The Philippine Onion

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Archive for November 26th, 2007

The art and science of weather forecasting and why we can’t predict Mina

Posted by commiedyan on November 26, 2007

Our weather forecasters have drawn a lot of undeserved flak for the way Mina has skirted the areas she was supposed to damage. We must be so cynical we can’t even recognize good news.

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer is this report: Mina’s veering off sparks text jokes in Albay. We hope you don’t mind if we’re occasionally serious.

But first a joke from Onionista. Typhoon Mina changed course, from B.S. Meteorology to A.B. Political Science and she’s now in Malacañang meeting with Gloria, Cerge Remonde,Ronnie Puno, and Ignacio Bunye, trying to spin the whirlwind and grab credit for the minimal destruction thus far.

Now for the serious weather jokes:

  1. “I am not sure how clouds get formed. But the clouds know how to do it, and that is the important thing.”
  2. “In making rain water, it takes everything from H to O.”
  3. Water vapour gets together in a cloud. When it is big enough to be called a drop, it does.

Here’s the source of these corny jokes,

Now this is the source of the serious stuff. There are two mainstream methods in weather forecasting.

  1. The persistence method:This is the simplest way of producing a forecast. The persistence method assumes that the conditions at the time of the forecast will not change. For example, if it is sunny and 87 degrees today, the persistence method predicts that it will be sunny and 87 degrees tomorrow. If two inches of rain fell today, the persistence method would predict two inches of rain for tomorrow.
  2. Numerical Weather Prediction: Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) uses the power of computers to make a forecast. Complex computer programs, also known as forecast models, run on supercomputers and provide predictions on many atmospheric variables such as temperature, pressure, wind, and rainfall. A forecaster examines how the features predicted by the computer will interact to produce the day’s weather. The NWP method is flawed in that the equations used by the models to simulate the atmosphere are not precise. This leads to some error in the predictions. In addition, the are many gaps in the initial data since we do not receive many weather observations from areas in the mountains or over the ocean. If the initial state is not completely known, the computer’s prediction of how that initial state will evolve will not be entirely accurate. Despite these flaws, the NWP method is probably the best of the five discussed here at forecasting the day-to-day weather changes. Very few people, however, have access to the computer data. In addition, the beginning forecaster does not have the knowledge to interpret the computer forecast, so the simpler forecasting methods, such as the trends or analogue method, are recommended for the beginner.

Weather forecasting shares some characteristics with economic and political forecasting. The forecasters never get sued.

You might be wondering why we’re in a good mood. We just got over a persistent tropical depression. Smile naman.

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Posted in analysis, science, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Toward a new generation of Filipino heroes

Posted by commiedyan on November 26, 2007

(We warn our dear readers that the foregoing analysis by our resident economist, e-kunomista, is not for the squeamish and fainthearted. It is rated PG35).

The depreciation of the once-mighty dollar is endangering the country’s economic growth, fueled the past few years by remittances from overseas Filipino workers, now fighting a Sisyphean and losing battle against the forces of globalization over which they have no control: the more they sweat, the less the value of their labor.

What is to be done?

The answer is right under, and slightly above our very noses, and even in our gut. We have been contemplating the story of justice secretary Raul Gonzales, who, we have been told by sources in the Makati Medical Center, had a healthy pair of kidneys until these rejected the body of their owner. Fortunately for Mr. Gonzales, one kidney of his loyal driver shared the sentiment of its master.

We do not wish the good secretary ill, for we normally do not make fun of the senile—we say this with all sincerity because we cannot be compelled to take a polygraph test— but we have been told his other internal organs might follow his discarded kidneys, politicized and now making a lot of political noise in that hospital. He has also said that he has just come back from hell, and if there really is a hell, we say, practice makes perfect. But so much for Mr. Gonzales, suffice it to say, we wish him a more speedy recovery.

Filipinos, especially the poor and unemployed, have an excess of internal organs and useless limbs, and if only these could be sold at fair market value, we can be well on our way to a more equitable and sustainable development, using a more visceral interpretation of human capital touted by the World Bank.

Equitable because there is no need for a trickle-down effect, as market development, on the supply side, should start with the third decile in the income distribution. We estimate that the kidneys of these people alone would lead to an immediate 5% reduction in poverty incidence. But, you ask, is that sustainable?

Silly question, for biochemistry teaches us that the lighter the body mass, the lower is the energy required for its sustenance—addressing as well escalating petroleum prices. Secondly, why stop at kidneys? We can proceed with slivers of liver, which have regenerative capabilities. More importantly, we can reduce the digestive tracts, the source of the nasty gastric juices responsible for those embarrassing hunger statistics. There seems to be no scarcity of serendipity here, for we can also encourage the sale of testicles to address the population problem. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in analysis, economics, Malacañang, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »