Weather information is everywhere these days. From your phone to your TV, to the internet, and even on signage as you drive through town. Weather-on-demand has resulted in many more people becoming aware of hazardous forecasts, but there's one thing that all these sources of information can't provide adequately: Years of Expertise.
If you're reading this, chances are that you are either intrigued by the job title "Forensic Meteorologist", or you are pondering whether hiring one is worthwhile.
Forensic meteorology, like other sciences, involves investigating historical weather events that generally have resulted in an emergency or caused damage, injury, or death. In other cases, forensic meteorology can be used to combat fraud, convict (or acquit) suspected criminals, aid in safety investigations, and even solve cold-case mysteries. Basically, if it is possible that weather could be a factor - or was claimed to be a factor - forensic meteorology can be used to assist in sorting out the unknown.
A recent Pew Research Study revealed that 70% of Americans found that a local news weather forecast is important for everyday life, with another 20% believing it to be important, but to a lesser extent.
If 70-90% of Americans believe that weather forecasts are important - and therefore have an impact on activities - then it's a safe bet that a large chunk of property damage claims, personal injuries and wrongful death lawsuits, motor vehicle accidents, and even criminal actions may have been influenced by the weather, or the weather forecast. In many cases, weather only played a small role, but it's often the small details that have big consequences.
Reason #1) You Need Weather Information For An Exact Location At An Exact Time
The National Weather Service, among other weather websites, can generally provide you with daily weather summaries at many locations across the country. These summaries, however, are not always representative of an incident location, and they rarely have detailed information or timing of particular weather events.
Weather can be highly volatile, and many weather events will impact different parts of a neighborhood differently. A daily summary of high and low temperatures, along with a rainfall total, may be useful for a high school research paper, but probably not when you're battling for your insurance company to pay out, or you're up against a lawsuit for wrongful death.
Even storm reports from severe weather can be useful, but require review by an investigative meteorologist to ensure they reflect the correct location and weather intensity.
Forensic meteorologists can pinpoint your location, analyze weather maps, weather radar, satellite imagery, run calculations and modelling software from the exact location, and develop an expert opinion on all the relevant weather conditions in question.
Reason #2) Your Insurance Tells You That They Won't Pay For Your Weather Damage
First, be sure that what you are claiming really did happen, and that you're supposed to be covered for it. Assuming that there truly is some bad faith going on, then a forensic meteorologist - usually in tandem with a public adjuster or building engineer - may be your best bet.
Just like in Reason #1 above, a forensic meteorologist can determine what sort of weather that your property was subject to on a particular date - or over a period of time. DO NOT assume that the insurance company, the public adjuster, or the building engineer has sufficient knowledge in meteorology to give you an opinion on the weather conditions - they are experts on insurance and damage, not meteorology. Call in the meteorology expert.
Reason #3) You Are Part Of A Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit, and Weather Was Hazardous During The Incident
Whether you represent the plaintiff or the defense, a forensic meteorologist may be your big break. Here's why:
In addition to Reason #1 above, when poor weather is occurring, there are generally numerous alerts for this weather, which are all-too-often ignored. Ignoring or failing to take proper precautions for a weather warning may support a claim of negligence. On the other hand, some weather, even when planned adequately for, can be considered an "Act of God", potentially taking some liability away. Either way, a forensic meteorologist can help you sort out all the information for the numerous situations where these issues can arise.
Reason #4) Someone's Story Isn't Adding Up, and Weather May Have Been an Issue
To tell you the truth, an experienced meteorologist is extremely attentive to fine details - especially when they may involve something meteorological. Suspected insurance fraud, for example, can be easily assessed with the help of a forensic meteorologist. Again - don't rely on an engineer or property adjuster for weather expertise.
Questionable witness statements can also be disputed with the help of a sharp forensic meteorologist. Remember, 70-90% of Americans feel as though weather information is important for daily living. Could a witness have forgotten (whether intentionally or not) about certain weather conditions as they are recalling an incident? It has happened!
Wrapping It All Up
If you think you may need a forensic meteorologist, call one. Many will offer free consultations, while some will even briefly look into your case for a nominal fee (or even at no charge) to see if they can truly help before setting up a contract.
Many forensic meteorologists have specialties, or are more familiar with certain geographic locations or particular weather events. For example, a forensic meteorologist who specializes in tropical weather may be best fit when dealing with hurricane damage. A forensic aviation meteorologist will likely be the most helpful in weather-related aviation cases. Winter weather experts may be best for cases involving ice and snow, while a forensic marine meteorologist may be best for cases involving the shipping industry. Many forensic meteorologists have multiple specialties, so be sure to ask when you call.
Dan Schreiber is a forensic and emergency management meteorologist, and has been consulted on numerous cases involving property damage, airplane crashes, wrongful deaths, downed power lines, hurricane destruction, and more. Contact Dan HERE.