Beware of the weather man in Bled
Jurij Jerman is an important man at the World Rowing Championships in Bled. An interview with a local specialist on alpine sports meteorology, better known as the weather man.
World Rowing: How do you make your weather predictions? Do you use models, a crystal ball or can you feel it in your bones, perhaps?
Jurij Jerman: I get a lot of information from satellites and models; however, the art is in interpreting this data. Alpine weather is very tricky to predict, but I have lived by the lake for 15 years and used to sail on a lake nearby. That experience counts a lot. I use my intuition a lot.
WR: What is your role here?
JJ: Three times a day I deliver a prediction for the next couple of hours, and a 48 hour forecast . It is about wind speed, wind direction, temperature, and potential thunderstorms or hailstorms or wind gusts. The detail level is the lake - not specific parts of the lake - but I can give input to the FISA fairness commission and the technical delegates in predicting what kind of conditions cause what kind of problems for rowing here.
WR: Yesterday we had a thunderstorm with a big bang shaking everybody up. Did you see that coming?
JJ: Yes, I followed that storm closely, and knew only the tail of it would hit the course. I predicted the timing of the thunderstorm arrival really well, that is one of the moments that really makes me proud of what I do. I do sports meteorology, also for ski flying and sailing races nearby, but my sport is getting the prediction just right.
WR: Athletes always have some conditions or opponents that they find more difficult to cope with. What is your “black swan” in your sport?
JJ: Thunderstorms, definitely. Between the mountains these storms can pick up incredible force within five minutes or so. They are the predictor’s nightmare and need to be followed minute by minute, especially here because they can potentially cause unrowable conditions.
WR: What happens with the predictions made by the official regatta meteorologist? Why are they important?
Within the FISA office, two teams are keeping a close look at the weather forecasts. The fairness committee led by Thor Nielsen whose role is to ensure fairness of the races, and the technical delegates Mike Tanner and Svetla Otzetova who are concerned with rowability of the water and safety.
If necessary, FISA can be forced to move races, either to an earlier or later time slot. For this reason, and in order to make the best possible decision, the weather forecast must be as accurate and precise as possible. Also knowledge of what type of weather causes what kind of potential problems at a specific course is essential. Excellent local knowledge from the meteorologist is essential.
The decision to move the timing of races impacts both the athletes and the organization, so when potential bed conditions are coming up fast, the first concern is to make the right decision based on the best possible information. When fairness is a concern, FISA’s Executive Commitee make the final decision, advised by the fairness committee. When safety is a concern the decision is made by the President of the jury and the technical delegate.
When a change in the program is needed, quick communication is essential. FISA immediately informs team managers and athletes by phone, sms and speaker announcements. The organising committee informs the transportation service, catering etc and adapts logistics. If the change is big, and spectators risk to be affected, this information can also be broadcast locally through local media partners.
According to Jurij Jerman, the weather should remain fine during this event so no such drastic measures should be required. Some wind is forecast on Thursday and Friday and some rain on Saturday. We will continue to follow the predictions closely to ensure best possible rowing conditions.
For all the photos, click here