Brian McGrory

They’ve measured up

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By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / February 2, 2011

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I write today in honor of Boston’s meteorologists.

Oh, I know, I know — how could you hail these people? They’re too happy when there’s no reason. They hype every April shower as if it’s the next apocalypse. They scare an entire region in the name of a few more minutes of camera time.

Here’s how. They’ve been dead-on accurate, one week after the next, during this entire winter of meteorological discontent. This thought occurred to me as I stood in the frigid cold yesterday morning a few minutes before 7 a.m. tossing a tennis ball for a dog who looked like even he would trade his next bowl of Eukanuba for a romp on a Florida beach.

The weather forecasters, all of them, said the snow would begin between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., but — aha! — there was no snow. And then, as the little hand hit the 12, big fat flakes began falling from the unapologetic sky. By 7:10, I was covered.

Somewhere, a weatherman laughed.

Something strange has happened. You can measure the snow in Shaq inches or real inches or, at this point, clown’s feet, but what’s accumulated along with the fluffy stuff is irrefutable evidence that these men and women with pointers and radar maps have been right every time out of the gate.

They’re right about when the snow starts. They’re right about when it ends. They’re right about the amounts, the temperature, the wind. This storm, talking about how it was going to stop and start again, they were just showing off (although they were a little shaky about what form of precipitation would fall). It’s as if they’re making the weather, not forecasting it, or maybe they have a direct line to heaven.

If these guys told me it was going to rain puppies tomorrow, I’d go to Petco and buy every leash in the store.

But it got me thinking — if they’re that good now at predicting the famously fickle New England weather, what about the winner of Sunday’s Super Bowl? Has Apple’s stock run its course? Will Hosni Mubarak last until September?

For these and other answers, I arrived at New England Cable News in Newton yesterday, where my favorite weatherman, Matt Noyes, plies his trade. If Harvey Leonard of Channel 5 is the Walter Cronkite of Boston weather, Noyes is the affable Tom Brokaw, with such an earnest sensibility that I nearly demanded a birth certificate when he said he was born and raised in Haverhill.

He is a big, fit Gentle Ben of a man in person, his head all but touching the clouds, which isn’t why he got into the business. No, that came about when a hurricane named Gloria knocked down a tree in his yard in 1985 and it was love at first sight. Matt was 6. And he was hooked.

Within about five seconds of my arrival, he was furiously pointing at several of the six computer screens that line his office and pulling out paper maps to show me some sort of precipitation prediction exercise he practiced last summer to help him get snowfalls right. He stopped talking only long enough to race to the studio, dragging me with him, where he told viewers, “Looking at the next big burst, this is impressive!’’

The thing was, he was equally enthusiastic talking later about the small town weather watchers who e-mail him snow depths. Those who know Matt say he’s so distraught when he misses a forecast that he can barely sleep at night, which may be why he is as careful as he is in his predictions.

Afterward, he explained that improved government data have made his job easier, as has a major investment by his station in new technology. But he also acknowledged, “A huge part is interpreting the data and applying active experience and lessons from the past.’’

This city may hate the weather, but Noyes and the other forecasters have been our saving grace.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at