Thursday, January 19, 2012


The weather people have been falling all over themselves for the past few days trying to predict how much snow is going to fall in the 24 hours or so after they make their predictions.

Pretty much all of those prophecies have turned out to be more or less mistaken and most of the plans that have been made based on those forecasts have under or overestimated the impact of the weather on events, adding to a kind of mini-hysteria that could probably have been avoided by simply making decisions by looking out the window or taking a walk around the block.

Now, I realize that predicting winter weather, especially in this part of the Pacific Northwest, is remarkably tricky and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I regularly check the National Weather Service website and celebrity meteorologist Cliff Mass’ blog.

But seriously, to rely too heavily on claims about the future based on analyzing the present is, as 18th century British Empiricist, David Hume, reminds us, to use fallacious and even circular reasoning. We conclude that the future will behave as the past has because the future has always behaved like the past, but if we establish uniformity of nature by relying on the uniformity of nature, that’s cheating.

So, even if the weather data suggests that what’s going to happen is predictable, just because it has been predictable is no reason to conclude that it will be predictable again.

That said, I can’t complain overly that the Seattle Public Schools have again cancelled classes for tomorrow; this means that the evening around the homestead can unfold more slowly and gently than it would otherwise. Or, at least that’s how it’s worked in the past.

The forecasters tell us that the winter storm will be over by tomorrow afternoon, but then again, that’s what they said yesterday. This time, though, school closures don’t depend on what they’re saying, so I guess I’ll believe it.


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