1985: Meteorologist

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 16:56, 25 April 2018 by RamenChef (talk | contribs) (Clean up transcript)
Jump to: navigation, search
Hi, I'm your new meteorologist and a former software developer. Hey, when we say 12pm, does that mean the hour from 12pm to 1pm, or the hour centered on 12pm? Or is it a snapshot at 12:00 exactly? Because our 24-hour forecast has midnight at both ends, and I'm worried we have an off-by-one error.
Title text: Hi, I'm your new meteorologist and a former software developer. Hey, when we say 12pm, does that mean the hour from 12pm to 1pm, or the hour centered on 12pm? Or is it a snapshot at 12:00 exactly? Because our 24-hour forecast has midnight at both ends, and I'm worried we have an off-by-one error.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a OVERLY ANALYTICAL METEOROLOGIST - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

Although we’re constantly exposed to them, many (most?) people don’t understand the details of how to properly interpret weather forecasts. This comic takes this to the ridiculous extreme of the weather reporters themselves not understanding, and asking questions about it while on-air. It shows questions asked by three different people with different backgrounds: mathematics, linguistics, and software development.


[Cueball is presenting a weather forecast]
Cueball: Our forecast says there's a 20% chance of rain for each of the next five hours.
Cueball: How likely is it to rain this afternoon? It's a simple question, but I don't know the answer. Is each hour independent? Correlated? Or is rain guaranteed and we're just unsure of the timing?
Cueball: It says "scattered showers." Is this the chance of rain somewhere in your area? How big is your area? What if you have two locations you're worried about?
Cueball: I've asked management, but they've stopped answering my emails, so—hang on, the security guy is coming over.
Technical Difficulties
We Apologize for Hiring a Meteorologist with a Pure Math Background.
We'll Be Back on the Air Shortly.
News 4
[Cueball is replaced with Blondie]
Blondie: Sorry about that. Hi, I'm your new meteorologist.
Off-panel voice: And you're not a mathematician, right?
Blondie: No. I do have a linguistics degree.
Off-panel voice: That's fine.
Blondie: It might rain this afternoon.
Blondie: But what is "it" here? Is it a true dummy pronoun, as in the phrase "It's too bad?" Or is the weather an entity?
Blondie: Also, what if I say, "It's hot out, and getting bigger?"
Off-panel voice: Security!

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


I’ve wondered about this (from both the math and software development perspectives anyway, not the linguist), so I look forward to seeing some actual answers as the explanation gets filled in :) PotatoGod (talk) 16:36, 25 April 2018 (UTC)

The weather service has a nice explanation of this. After reading it you come away understanding that the percentage chance is... still almost impossible to discern :) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I really liked this one. I don't know why though. Linker (talk) 17:35, 25 April 2018 (UTC)

Yep - all three of the 'experts' express problems that I have with every single weather forecast. It gets worse though. Our local TV station uses a rotating 3D graphic of downtown Austin where the shadows of the buildings flicker violently as it rotates - they've been doing this for YEARS. I'm a 3D computer graphics professional and I know PRECISELY why that is happening (they are rendering the back-faces of the building polygons in the shadow rendering pass instead of the front-faces...trust me on this one!)...I could fix the bug with ONE LINE OF CODE - and I bet I could find and fix it within 20 minutes if left alone with the source code. But when I call them and BEG to be allowed t...SECURITY!!! SteveBaker (talk) 17:36, 25 April 2018 (UTC)
Hah, that's pretty funny, but understandably frustrating. I rarely watch the weather though... that is why I find it a little strange I liked it so much. Have you actually called them though? I mean, if you have proof to show you are a professional...Linker (talk) 12:33, 26 April 2018 (UTC)
wonders about something and puts it in an xkcd comic.
Explainxkcd participants
answer Randall's questions for him (and all of his readers).

