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By Dan Carlson
Prairie Ponderings 

Dan's Weather Group

 

For readers unfamiliar with my professional background, I was a TV/radio meteorologist for 25 years from 1979 until 2004.

During that time, I did side gigs as a forensic meteorologist and assistant fire meteorologist for the state of South Dakota. I left broadcasting in 2004 to work for Cabela’s as a writer but when my meteorology background became known, the company made use of those skills as well. Ultimately, I became Cabela’s corporate meteorologist. All this to say I’ve been involved in weather more than 40 years.

Once the weather bug bites, one never gets over it. Weather is fascinating and also the No. 1 topic of conversation in the world. Why? Because weather is something we all have in common and have to deal with regardless of race, religion, political affiliation or anything else that tends to divide us. When I was part of the big Cabela’s purge in 2018, I looked for a way to keep my finger in the rain gauge, so to speak.


That’s why I created Dan’s Weather Group on Facebook in 2019.

Weather forecasting has come a long way since I entered the field. Back in 1979 we had no weather computers, no computer graphics, archaic weather map printers, obsolete radars and outdated weather models. The main forecast model at the time was the Limited Fine Mesh (LFM) model, which divided the world into squares with a resolution of nearly 200 km. Now, thanks to computer power, there are models that divide the world into grids with resolution in just meters.

Forecast accuracy has gone from marginal to nearly 99% accurate over a two-day period. And now, “retired” meteorologists like me have access to the same data, models and images as forecasters at the National Weather Service from the comfort of home.


That helps me provide weather reports and coverage for the narrow area we live in that’s sort of between NWS Cheyenne and NWS North Platte.

The folks at NWS Cheyenne are fantastic people. They consistently put out great weather products, and don’t mind working with informed and trained people like me when it comes to keeping the public safe and up to date.

The challenge we face here in Cheyenne County is that we’re at the easternmost limits of Cheyenne’s Doppler radar coverage due to curvature of the earth, and at the westernmost coverage of NWS North Platte’s. Their radar beam can’t bend, so it can only scan what’s going on here from about 10,000 ft. on up. That’s why storm spotters are vital here in severe weather. We help the NWS offices “see” what’s happening at ground level.

Dan’s Weather Group demonstrated that Sunday when large hail and a tornado threatened our county. With nearly 3,000 members across the Panhandle, northeast Colorado and eastern Wyoming, we had coverage of the severe weather in real time as members posted their storm pictures and detailed reports of what was happening as it happened. I then forwarded relevant information to the NWS in Cheyenne.

With all the advancements in weather over the years, there’s no substitute for the human eye when it comes to understanding what’s happening and what could happen.

If you’re into weather and on Facebook, consider joining Dan’s Weather Page. It’s free, I get nothing for doing it, and it offers a few things you might not find elsewhere.

 

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