Letters, Oct. 12, 1936

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Tercentenary Weather


As a subscriber for TIME I am interested that the stories therein published be as nearly true as it is reasonable to expect.

On pp. 22, 23 and 24 of your Sept. 28 issue, frequent reference is made to a misleading weather forecast given President Conant on the day of the Harvard Tercentenary celebration of Sept. 18. I probably am the meteorologist referred to in the article, who advised President Conant that "there would be less than 0.1 inch (specifically, I said, 0.05 to 0.06 inch) intermittent rain before 12 noon, and that it would be increasing after that hour to become heavy by the evening, with strong NE wind."

My forecast was the outcome of an elaborate forecasting service which Dr. C. F. Brooks, Director of the Blue Hill Observatory of Harvard, had arranged for the occasion. . . .

Your correspondent said "the rain had indeed stopped," but that later "a fresh torrent of rain descended on the Yard."

In spite of the abnormally difficult situation created by the rapidly advancing tropical cyclone, the forecast was completely verified as at Blue Hill, a much more exposed location than Cambridge, the intermittent rain was 0.08 inch by 12:30 p.m., and at the Boston Airport station of the U. S. Weather Bureau a total of 0.06 inch was recorded by 1 p.m. At the end of the ceremony President Conant congratulated Dr. Brooks for the accuracy of the forecast obtained from Blue Hill, which made it possible to hold the exercises out of doors with a minor degree of inconvenience to the thousands of spectators.

Your correspondent's story may possibly appeal to a noncritical class of readers which still takes a sarcastic-humorous attitude when the forecaster "misses," but completely overlooks the far greater percent of times when responsible forecasters are correct. However, in fairness to those who are striving to put weather forecasting on more scientific basis, the truth should not be so badly distorted.


Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory

Milton, Mass.


. . . The forecast was verified to the letter: the rainfall was intermittent: it was light, the amount at Blue Hill was only 0.08 inch up to 12:30. I was present throughout the exercises, wearing an academic gown but no raincoat or other protection, and did not get wet through.

If you had been in President Conant's place, and had known exactly in advance what would happen as to weather during the morning, would you have dispersed the crowd and disappointed at least 10,000 people? . . .


Professor of Meteorology and Director

Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory

Milton, Mass.

TIME concurs heartily with President James Bryant Conant's decision. To Blue Hill Observatory's meteorologists, felicitations on their accurate forecasting.—ED.

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