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Predicting a Clear Night Sky Forecast is Tough

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Predicting weather is hard. Really hard. Even the most skilled meteorologist can have the best data at their fingertips and still get it wrong half the time.

I didn’t have worry too much about the weather myself until I became involved with the events at the Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area. Now, two dozen times a year, I don’t just have to consider rain but also cloud cover, percentage of cloud cover, the time of night clouds will be rolling in… things I never thought I’d ever have to think about.

So many of our Dark Sky visitors travel 2 hours or more to view the stars so it’s very important to try and make the right decision. It’s stressful to have to cancel, especially if it’s a sunny day and the clouds aren’t expected to roll in the evening. Even a light dusting of thin clouds make a difference. It’s also stressful to say the event will proceed, only to arrive and there’s grey skies overhead.

If only someone could invent a cloud blowing machine that would make our skies continuously clear. If anyone has a gigantic fan, please let us know.

Lucky for me, the Dark Sky Viewing Area has two amazing volunteers that help greatly with the weather prediction process. Joe Gilker and Tim Trentadue have years of experience gauging forecasting tools so that they’re not wasting their valuable overnight hours staring at clouds. They’re very skilled at making the right decision, and as a bonus it takes some of the pressure off of my shoulders.

Every event day we have here at Dark Sky we take a look at a half dozen forecasting tools and make the final decision based on their findings. We try and make the call by the early afternoon so that people have time to travel here, or change their plans if the event is a no-go.

It’s easy when all the forecasts point to the same thing. If they all say clear skies… woohoo, let’s go! And if they they all say clouds are imminent… boo, but at least it’s an easy call to make.

The problem is that most times there are conflicting reports we have to decipher. Some of the forecast sites are more accurate than others, some of the time at least. The trick is to look at all the data and the best decision we can, cross our fingers and toes and hope for the best.

Long story short, weather prediction is a tough thing to do. We hope that when we sometimes make the wrong decision that visitors aren’t too disappointed. We’re happy to report that in all the years that we’ve been hosting events here at Dark Sky we’ve never received any flack for making the wrong call from any potential visitors. And we’re very thankful for that.

Because, after all, we can’t control the weather… unless anyone has that big fan we’re searching for.

Here are some of the forecasting tools that Joe & Tim use to make our go/no-go decision on events. If you come on non-event nights, it would be wise to check these sites to determine what the conditions will be like:

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