Make your Weather Forecasts Trade Actionable!

27   Nov ,  2012 | 3
comments

Hey everyone, sorry it’s been a while since I last posted.   I promise to start writing more blog posts going forward.   I wanted to bring up a topic that I think needs to be in the minds of all younger generation (and maybe older) meteorologists.   Bottom line, I believe that weather forecasts for clients today should be “trade actionable”.   Before I get into what trade actionable means, let me talk about the trend of weather data and information.

As many of you know, weather forecasts and data are available for free all over the web.  From NOAA to blogs to private and public websites….weather information is free and more accessible than at anytime in our history.  Anyone can look at models and become their own weather forecaster.    So how does a private weather consultant stand out and set themselves apart  in today’s climate of ‘overexposed’ weather information….be Trade Actionable!

“Trade Actionable” in my book means, “give your client  information (both weather and operational) that will help them make or save revenue”.   Let me give you an example.   In my energy weather consultancy I am currently supporting some West-based power and natural gas traders.   At this time of year, especially in the NW…snowpack builds are critical.   Why?  Well with my experience being on the trade floor, I know that in Q2, potential runoff is what drives prices in the NW which is due to how much snowpack build (snow water equivalent) we get in the Winter months.  As a meteorologist, it’s easy for me to provide them snowpack data, temperature forecasts, vendor forecasts, precipitation forecasts, model data and let them make the call.   But that isn’t trade actionable in my book.  Sure, you are providing them weather fundamentals which is great…but you’re not providing much confidence for them to put on a trade.

After providing the weather fundamentals and data, here’s what I would say.  Based on this above data presented for Dec 2012, I believe we will see less than normal snowpack build in the Cascades, higher than normal precip in the lower elevations, temperature regime of normal to weakly above in Dec with no potential for any major arctic outbreak.   Now that is “trade actionable” information.   I have just provided my opinion and my call on the forecasts on how it could benefit my client to give him/her more confidence to make their trade.

And yes, maybe “trade” actionable is not the “correct” term for all industries for which weather data is required….but I think the value add for independent weather consultants is to tell your clients how it impacts their bottom line and what operational changes they should make.    For example, if your clients are in agriculture and they grow walnuts.  And let’s say you’re anticipating a deep freeze.  You will of course show them the temperature forecasts, surface analysis charts, soil moisture, wind chill, etc etc.   But I think the client will be more appreciative (and you will stand out amongst normal data vendors) if you tell them to begin “watering their plants” at a certain time, and making X, Y, Z proper precautions at a certain time to protect your plants from a freeze on this X date.

Bottom line, make a call.  Provide your opinion on the forecast on what it means to your client, and don’t just present the data itself.  And that also means researching and understanding your client’s operations.  What do they do that helps save them money ahead of any pertinent weather?  What can they do to make money off any pertinent weather?   Sure, a lot of this is common sense for the older generation, but I think the younger folks need to hear this given how much free data is available these days.   In my opinion, communicating trade actionable weather forecasts is what will help you stand out from the rest of the free weather data providers out there, especially if you decide to venture out on your own.  And it also helps that you’re accurate most of the time :)

In my next post, I’ll discuss what I believe entry level meteorologists should be doing while waiting for job opportunities.   Stay tuned!  (photo credit: acceleratedonline.net)

Posted by AJ on November 27, 2012

  • Matt

    Great post AJ! One of the biggest hurdles for forecasters to get over when consulting a customer who is seeking actionable information is ditching the probabilistic-speak. Every forecast is inherently uncertain, even when you as a forecaster are ‘certain’ of what will happen next. The end user is usually seeking a nudge to one side of the fence or the other, so it is paramount for the forecaster to understand the decision they are trying to make, and provide them the guidance in their decision: “Get off of the fence!”. Calling for a 40% chance of anything is the opposite of decisive guidance in the eyes of the forecast recipient. It is usually better to articulate one decisive answer, then attribute your level of certainty of confidence in that answer. Conveyance of forecaster confidence in the deterministic-solution you offer is important though too, in order to maintain long-term credibility.

    Nice to see you back!

    -Matt

    • freshAJ

      Thanks Matt! I think you are spot on with your assessment…especially given that you manage clients expectations on a daily basis. Appreciate the comment.

    • Brian E.

      Matt – a follow up to the ‘on the fence’ comment. Would it be OK to go with 2 or 3 scenarios? For example, something like “tonight will be cold, down close to freezing. If the winds die down, temperatures could dip below freezing. Thus, while I do not believe frost preparations are in order, you should prepare contingency plans as it could happen”.