‘Hurricane' Explains NBC10's ‘Neighborhood Weather' System

The area covered by NBC10 goes from the Lehigh Valley to southern Delaware-from Western Chester County to the Jersey Shore. That’s a huge area, which often sees huge differences in weather at any one time. I’ve seen temperature differences of more than 30 degrees. There actually was a snowstorm that ranged from 2” to 50” (yes, in the SAME storm!). It has been impossible for TV stations to show that complete picture on a day-to-day and hour-to-hour basis. Now we can.

When I started doing TV weather around 1980, there were only a few airports in the region that provided hourly reports. Weather satellites only gave us fuzzy pictures a couple of times a day. Computer models were primitive, at best. Forecasts had value to only about THREE days out. Anyone attempting a 5-day forecast back then couldn’t do better than guessing (no, we don’t do that now).

Now, everything in weather forecasting has changed. We have live reports of current weather for a couple of hundred locations in our area. Weather satellites have such high resolution that we can clearly see a single thunderstorm from about 22,000 feet up, with minute-by-minute pictures that get put into smooth time-lapses.  The surface and satellite data is now entered into some of the fastest computers in the world. As a result, computer models have gotten better and better, and more and more detailed in recent years.

Don’t you think it’s about time that we shared that increased information with you?

We now have so much information at our disposal that frankly it’s hard to narrow down what to show in any single weathercast. So now we can show drastically different types of current and forecast weather every time you see us. We might show The Shore one time, the Lehigh Valley the next, then Delaware, etc. And boy, do we have current weather to show you! How about 40 towns in Delaware alone? We can show the effect of the sea breeze in great detail. This tremendous increase in current data comes mainly from our new exclusive partnership with Weather Underground, a highly respected company that has been at the cutting edge since the internet was started! The partnership allows us to find out and display current weather conditions anywhere in the world… from Pennsylvania to Paris, Delaware to Delhi.

How about forecasts? We now can make individual forecasts for dozens of neighborhoods in the area. We can show the same spot hour-by-hour, or show a forecast for NINE different locations on the same graphic. We have 5-day forecasts, and now even a 10 day forecast (more on that later). And no longer is there just a 7-day forecast for Philadelphia-there’s one for each part of our area, and it’s scrolled CONTINUOUSLY on the bottom of the screen during each weathercast.  

We realize these are big changes, and it will take some time to get used to what may feel like a barrage of information. But we feel that our viewers will gradually get used to it, and appreciate seeing current and forecast conditions for their neighborhood. Ever heard of a TV forecast for Byberry, Haddonfield, Linwood, Dover, Mt. Airy, Newtown, Easton, and more? We have them for you.

Plus, you can get these same forecasts on and the NBC10 Weather App.

No, we’re not kidding, and we do not do it just to be first, or to have something to promote. As I mentioned earlier, the science of weather forecasting has come a long way in recent decades. NBC10 was the first to debut a 7-day forecast in 2002. When we did it, we tested it privately for a year to prove we could do it, having some accuracy (in science, it’s known as “skill”) all the way out to day 7. Of course, we’re more accurate for day 3 overall than day 7, and you should keep that in mind.

Now, computer models and detailed data have improved enough to support a 10-day forecast. Our “skill” out to day 10 is about as good as it was to day 7 was when we introduced the 7-day forecast. We don’t claim we’re going to nail it to the exact degree, but you can be pretty confident day 10 will be  within 5 degrees of our forecast, one way or the other. Our sister NBC Owned TV stations have also done independent research that showed similar skill out to 10 days. You can ignore it if you want, but it’ll be out there if you’re interested.

It’s not commonly known, but that “zip code forecast” you might get on your phone likely comes straight from a computer, with NO human forecaster involved. While computer models are good, they have flaws, including “biases” to be either too cold or too warm regularly. If a human was involved, they could figure that out and adjust for it. But no company has the manpower to make separate forecasts for hundreds of zip codes in our area. This is why many of your phone apps were so bad (until now).

What we do is take the computer outputs and adjust them as needed. This, in itself takes us hours every day to do. But we think it’s worth it. I want to go on TV and tell you that this is MY forecast, not something straight out of a computer model that may be way off because some bad data got entered into it.

We have been working on creating this new and true Neighborhood Weather for months, and have been eager to put it on-air. But we wanted to get the “bugs” out first. This effort has been led by our new, brilliant weather producer, David Parkinson, with input from me, Sheena, and Bill along the way.

We’re excited about the chance to lead the Philadelphia TV market in a new way that reflects the current state of the science. We’ve been doing that since the mid-90s with the cutting-edge Earthwatch computer system. And we will continue to look for ways to bring you the latest technology (and not just fancy graphics) for years to come. Science always evolves and improves. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to. But new technology often is. And it’s often worth it.

Going forward, we’re going to continue to make a lot of investments in weather at NBC10 because we know how important it is to have an accurate, meaningful and specific forecast for you and your family. Technology will continue to get better and better, and we’re excited to share the future with you.

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