INDIANAPOLIS - Dire predictions of 30 inches of snow in Indiana in a storm set to affect the area early next week have been circulating on social media, prompting meteorologists to debunk them.
Weather forecasters rely on computer models to mold and shape forecasts. There are numerous models, and the reliability of them varies depending upon numerous factors.
BAM Chase, a website and Facebook presence of weather enthusiasts, posted information earlier this week about a single Canadian weather model that showed a storm setting up for Indiana that had the potential of bringing 30 inches of snow to parts of the state.
Michael Clark, who owns BAM Chase, said his intent was to share that one model depicted an epic storm and that others misconstrued the information.
“Computer modeling can predict storms this far out. That’s why it’s there. I would say 90 percent of the people enjoy having information as far in advance as possible,” Clark said. “There’s a possibility that one model says we could get 2 feet of snow and another says no snow.”
But when the post went viral, according to Clark, misinformation arose from some re-posters who are not familiar with the nuances of weather forecasting.
Compounding the issue, someone took a WTHR-TV forecast map and altered the snowfall totals on it to reflect up to 3 feet of snow in parts of Indiana. That image also spread on social media, prompting the station to clarify that it wasn't their forecast and ask others to out the person "using erroneous information with our trademark."
RTV6 meteorologists Kevin Gregory, Todd Klaassen, Ashley Brown and Kyle Mounce have gotten numerous questions via email and social networks about the validity of the 20 to 30-inch information floating on social networks.
"There have been a million questions about this storm and a lot of erroneous snowfall totals thrown out on the Internet," Klaassen said Friday morning. "It is completely irresponsible at this point to put any snowfall totals out on this storm."
The National Weather Service in Indianapolis took to Twitter on Friday morning to take the rare step of addressing the situation.
"Important: Rumors of 20-30" of #snow are EXTREMELY premature & improbable and not supported by fcst model data at this time," NWS tweeted.
However, there is the potential for snowfall in central Indiana early next week, and there is a possibility that accumulation could be significant.
The forecast should come into clearer view this weekend, with a first call from StormTeam 6 likely to come then.