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Cloudy with a Chance of Certainty

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As part of the exhibition, ‘The Last Newspaper,’ at the New Museum.

Weather is important news. A Ford Foundation-sponsored 2006 survey found that people regard the weather as the news of greatest concern (followed by national and international events). The high demand for weather information is confirmed by a Pew Research Center study in which it ranks among the news categories of most interest consistently for the past three decades. Weather is even news that is highly sought after online. The Weather Channel’s http://www.weather.com is one of the top fifteen most visited sites, having about the same amount or more traffic than major sources of general news, like CNN, the New York Times, MSNBC, and the BBC.

But even though it is a matter of interest, weather reporting is rarely a matter of consequence. We are interested in knowing climatic conditions because they impact us directly. The weather personally affects what we wear, our commute, how the workday goes, and what we do on weekends; and being aware of what the weather will be let’s us plan accordingly. Yet, some would consider it not news at all because unlike the reporting of world affairs, politics, economics, the war or health, the daily reporting of weather isn’t information about events of great consequence. The reported facts are immediately relevant though they bear little significance on the larger course of human interactions. But that’s not to say that the weather itself is unimportant.

Although we spend a lot of time following weather news, there isn’t a lot of news about the consequences of weather. Only when meteorological pressures depart from slight fluctuations and approach extremes that potentially cause damage does weather reporting describe its collective impact. Yet, the weather greatly affects us everyday and our project, Cloudy With a Chance of Certainty, presents an ongoing report of the consequences of its unpredictability on cities. Weather influences the workings of cities, altering the flow of their traffic infrastructure, the use of their energy resources, and the productivity of their industries. Knowing what the weather will be helps cities to prepare for climatologic surprises and minimize disruption. However, even with advanced technological forecasting, the weather is uncertain and our hazy knowledge of the situation has meaningful urban costs as shown in the three display panels. Panel One provides the current temperature of twenty-four US cities. Panel Two represents short-term weather uncertainty expressed by the change in the daily closing price for Chicago Mercantile Exchange Weather Futures traded for each of the cities over one month, along with the sum of the difference between each city’s daily forecasted and actual temperature for one month. Panel Three provides a preliminary estimate of the cities’ GDP output based upon the affects of weather changes on utilities, communication, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, agriculture, mining, and ‘financial, insurance, and real estate’ sectors.

Credit: Jeffrey Inaba / C-Lab


Written by James Thomas

10/01/2011 at 19:41

Posted in 004/ Environment

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