Friday, January 5, 2018

This Week's List of Seven Banned Words and Phrases

Oh, if George Carlin were alive today.  Better yet if he were also a meteorologist.  What a field day he could have revising his bit "The Seven Words You Can't Say on TV" (Youngsters: Google it).

Here's my list of meteorological banned words and phrases for the week:

1. Bomb Cyclone.

OMG, the word "bomb" has been used for decades by meteorologists to describe rapid cyclogenesis in which the central pressure of a cyclone drops at least 1 mb/hour for at least 24 hours.

Source: Sanders and Gyakum (1980)
Somehow, the press got wind of it and in the 24-hour news cycle has gotten entirely out of control.  Bomb cyclone is the new polar vortex, a scientific term that goes viral and takes on new misused meaning.  Put a fork in it!  Even John Gyakum, co-author of the article above, told the Huffington Post that "When I talk about these explosively developing storms, I go through the trouble of mouthing the terms ‘explosively developing,’ and I don’t use ‘bomb.' It’s somewhat inappropriate when you consider other aspects of the world right now."

2. Frozen America.

Hello Weather Channel.  The Continental U.S. extends west of 100º longitude and includes Hawaii and Alaska.  I get that it's cold in the east, but have you visited the western US lately?  Perhaps the plot below will help.  It shows the departure of today's forecast temperatures from average.  Frozen eastern US is more like it.

3. Pattern Change.  

If you keep saying it, eventually it will happen.  Goodness gracious I've heard this in weather broadcasts now for like a month.  It's a really horrible phrase, because it is vague and undefined.  When we get some snow tomorrow, is that a pattern change?   Coming evenutally, "we told you a pattern change was coming."  Yup, if you keep hitting on 16, eventually you'll win a hand. 

4. Hope.  You've seen this word used in forecasts for the Wasatch now for about 8 weeks.  If there's a trough in the 7 day forecast, there's hope.  If there isn't, there's probably one in the 7-14 day forecast.  If there isn't one there, try the sub-seasonal forecasts.  There's always hope

5. Anything related to the conflation of weather and climate.  OK, this isn't a specific phrase, but you can insert any number of them here regarding the role of climate change in cold-air outbreaks, hurricanes, snowstorms, midlatitude cyclogenesis.  The intersection of weather and climate is a complex place, much like the spaghetti bowl interchange in Salt Lake City.  Let's shift the conversation away from "What was the role of climate change in this event" to "How can we build a society that is more resilient to extreme weather and climate events."  

6. Anything related to the conflation of inversion and air pollution.  These are two different things.  Be cautious in their use.  For example, once an inversion has developed, the worsening air quality is not because the inversion is getting stronger, but because of ongoing emissions.  

7. Blocking Ridge.  Nothing fundamentally wrong with this phrase.  I'm just sick of it.  Please put an end to it!

To conclude, I guess there's always hope that after the bomb cyclone, and this weekend's Frozen America episode in the east, that there may be a pattern change, the blocking ridge will disappear, we will see fewer inversions and less air pollution, and that we will get into a weather pattern that locally overwhelms long term trends associated with climate change :-).  

Note: That's not a forecast.  Just humor.  


  1. Speaking of that temperature departure plot, do you know why the cold arctic air picked on the eastern US in particular, instead of some other part of the northern hemisphere? Is it just bad luck for easterners, or is there some real reason?

    1. The cold in the east is a consequence of the large scale pattern. Why the pattern has setup in the way it has and with such severity is an interesting and complex question that I elect to pass on for now.

  2. Though counterintuitive, hitting on 16 is the right move except where surrender is an option.

    1. Only if the dealer's upcard is a 7 or higher. :)

    2. A massive uptick in global warming denial has occurred in the last week. That all depends on daily temperatures east of 100 degrees W longitude and west of 30 degrees W longitude, and between 36 and 45 degrees N latitude. Climate change denial politics is focused on short-term weather in the Eastern US (DC and NYC weather).

    3. Recent weather has a strong influence on peoples perceptions of climate.

      Special interests seeking inaction AND action on climate change attempt to use weather to further their agenda.


  3. Yep. But I think those seeking INACTION are more prone to using short-term weather events to make political talking points (such as during the recent eastern cold spell). The deniers have a lot more emotional investment politically and ideologically (and economically), so virtually every time it gets cold or snows somewhere you will see triumphant statements like "so, how's that global warming going for ya? heh heh".