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Q: Which universities in Florida have a degree program in meteorology?
A: Florida State University and University of Miami 
 
 
Q: What does a "30% Chance of Rain" mean?
A: At any given point in the forecast area, a individual would have a 3 in 10 chance of being hit by rain during the specified period. Therefore, for every 10 days with a 30% chance of rain, 3 of them should bring rain to your house. At the District, we do not use the Percent Chance of rain. Instead, we use Coverage. A 30% coverage of rain indicates that 30% of the forecast area will be affected by rain during at least some part of the forecast period.  

  
Q: Isn't the forecast in the summer easy since it rains every day?
A: No, actually it only rains about every other day. Although it usually does rain somewhere in the District every day during the summer, it generally only rains 14 to 18 days per month in any given spot. Furthermore, these rain days are usually clumped together creating dry and wet spells throughout the summer. But the potential for rain somewhere in the District every day creates an interesting forecast challenge each day of determining where the rain will occur and how much will fall. And trust me, this is anything but easy. 

   
Q: How good are you at forecasting rainfall amounts?
A: During the summer months, we have a District-wide average forecast error of about 0.10" of rain per day relative to average rainfall of 0.25" of rain per day. Each month, our average error generally beats the objective forecast schemes of climatology (what typically happens), persistence (what happened yesterday), CLIPER (the average of climatology and persistence), and zero-cast (a forecast that it will never rain). We have starting using an new objective scheme called Best-cast which takes the best forecast of persistent, climatology, and zero-cast each day. This scheme has turned out to be very difficult to beat since it does well in dry times as well as wet times and it serves as a good check against false alarms of potential rain events. Since the fall of 1995, it has been our stated goal to beat Best-cast. 
 
 
Q: Are you better than the forecasters on TV?
A: All forecasters think they are better than the other guy, otherwise they would just steal the other guy's forecast. Let's just say that we are more focused since we generate very specific products tailored to the District's needs.
 
 
Q: Are the forecasters on TV really meteorologists?
A: Some yes, some no. Generally speaking, in order to call yourself a meteorologist, you should have a bachelor's degree (or higher) in meteorology or at least 20 college semester hours in meteorology and have 3 years of forecasting experience. A person who simply passes on weather information through the media should use the title "weathercaster". There are no weather police so such guidelines are not strictly enforced.

  
Q: What is "Doppler"?
A: In this case, "Doppler" refers to a type of radar. A conventional radar sends out a signal that bounces back off any objects it encounters, such as rain. The more dense the rain, the stronger the return signal, and thus the ability to detect areas of light rain or heavy rain. A doppler radar does the same thing as conventional radar except it also detects the motion of the object through a phenomena known as the Doppler Shift. A doppler radar can therefore infer winds and circulations of winds as well as delete return signals from objects which are not moving such as buildings (often referred to as "ground clutter"). As with all products, there are high quality doppler radars and lower quality doppler radars. The type of radar used by the National Weather Service (called "NEXRAD" or WSR-88D) are currently considered state-of-the-art.  

     
Q: Is Florida the "Lightning Capital of the World"?
A: No. However, Florida is often referred to as the Lightning Capital of the United States since it has areas which receive nearly 90 days with thunderstorms each year. The lightning capital of the world is likely to be over central Africa or Indonesia where well over 200 thunderstorm days occur each year.  

  
Q: Will rubber soled shoes protect me from a lightning strike? 
A: Let's just reword this question as "Is it OK to stick my finger in a light socket if I am wearing rubber soled shoes?" and the answer is obvious: NO! Your shoes provide you absolutely no protection from lightning. This common misconception most likely arises from the fact that cars do provide protection from lightning. This protection is because the metal frame of the car diverts the charge around the passengers in the car and then to the ground. It has nothing to do with rubber tires. Proof of this fact is that golf cart made of fiberglass frames do not offer the same protection even though they also have rubber tires (Are you listening out there all you golfers?).
 
 
Q:

Do you follow the National Hurricane Center's hurricane forecast tracks?

A: Yes. When a hurricane threatens an area, it is very important that the public be given consistent and accurate information. Therefore, the District meteorologists echo the guidance from the National Hurricane Center since they have the best personnel, data, and equipment to monitor and forecast these systems. 
 
 
Q: What is the difference between UTC, Eastern Standard Time, Eastern Daylight Savings Time, and Local Time?
A: UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time, is equivalent to Standard Time in England. It has also been referred to as GMT, Greenwich Mean Time, Zulu, Z, and Z Time. It is a standard time used around the world and it is very helpful when looking at data from different parts of the world or when viewing images (such as radar or satellite) that cover more than one time zone. As an example, a satellite image of the tropical Atlantic Ocean can cover 5 different time zones between Florida and the west coast of Africa. Any reference to a local time zone on such an image would lead to confusion since there is no guarantee that a person looking at the image is in the same time zone as the person who produced the image. Therefore, UTC provides a common reference time from which anyone, anywhere in the world, can convert to their local time. LOCAL TIME is the current time zone for your location. The conversion from UTC to local time in south Florida depends upon the time of year. To convert to EASTERN DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME (early April to late October), subtract 4 hours. To convert to EASTERN STANDARD TIME (late October to early April), subtract 5 hours.
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