RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links

The Loop

If you don't like the crummy weather forecast, it's probably because you're checking the wrong one

October 17, 2014

I've long suspected that an inordinate amount of traffic to weather websites comes from golfers with upcoming tee times. This is what we do. You're playing Friday, you check the weather. If you don't like the forecast, you check again later. And if you STILL don't like the forecast, you do what I do and check a different website.

If this seems like delusional behavior -- people trying to ignore the harsh percentages staring them in the face -- you could make the case golf's popularity is pretty much based around the same premise.

But back to weather websites. The one thing I've noticed is that AccuWeather.com's forecast is almost always a little brighter than the one put out by counterpart Weather.com. If Weather.com says it's going to rain on Tuesday, AccuWeather.com says there's only a chance -- and it should clear up by noon. If Weather says it's going to be partly sunny, AccuWeather says pack your sunscreen because it's going to be gorgeous.

Consider, for instance, a recent sampling from this week. This is the Weather.com forecast for my hometown of Rye, N.Y.


And here's the Rye forecast from AccuWeather.


As you can see, Weather.com considers Thursday pretty much a washout. But AccuWeather, says it's only supposed to drizzle in the morning. Things are already looking up!

Just to make sure this was not just a local phenomenon, I checked a bunch of other forecasts around the country. Here's the forecast for Des Moines, Iowa, according to Weather.com.


And here's what AccuWeather says.


Or how about the weekend in San Francisco. Again, this is Weather's forecast.


And this is AccuWeather's:


In my mind, I've attributed the disparity between the two weather services to just different outlooks on the world. The folks at Weather.com are realists, the AccuWeather people are optimists. At Weather.com, they're monitoring satellites from a row of cubicles under depressing fluorescent lights. At AccuWeather, they're piecing together forecasts in between games of Ping-Pong and impromptu birthday parties in the conference room.

Is any of this true? Of course not. In reality, both AccuWeather and Weather build their forecast models around data: Weather.com relies on its own patented technology called TruPoint while AccuWeather.com draws from a number of sources, including the National Weather Service.

So as much as we'd like to think these forecasts are at the whims of temperamental individuals who may or may not have had a few drinks at lunch, it's essentially just one algorithm versus another.

As for which one is better, that may be more a question of what you're looking to hear.