October 27, 2020

The Election Day Weather Forecast: Who Will it Favor?

 I got a call today from a political science professor from California:  he wanted to know how to get reliable weather forecast information for next week because weather can favor one party over another.

I helped him, but this got me thinking about the weather on election day, particularly since we are now close enough in time to have some skill.

I was familiar with a number of studies that have been done on this subject, and their suggestion that bad weather favors Republicans (see an example below).

So what do the latest and best model forecasts predict for election day?

Since my blog readers deserve the best, I examined the world-leading guidance from the European Center model.

The forecast for election day over much of the U.S. is extreme..... extremely pleasant, with minimal storminess and precipitation.

To give you the best possible forecast let's examine the European Center ensemble model predictions in which they run their model 51 times, each slightly differently,  The average or mean of  these ensemble forecasts is usually a good prediction.

The ensemble-mean upper level (500 hPa, about 18,000 ft) weather map for 11 AM PDT shows a HUGE area of high heights/pressures dominating nearly the entire U.S., while a trough of low pressure/height is offshore.    Such a pattern will bring warmer than normal and dry condition for the western two-thirds of the U.S.

To show his, there are the temperatures forecast for the same time. Toasty in California, the southwest, the central and southern Plains states, the Gulf Coast and Florida.  The only locations that will be below freezing will be northern New England and New York.

Precipitation that day?  Almost nothing except for a few sprinkles in New England.  Even Seattle will be dry!
Considering this forecast, the classical papers, such as the one noted above, would suggest an enhancement of Democratic voting.

But I suspect there are some surprises ahead.   How will the COVID pandemic and huge numbers of mail-in ballots change the story?  The percentage voting on election day will be much smaller than normal. 

Trump supporters are probably different that the Republican voters of 20-30 years ago.  And can one really trust telephone-based polling?  Many people are solely using smartphones and conservative voters may well be fearful of expressing their honest views to someone that calls their home out of the blue.

One thing is for certain:  the weather this weekend looks quite pleasant here in the Northwest--a perfect time enjoy the fall colors.  A pleasant way to forget the election for a few hours.

Picture courtesy of Rachel Samanyi


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  1. Cliff, would love to hear your opinion about the recent changes to NOAA administration? Will they impact the quality of weather forecasting (if the changes last, post-election)?

  2. Making Election Day a legal Holiday would certainly change the results as well as moving it to summertime. Or better yet, move it all online. There, problem solved. No more weather influence. No more excuses of any kind, really.

    The study did mention "peripheral voters", which is probably key as far as weather being a final determining factor. Voters who might be more inclined to support Democratic policies tend to be younger, working more hours or in a career position where they can't just take a day off during what tends to be a more hectic time of year on Planet Work. If there is an inclement weather event, then yes, those folks might be inclined to just say screw it and not eat one day of pay to stand in line for candidates that could be either uninspiring or stand no chance.

    The whole basis of when Election Day is held is outdated and agrarian based. Pretty much its based on getting a harvest in, and then a few days travel to a polling station. With all this modern tech....blah blah blah, you get where this is going. If I can buy stuff such as financial instruments, bitcoin, insurance, most any retail item, groceries, use an e-sig to buy property or a car, or get a new job...why can't I VOTE IN THE SAME WAY???
    The fact that voting is such an anachronism in itself, steeped in tradition instead of pragmatism really seems to favor the GOP from the get go. They are going to vote come Hell or High water. Its the only thing on their "To Do" list for that day. It helps to be the boss, retired and in a rural/suburban district that is well funded so there will probably not be long lines. Yes, Trump did alter this dynamic some....

    1. As a computer professional, I sincerely hope we *never* move to online elections. https://xkcd.com/2030/ is truth.

      Election day as a national holiday is a good idea. But think of all the folks who currently still have to work on national holidays. Think of the parents who have to manage their kids while voting, instead of doing it during the school day.

      The real answer is to get rid of Election *Day* and have Election *Week*.

  3. Here in Portland area there is not a Trump sign to be found anywhere. Guess Biden will get 100% of the vote here, but is that statistically possible? I wonder why there are no Trump signs in such a tolerant part of the country?

    1. Get out of any metro and all you will see is Trump. Everywhere pasted on everything. That and all GOP candidates for everything else. Publicly the Democratic party is all but extinct anywhere outside of a large urban area. Rural/suburban voters do vote Democratic, but they are not telling anyone.

      Since we have not had a good enough windstorm to rid our streets of all the political garbage lining them, at least we can all acknowledge its almost over.

  4. Many Washington State voters have never been to a voting station; Perhaps a million in that cohort.
    Standing in line is not something we do. Our ballots will get put in a box in front of the County Court House. Friday, I think.

    We don't answer phone calls unless we want to talk to the person calling.

    The nice fall weather is appreciated.

    1. I turned 18 in Oregon in 1998; my first election was mail-in. When I moved to Washington in 2002, I registered as ongoing absentee. I have only ever seen a polling place for long enough to drop my already-completed ballot in the box.

      This is The Way.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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