On Groundhog Day, I saw something far more disturbing than Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow forecasting six more weeks of winter.
It was my old friend, Professor Van Von Venn. Normally, I am able to sense his approach and run away. However, I sometimes mistake the shadow of the professor, a rather large man, for a solar eclipse and fail to escape.
Coincidentally, Von Venn had just returned from a weather-related research project at Southeast North Dakota College, which, strangely, is located in northwestern South Dakota.
“I’ve come up with a new theory,” said Von Venn. “Instead of making weather forecasts or predictions, we should be making ‘after-casts’ or ‘post-dictions.’
“The idea came to me as I was staring out the window of my broom closet office at the university. I saw that it was snowing and realized there was a 100 percent chance of snow at that moment.
“I soon discovered that I never missed accurately after-casting what the weather was. Even people who were not smart enough to come in out of the rain are smart enough to realize that they had just been rained on.
“This discovery made me think of doing away with inaccurate weather forecasts forever. Despite advanced technology, predictions don’t always turn out as predicted.
“People who plan on family picnics on the promise of partly sunny skies are not amused to discover that the day was nine parts rain and one part sun.
“The same is true with parents cooped up and coping with their kids on a snow day called by their school, when the weather turns out to be more suitable for throwing baseballs than snowballs.
“Waiting to see what weather we really get would also prevent possibly the worst part of winter storms — people talking about them and getting upset about them days before the first snowflake is predicted to fall.
“For many people, the worst part of a winter storm is not shoveling snow or even traveling in hazardous conditions. It is hearing people talk about how bad it’s going to be.
“The second worst part is finding out you really need something at the grocery store the day before a storm is predicted, only to find the checkout lines jammed with people who apparently think they will be trapped in their homes for the next month.
“The third worst part is that, even if the storm is as bad as predicted, most of those people will be at the store in the middle of the blizzard just to see how bad it is.
“Of course, there is a downside to my new system. It would eliminate the enjoyment we get at pointing out how wrong meteorologists’ predictions sometimes are.
“ ‘Boy, I wish I had a job where I could be wrong half the time and still get paid. That weather person must be getting kickbacks from grocery stores for boosting sales of milk, eggs and bread.’
“This isn’t really fair to the usually accurate meteorologists, grocery stores or even the cows, hens and bakers, for that matter. However, that doesn’t keep people from making these bad jokes.
“Still, it would prevent TV stations from running ‘weather updates’ during every commercial break, implying the next ice age is upon us.
“It would put an end to regional news programs devoting 90 percent of their broadcast to weather — telling us how much snow we’ll get, reporting breaking news that snow is falling, and then explaining why we got more or didn’t get as much snow as predicted.
“The Von Venn let’s-wait-and-see-what-we-get weather system could also be applied to sporting events. Instead of listening to ‘experts’ telling us who’s going to win the big game, we can wait until the end of the game and find out.”
I’m not making any predictions about how successful the professor’s system is going to be. I’ll just wait until it doesn’t work out to after-cast it.