Believing TV weather hype

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By Jay Miller

Are biblical prophesies about the end of the world coming to pass or will global warming predictions beat them to it? We’ve been hearing both in the wake of recent natural disasters.
But it may not be as bad as it seems. Some weather watchers blame the hysteria on the Weather Channel and various weather Web sites pumping up minor disturbances with dire predictions. Last year, the Weather Channel began giving names to snowstorms.
Sometimes the storms barely materialized. Remember back around the time Congress was about to vote on sequestration, a major storm was predicted for Washington D.C.? It was termed Snowquestration. Jim Cantore, the Weather Channel’s disaster master was sent to town. His biggest chore was not hanging on to light poles to keep from blowing away. It was trying to explain why only a half-inch of snow fell.
We see the same situation on Albuquerque television. We wake up, flip on the TV and see some cub reporter stationed at Sedillo Hill in Tijeras Canyon, east of Albuquerque, waiting for the first snowflake to fall.
Occasionally, one of them will make a wry comment about being sent out to cover a non-event at an ungodly hour. They are being honest, but it probably won’t grease their way to an anchor position in the studio.
The trouble seemed to start some 20 years ago with the advent of 24-hour news channels. On slow news days, they had to buff up the news in order to hold their viewers. Then came the 24-hour sports channels that had to do the same.
And now the Weather Channel makes predictions that have us hiding under the bed regularly. Often they aren’t any better than the pundits who were still predicting a Mitt Romney win until election night.
Two Web sites, weather.com, and weather underground have joined in and claim 183 million monthly visitors. Reportedly all three are owned by NBC. The worry is that such sensationalism trivializes the real disasters and makes them seem like just another storm even though many are still suffering.
Even stock reports have now gone hysterical. Witness Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money” on CNBC some afternoon. He puts on quite an act. He sometimes wears me out so much that I switch to the Weather Channel.
The Weather Channel still is often better than the murder and mayhem on local channels, or a boring ball game. So I’m still glad it is there. You just have to remember to watch out for hype.
Switching to another weather topic, the state of Texas has filed a Supreme Court suit claiming that New Mexico is siphoning Texas water from the Rio Grande. New Mexico has long tried to get a new calculation of how much water it owes Texas.
The formula was set in the early 1900s, which was an extraordinarily wet period. I remember from the days when I followed the Billy the Kid story that the cemeteries in Fort Sumner and Silver City were partially washed away by huge floods. It is always amazing to me to look into the big ditch in Silver City and imagining water ever flowing that high.
Much of Texas is experiencing extreme drought — even worse than New Mexico. So the days of over-irrigating their fields with water from New Mexico are over. I can remember traveling Texas farm roads south of Carlsbad along the Pecos River where water was standing in bar ditches almost as high as the road. I haven’t driven that area recently, but I bet it no longer is happening. The big problem is the amount of ground water pumping in New Mexico.
Over on the Pecos River, New Mexicans are fighting over allocation of water rights following a priority call by the Carlsbad Irrigation District. Farmers upstream say they would suffer historic and crippling economic cultural injury, which would take decades to repair.