Fictional weather reports
By avalon on May 22, 2006
From time to time I look over at Yahoo's weather website to see what the conditions are like where I am. Today, the relevant page for me is Beijing. On there you can see a line item called "Visibility". Currently it reads 6.21 miles. Earlier in the day it read 4.97 miles. The implication here is that it has somehow gotten better. It hasn't and if anything, it has gotten worse.
As many people know, I was also here in Beijing last year. 12 months ago, it was normal to get a visibility report under 3 miles. I can't help but wonder if perhaps someone in China has noticed this rather public avenue of information into the current conditions in China and has decided it needs some favourable adjustment if it is to be broadcast to the world at large.
There is one caveat here and that is where I'm sitting is not exactly the same location as the Beijing airport where this report is supposedly issued from. The difference is quite a distance, but the country is quite flat (excluding apartment buildings) and if you were to ride that distance in a taxi, you wouldn't notice any appreciable difference in visibility at ground level.
Weather Undeground unfortunately no longer displays current visibility data for Beijing, but if we look the month of May in 2005, we can get some good data. Although, the accuracy is a bit perplexing as if we look at one particular day, say the 25th of May, we can see the visibility averages around 3 or 4 miles during the entire day, except for some one of events of 6, 7 and 9 miles that appear to be duplicated records (and obviously incorrect.) Anyone want to bet on there being bugs in wunderground's data collection?