First Banished Word of 2014: Polar Vortex
The first addition to my 2014 list of banished words is “polar vortex”. The phrase was added not because I dislike the cold so much, but because I don’t like hearing the words “polar vortex” dozens of times a day.
Back when I was younger (I guess this is where I’m supposed to say, “Back in the day”?) – and actually until quite recently – whenever we had a mid-winter invasion of cold weather that lasted for a couple three days it was simply called a “cold snap”. Or an “arctic blast”. So what’s suddenly the deal now with (ominous voice) “THE POLAR VORTEX”? We don’t need it. Not when we have the perfectly acceptable, cold snap and arctic blast available for use.
I like the weather. I would call myself a weather nerd but I’m of the age when being called a nerd was not a particularly pleasant reference. While being a nerd is sort of a badge of honor now, walking down those cold high school hallways and being called a nerd used to be the last thing someone wanted. Anyway, like I said, I like the weather and I just wish I could get the weather nowadays quick and dirty and without weather forecasters who feel the need to dramatize cold snaps into polar vortexes, or who try and make us believe a few snow showers, or an Alberta clipper, carry the possibility of becoming the next Armistice Day blizzard.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the weather forecasters and the jobs they do. Weather forecasting is a necessity, and a lifesaver, when it comes to giving us information on hurricanes and tornadoes, but put the extremes aside and just look at those day-to-day, five/seven-day extended forecasts. I believe those to be totally unnecessary and a waste of real news time and no more valid, or accurate, than the daily horoscope. OK, you’re a weather nerd and you think that’s a bit harsh. I understand there’s science involved in trying to predict the weather future when data from multiple sources around and above the earth is gathered and assimilated and analyzed, but the reality is that even the best and most expensive computer simulators get it wrong on occasion. So extremes aside, I’m going to stick with weather forecasting as important as, and less interesting than, the daily horoscope until I see weather forecasters step up and share their forecasting accuracy percentages, something along the same lines as the graphic that shows us a baseball player’s batting average and on base percentage whenever he comes up to the plate. Or until the forecasters tell us exactly how they measure their forecasting accuracy, or until they develop forecasting terms that are a bit less vague than “A 40% chance of rain tomorrow”, or provide slightly more concrete predictions to take the place of ‘partly cloudy’ and ‘partly sunny’. Until then I’m going to lean more toward meteorology as a pseudoscience (yeah, I know, that’s a bit harsh again) and go on believing that the nightly weather forecasts have less to do with the weather than television ratings and advertising revenue, and that meteorologists are hired, and continue to remain employed, not because of any meteorological efficiency, but because of physical looks and charisma and good hand/eye coordination.