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Who Knew: How the weather is forecast

Posted: 9:30 AM, Feb 05, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-05 16:38:56-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Is it going to be windy and rainy, sunny or snowy outside?

Every morning we rely on our FOX 17 meteorologists to tell us what our day is going to look like, but how do they forecast it?

Let's start at the beginning of their work shift.

"Usually on a typical day I’ll come in, sit down with my computer, and I open 26 tabs," says Meteorologist Candace Monacelli.

"So let that sink in for a moment. Twenty-six tabs. We look at a ton of information!"

One those tabs are weather models from all over the world.

These models are important for data, but as meteorologist Anthony Domol explains, "You don’t just come in and march to the beat of the models. You have to use the models as tools to figure out the answers."

That's right, the models are tools.

The models are pieces to a large puzzle that becomes your local forecast.

"Figure out the puzzle, put the pieces together and the how are you going to present it to the public. Which is difficult," Monacelli said.

Other pieces of the "puzzle" are factors of where you live.

Monacelli continues, "We’re by the lake. That has a big influence on West Michigan. So you’ve got to understand that because models don’t always pick up on that."

So local meteorologists do pick that up.

They factor in those local puzzle pieces, and as Domol says, they use some tricks; "For instance like temperatures, a good way to predict where the temperature is going to be where we are walking around is to look about 5,000 feet off the ground or 10,000 feet off the ground."

Once meteorologists have found all those puzzles pieces for the day they put them together into graphics and one, generally three minute long TV forecast.

The hardest part?

Figuring out the exact geographical line where rain, snow, and all weather really, begins and ends.

"The range. Look at the range. If you get two inches of snow – forecast verified – but then some people say ‘We didn’t get two inches of snow, you were totally wrong,’ Not technically," says Monacelli.

It's a tricky business telling your community the weather forecast, but that's what local meteorologists are for.

"It’s that connection that I love the most that I know I have a part in everyone’s day because weather has a part in everyone’s day," says Monacelli.