Friday, July 06, 2012
103˚F when I took this in Wingra Park. Or was it 98˚F? Come on, get it together, people!
It turns out that the real-time precision made possible by modern technology can also lead to real-time imprecision and confusion as well.
It used to be that I got my temperature information pretty much at random during the day when I happened to hear a weather report in the car or caught the evening news weather segment on TV. Other than that, my weather sense was more qualitative than quantitative, measured by such terms as "hot," "cold," "muggy," "rainy," etc -- but not since I started checking my iPhone whenever the impulse struck me. I used the Weather Channel's app because I liked the interface, and figured it kept me on top of things, right down to the exact degree. Not any longer.
During this extended hot spell I wanted to increase my sources of information, so I added one of the local TV stations to my mix. Now I don't know what to believe.
When I took this photo to illustrate how unseasonably parched the grass in Wingra Park is (much of it is starting to look like the worn patches at Wimbledon, I also checked the temperature. Weather.com said it was 103˚F. Channel3000.com said it was 98˚F. What the F? (Occasionally they report the same temp. More often, the Weather Channel is a degree or two higher. Occasionally, like this afternoon, the degree spread is as much as 5 degrees.)
Is the Weather Channel trying to hype viewership by going to the drama of more extreme reports? It's interesting that before they were acquired by the Weather Channel, the Weather Underground tended to have the more dramatic reports. Now it's as if the Weather Channel has acquired not only the company but their meteorological philosophy as well. And what about Channel 3 -- are they under-reporting the heat in an effort to preserve their viewers' peace of mind and relieve their heat anxiety? Who knows.
It all seems part of a larger process. The more information we have access to, and the more finely tuned and fine-grained it becomes, it seems that the more we gain confusion rather instead of knowledge (or at least the illusion of knowledge, which can be empowering all by itself).
Maybe the next big smart phone app will be a "What the Hell Is Really Going On, Anyhow" app. We sure could use it.