Tuesday, 16 December 2008

What use is average?

Can there be a word more meaningless than ‘average'? Yes, I know that ‘average' can be defined, but what use is an average?

I started musing along these lines when I read a report in the paper (repeated on the late night weather forecast) that this year has seen the coldest start to a winter since 1977. Apparently, meteorologists count 1st December as the first day of winter, and the average temperature over the first ten days of this month was lower than it has been for 31 years. But how is that average calculated? Do ‘they' (whoever ‘they' are) add up the ten highest and ten lowest temperatures and divide by 20? Or do they take the average temperature for each day, add those and divide by ten? Would the answer be any different anyway?

And where is the temperature measured? Is it in just one place, or is an average (that word again!) calculated from measurements from several places?

But does it matter anyway? OK, so it's been cold, we know that.

Whatever happened to global warming?

4 comments:

Uncle Skip, said...

Meteorologists have nothing to do between times that they go outside and take the temperature.
So, to stay busy, they make up math calculations which have very little meaning for the current situation.

Brighton Pensioner said...

If I didn't think it might be construed as unkind, I would call that comment cynical.

Uncle Skip, said...

Peevish, sir, peevish. Which is just a hair less than cynical.
This happy, joyous and free spirit cannot possibly be a cynic... can I?

Brighton Pensioner said...

I stand corrected.