'Extreme' Weather by Sean Sublette - WSET.com - ABC13

'Extreme' Weather by Sean Sublette


I was tweeting with a veteran broadcast meteorologist in Richmond last week. He recently introduced a segment on his weathercasts called, "After the 7-Day," which is an outlook similar to the "13-Day Outlook" we started this fall. He works at Channel 12, so I asked him why he didn't call it the "12-Day Outlook."

His answer: "12-Day Outlook sounds too extreme, and I hate extreme." Which made me realize we share a pet peeve: The term extreme.

From Merriam-Webster: a) existing in a very high degree; b) going to great or exaggerated lengths; c) exceeding the ordinary, usual, or expected.

So while that gives us some guidance on the term, I was surprised at how subjective the term could be. I suppose it depends on what the individual considers ordinary, usual, or expected.

But the term extreme weather seems to be losing its meaning. One network has gone so far as to plaster the phrase "Extreme Weather Center" all over its weather graphics.

Easy there, cowboy.

In Virginia, we get snowstorms in winter. While they are not commonplace compared to the everyday weather of the season, they are to be expected, at least occasionally, during the course of a winter. Sure, accumulating snow is an unusual occurrence in Lynchburg and Danville. That explains the busy grocery stores whenever snow is in the forecast. But snow does show up in the forecast every year.

So, as a little thought experiment, in Lynchburg, is a four-inch snowfall extreme? How about eight? Twelve? 

What about those same amounts in Blacksburg? 

How about at the ski resorts?

 Virginia Beach?

This makes extreme weather, well, all very relative (slaps head).

It sometimes seems every time the weather is bad, it is labeled extreme. I long for the days when the term extreme really meant something. Regionally, the December 18-19, 2009 Snowstorm was extreme. The Blizzard of January 6-7, 1996 was extreme. Nationally, the tornado super outbreaks of April 25-28, 2011 and April 3, 1974 were extreme. The Superstorm of March 12-13, 1993 was extreme. The 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season was extreme. We ran out of letters to name the things, for crying out loud.

But 7 degrees one morning in January or 97 degrees one afternoon in July? Unusual, yes. Extreme? No. Not even records. Rained three inches in three days? Nope. Snowed more than three inches twice in one month? Nope. (Okay, well maybe if the month was October)

Then again, maybe I'm just getting extremely grumpy. Don't even get me started on the term, "experts."

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