TobyBartels (talk) 20:52, 25 April 2018 (UTC)

Am I allowed to be slightly offended by the suggestion that "information being conveyed is to people, who would probably be able to interpret it easily"? Okay, I'm a software engineer, but even if I weren't I'd still not know whether the report system defines "12:00" as "in the period between 12:00 and 13:00" or "between 11:30 and 12:30". I usually wonder, but get so many variants of weather reports exposed to me that I can't be bothered to check which arbitrary decision any given one has made, and whether they all agree. A software engineer might instantly spot the ambiguity, but it affects everyone. Fluppeteer (talk) 23:58, 25 April 2018 (UTC)

Clearly, what that sentence is trying to convey is that software developers are no longer considered "people" - since, you know, everyone knows that software developers have actually been replaced by robots. ;p
I agree that that section is pretty poorly worded (in more ways than one) and was likely written by somebody quickly trying to get as much explanation out as possible so that future people could fix it. So, I'm going to see if I can fix that sentence and the surrounding section. Jeudi Violist (talk) 01:40, 26 April 2018 (UTC)

As someone who's asked many questions along these lines, this comic makes me happy. Elvenivle (talk) 01:53, 26 April 2018 (UTC)

There is no such thing as "12 [post meridiem]" - it's literally at meridian. Grammatically, "pm" should be capitalized as an abbreviation. Should this be noted? (The linguist could explain it to the programmer.)Roguetech (talk) 12:54, 26 April 2018 (UTC)

The text is currently mathematically incorrect about correlated events. The type of correlated described is just a special form. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Captcha1 is no longer working, so you can no longer create new accounts here or edit anonymously. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

See above the explanation. At the time of writing this (and the above comment) this text was there:
Hi all, the upgrade is now going to happen next weekend, the weekend of the 28th/29th. Bear with us as we get up to date and fix the ReCaptcha.
So just wait a few more days.--Kynde (talk) 21:59, 26 April 2018 (UTC)
Captcha1 works fine, you just have to do what it says (that’s how I’m adding this comment now) 04:30, 27 April 2018 (UTC)
New category for weather/meteorology ?

Do we need a new category for meteorology or wheather/wheather forcast, maybe one combining all things to do with weather and possibly climate? Suggestions for a name for such a category (or if we need it or more than one) would be appreciated. I have found the following comics apart from this one, that has some clear relation to weather in some form or another:

Plus of course the whole set from

and possibly also from

Feel free to add your ideas. --Kynde (talk) 21:51, 26 April 2018 (UTC)

I think we can create a new "Weather" or "Meteorology" category, and make the hurricane and tornado categories subcategories of the new weather/meteorology category. But should it be weather or meteorology? Herobrine (talk) 05:38, 27 April 2018 (UTC)
How about "Weather and Meteorology"? Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 10:02, 27 April 2018 (UTC)

Re 'even if I weren't I'd still not know whether the report system defines "12:00" as ...': Well, isn't part of the joke that it doesn't really matter? Weather forecasts use all these precise numbers and they have specific definitions for everything, but it's all just approximations -- there are wide error bars that are not mentioned. When they predict the temperature as "68 degrees", I mentally translate that to "high 60's". And "1pm" means "early afternoon". So even though their prediction for 12:00 means from 12:00 to 1:00, it's also likely to be a good approximation for 11:30 to 12:30. . Barmar (talk) 16:29, 27 April 2018 (UTC)

1) '... there is a certain "resistance" to speech without a subject. Thus if you are in the passenger seat of a car going down the highway and happened to see some deer in the trees nearby, you could simply say "Deer.", rather than "there is a deer over there", deer being the subject of the sentence.' Sure, you can! How do you know that the person said "Deer" and not "Dear"? 2) If you are one of those who prefer punctuation inside quotes, note that "Dear?" is not the samething as "Dear." as the pitch could be used to disambiguate "Deer." and "Dear?"; this is not the case for "Deer." and "Dear." 3) "Of course it should be pointed out that hiring someone without any meteorological training to read the weather does not make them an actual meteorologist, no more than say hiring a bricklayer as a doctor would actually make them a real doctor." So what is "a real doctor"? I consider that a real doctor is someone who has a doctorate (degree). Some consider it to be someone who is a medical doctor (and who probably does not have a doctorate). 4) My degree is a minor in Math, a major in Computing Science, and one course in it was in Linguistics. Gene Wirchenko [email protected] 05:45, 1 May 2018 (UTC)

The chance is 20%+20%*0.8+20%*0.64+20%*0.512+20%0.4096=20%+16%+12.8%+10.24%+8.192%=67.232%. 15:00, 29 July 2018 (UTC)