change between the summer and late fall, we don't think issuing public-facing winter forecasts in the summer (or earlier) is a good idea.
"It's equivalent to last year predicting the Skins would get into the playoffs based on their preseason record without having seen an injured [Robert] Griffin play," says Wes Junker, our winter weather expert. "The forecasts are entertaining and could be right but they also have just as much chance of being wrong."
Here's some advice for the snow weary and lovers alike: don't worry about this winter! What could we possibly do with that information right now other than prepare to listen to people complain about their lumbago? Municipalities and businesses that have to prepare for winter weather should prepare for the worst no matter what; when they don't, they run out of salt in December and officials complain about it for the rest of the season. Much like a horoscope, winter weather forecasts this far in advance are fun to talk about but serve no real purpose.
It's a terrible thing for a weather writer to tell his audience, but whatever happens, happens. We'll deal with the snows of winter when we get there. Enjoy fall in the meantime, and take the extra click before sharing something that sounds too big to be true.
[Screenshot of Empire News edited by the author with Upworthy's "Malarkey!" graphic from a few years ago | h/t Brad Panovich]
UPDATE: As of 9:00AM, the Empire News hoax has nearly 400,000 shares on Facebook despite the fact that the social media site added a giant "SATIRE" label to the article. The stupidity of people is endless.