Failure of Weather Reporting: the so-called “Low Pressure Area” (my angst about weather reporting & weather forecasting)

Failure of Weather Reporting:

the so-called “Low Pressure Area”

( blog admin has had angst about this since Ondoy and have been ranting about it with friends, colleagues, and reporters, it even crops up as an aside in speeches and presentations; might as well put it in writing para matapos na. 


    When journalists, news anchors,  weather announcers use the term “low pressure area”, quoted verbatim from weather bureau spokespersons, they do not deliver any useful information to the audience.     What the hell is a low pressure area? Tropical storm Sendong  which killed more than a thousand,  and  Ondoy which drowned and crushed more than 700,  were all  first reported as: “low pressure area”. People did not pay attention until hundreds were being buried alive in the mud.

     No effort is made to explain what a low pressure area is,  whether or not there would be massive rains for four hours, how much flooding is expected,  and what areas would turn into an ocean of debris.

     A low pressure area is simply:  a clump of cold air. (Source: see article below, this one uses “cloudy weather and rains” for low pressure area). More specifically, it is a clump of cold air that  brings rains, ranging from a spatter to raging waters. (if you’re going to use my phrases for “low pressure area” please attribute it this blog,  copycat)

    The last part — that is where you’d want PAGASA  to do its job: will it be a spatter?  Or a cyclone?

From “How low pressure systems affect weather”  By Chad Palmer,

“When forecasters say a low pressure area or storm is moving toward your region, this usually means cloudy weather and precipitation are on the way. xxx

(from blog admin: “low pressure area” here simply means clouds and rains.)

“Low pressure systems have different intensities with some producing a gentle rain while others produce hurricane force winds and a massive deluge.

“The centers of all storms are areas of low air pressure.

“Air rises near low pressure areas. As air rises, it cools and often condenses into clouds and precipitation.

(from blog admin: When the air pressure in an area is lower than that in surrounding areas, the air rises. This produces clouds and rains.)

“If the low pressure area is the center of a Northern Hemisphere extratropical storm, a steady rain or snow can fall to the north of the warm front as warm moist air from the south rises up and over the cold air ahead of the warm front. Showers and thunderstorms often fire up ahead of the cold front in the warm, unstable air.

“Usually, showers and thunderstorms ahead of the cold front don’t last a long as the precipitation ahead of the warm front. xxx”

    A clump of cold air in Filipino (for the broadcast media and Filipino tabloids) would translate into:  isang kumpol ng malamig na hangin  or  isang pulutong ng malamig na hangin  or if you want to be specific, a clump of cold air that brings rains or isang kumpol ng malamig na hangin na may dalang ulan. [If you’re going to lift my phrases, please attribute it to this blog, copycat; 

if you were able to get new ideas from this blog, please attribute it to this post,
(thick-skinned )]

       Which of these deliver  more information:


 —— low pressure area?

 Or: cold air that brings rains / Malamig na hangin na may dalang ulan.

Here’s the PAGASA (weather bureau) weather advisory today, and how blog admin would storify it:

“At 8 a.m. today, the Low Pressure Area (LPA) was estimated based on satellite and surface data at 60 km Northwest of Ambulong, Batangas or 50 km West Southwest of Manila (14.3°N, 120.5°E). “

[Blog admin’s rewrite:

      At 8am, cold air carrying rains was detected 60km Northwest of Ambulong, Batangas or 50 km West Southwest of Manila, based on satellite and ground data. (if I were to edit this some more, I would ask the weather reporter to simply name the towns and municipalities instead of saying “60km Northwest of Ambulong, Batangas or 50 km West Southwest of Manila”. The problem with weather reporters is : they just quote verbatim without thought,  and the editors/ news directors let them.)

Continuation of PAGASA weather advisory: “Residents living in low lying areas and along mountain slopes are advised to be on alert for possible occurrence of flashfloods and landslides.”

     Media organizations reported this as is. I’d ask the weather reporter: Go back there, ask PAGASA to state what cities and municipalities, how high the flood might be, and what time. If they say they don’t know, we’ll just state that; they might find a way to be more prepared next time.  

      That’s the end of my angst, salamat po, this is the last time i will write about how to storify technicalese … pwohmis! (promise!)