You've seen it. You've heard about it. You've read about it. And you're probably talking about it more than you could ever have imagined. The National Hurricane Center calls it the Forecast Cone, that unsettlingly familiar graphic depiction of the projected path of a storm and the surrounding area representing the margin for error. The Center provides an exquisitely detailed definition of the Cone, based on historical tracks and circles of error and other meteorological minutiae. Joe & Jane Six-pack are spared exposure to such head-spinning calculations thanks to the Cone. The Cone is supposed to make things simple for us simple folk, but, alas, such is not the case.
On WWL TV's 10pm broadcast, meteorologist Carl Arredondo referred to the Forecast Cone as the Cone of Error, stressing the variations and inaccuracies that are possible. His colleague, Jonathan Myers, along with NBC's Tampa affiliate, went a step further and called it the Cone of Uncertainty, which certainly isn't helpful. The Palm Beach Post puts an ominous spin on things by calling it the Cone of Probability, as in, "It's anybody's guess right now, but hey, it'll probably hit somewhere inside that Cone!" OK, most of us don't have degrees in meteorology and certificates in storm prognostication, but you don't have to be Nash Roberts to know that when something is simultaneously referred to as the Cone of Uncertainty and the Cone of Probability, something ain't quite right. What's next? The Cone of Confusion? The Cone of Contradiction? The Cone of Complete Cluelessness? Can El Cono del Muerte be far behind?
Big help. Thanks a lot, folks. All I know is every time that infernal Cone shows up we all start talking about whether or not we're in it. If we're not in it, all is well. And if we are in it, well... we know how deep in it we could be.