Winter is a very active time of year across Mid-Michigan because we tend to get these systems that bring us snow, rain, wintery mix, and everything in between.

You might notice from time to time that the forecast changes a lot from when we start saying there will be a system to when it actually happens. That’s fairly common in meteorology and there’s actually a way to describe why this happens using a simple game.

Most people know what Plinko is. It’s that board game with all of the pegs and you start out with a disk at the top and try to guess where it will end up at the bottom.

Now think about it as current conditions. What’s happening right now with our weather? That’s what we have to go off of and form a forecast from.

If it’s ten days out from an event, there are a lot of different possible actions that could happen with the storm. Maybe it moves north or south by fifty miles, or the temperature changes by five or ten degrees. That will really change the result of how much snow we’ll get. It makes it difficult to pin down a forecast that far out, but meteorologists try their best to find the one forecast that really sticks out at that time.

However, as we go through time, there could be small day-to-day changes in that current condition that really changes up what we’ll be seeing with the end picture of that forecast.

The closer you are to it occurring, the fewer options there will be, so it helps you narrow down what will actually happen with the system. It’s just like the game of Plinko. The closer you are, the better chances you’ll have of staying in one or two of those different slots. That helps give us the range for our snowfall. You could have four to eight inches of snowfall versus when you start out at the ten-day forecast, anything from zero up to eight is possible.

It’s really interesting to see how that dynamic changes through time, so, if you have another wintry system headed your way, just know the closer you are to the event actually happening, the better the forecast will be.