Storm in a teacup over Facebook weather fail

When a senior official at Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau used his personal Facebook page to disseminate forecast information while the nation was on full typhoon alert, he got into a little hot water from his boss. 

Seems that the bureau’s Forecast Center director Ming-dean Cheng tried to beat his own agency’s forecasts by writing on his Facebook page: “Japan has announced that the tropical depression has become a tropical storm.” This was three hours before the official word was supposed to go out.

The eager beaver typhoon hunter also wrote something about a “vortex merging theory,” in which he claimed that the two typhoons bearing down on the island nation could “merge”  into one.


The local Chinese-language media in Taipei said Cheng’s Facebook entries were “a slap in the face of his employers.” While Facebook can serve as a tool to educate the public about the weather, the bureau’s chief told reporters that Cheng’s posts created problems for the agency.

When a typhoon approaches, Chen should just focus on issuing alerts based on bureau forecasts, not promoting his own personal knowledge of typhoons on Facebook, the bureau chief added, noting that Cheng has also been gently reprimanded and told not to write typhoon-related information on Facebook that is not consistent with agency forecasts.

Cheng, for his part, apologised and ate humble pie, but insisted that it was all Japan’s fault, telling reporters: “When Japan said that a typhoon had formed, the information was posted on the Japanese weather bureau’s website. People all over the world could see it. I was just following Japan’s lead.

“If you can’t trust Japan, who can you trust?”

Regarding his  “vortex merging theory”, the Ph.D weatherman said the phenomenon had figured in some of the simulation models used by the bureau to forecast the paths of the two approaching typhoons, adding that he honestly believed local people would be interested in learning about what he referred to as an “alternative outcome.”

They were. His boss was not.