Early in September, a link to a weather story went viral. People everywhere were either celebrating or panicking over Empirenews.net's story titled Meteorologists Predict Record-Shattering Snowfall Coming Soon and the link came complete with a map showing "above normal snowfall" across most of the country. The problem was that it was just that - a story from a satirical news site.
Do you remember the Weekly World News and the National Enquirer by the registers at the grocery stores? Sometimes, you still see them there, but not as often. Most of those tabloids have moved online and even more have sprung up in recent years. Regular readers of those sites understand, hopefully, that what they are reading is satire and all of it should be taken as a joke, or at the very least, with a very large grain of salt.
Unfortunately, when that link went viral, it did so without a disclaimer or acknowledgement that it should not be taken as fact. To the chagrin of meteorologists everywhere, our friends were sharing the links on facebook and twitter. To the question "what do you think about this, Niki?" my answer was simple. "I think people need to stop sharing that link!"
Many of my fellow meteorologists and I even reposted the link with the explanation that it was not a real news site, and meteorologists are not predicting anything of the sort. In fact, if you visit the Climate Prediction Center's website, the most you will find is the probability of above normal, normal, or below normal chances for precipitation (a general term for rain, snow, sleet, etc.) and temperature. Even there, if you look hard enough, you'll see that those projections are not set in stone. There are too many variables in the weather to forecast an entire season months before it even starts with a high level of certainty.
So, the next time, you see a fantastical headline about the weather (or any other type of news), check the source. It might just be meant as entertainment instead of factual news.