A scenario, defined by Webster, is "a synopsis or outline of a plot or a drama." The
drama in this case is the interplay between plaintiff and defendant. A portion of the
plot may be the weather conditions as observed at a given location or instance or
those conditions leading up to a dramatic climax. The most common types of
situations where meteorological conditions could play a role are:
- Personal Injury
- Product Liability
- Judgemental Questions or Errors
A brief item in one's legal training is the fact that "weather conditions" can be obtained
from the National Weather Service archives in Washington DC. For obvious reasons,
there is no in-depth discussion into the types of, the decoding of, or the integration of
the data that is available. A common practice, when weather may be a factor in a
case, is to enter the one page monthly summary of conditions for a specific location.
Obviously this practice is very acceptable, but a more complete data set may exist and
can be purchased an presented in such fashion to reinforce one's position.
The basic intent of this scenario is to identify to an attorney, legal assistance, or
investigator the essentials of a meteorological overview and show, by example, those
attorneys that have used the expertise of a meteorologist. Experience has shown that
a thorough report capsulizes pertinent facts and permits definitive conclusions.
THE OVERVIEW AND EXPERT TESTIMONY
The integration of data with definitive conclusions becomes a concise report
(overview) and it may become a key ingredient into an attorney's strategy. The test
development might call upon the meteorologists formal academic training, research
into published works or studies, or wok related experiences. The author of the
overview is a graduate meteorologist from and accredited university.
Each report is prepared as a technical or formal presentation. All pertinent aspects of
a case are considered with strict adherence to meteorological or atmospheric
principles. Various types of overviews have been developed, some of which cover the
following areas of expertise:
- interpretation of coded data to determine the type of icing on roadways and
walkways, in-flight aircraft weather conditions, the nature of and type of dense
fog, position of heavy snow squalls, the location of heavy snow drifts around
buildings and the dynamics of intense thunderstorms.
- Heavy snow and snow loads that might have contributed to structural damaged.
- statistical data correlations to established mean conditions as applied to an
- Ephemeral data as applied to visible light.
- Remote sensors in a marine environment that records the dynamics of windy,
wave and temperatures both on the surface and aloft
- Site specific real time instrumentation and monitoring leading to the
reconstruction of an event or situation.
- computer simulations of complex meteorological conditions or situations.
Over the past 30 years, Johns expert testimony, some of which has been based on
prepared overviews, has been accepted in many Michigan Courts. A list of these
Courts is identified in John McMurray's Vitae.
Weather observations are taken at thousands of locations throughout the country.
Much of this data is forwarded to the National Climatic Center for checking,
publishing, and archiving. Other data is retained in climate offices in individual
states. The observation sites may be:
- National Weather Service offices
- military installations
- private airline or Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) offices
- contract weather observers
- remote unattended locations
TYPES OF DATA
There are numerous types of data sets that could be incorporated into a
meteorological overview. The uniqueness of a specific case requires the prudent
meteorologist to select data that portrays the total weather picture. The more
common types of data that are readily available are:
- Hourly observations of sky conditions, temperature, wind, precipitation, air
pressure, visibility, etc.
- Remote rain gage observations providing a micro-scale view of precipitation
occurrences, amounts, and timing of such events.
- Monthly and annual summaries of many of the above parameters. In addition,
Climatological Summaries (30 year averages) may also be available.
- Accounts of major storms which many times include the type of, or nature of,
storms, injuries and/or fatalities, and the extent of any property damage.
- Photographs of radar imagery and satellite cloud cover.
- Weather maps including surface and upper air conditions.
- Solar radiation information at selected sites.
- Ephemeral data such as sunrise and sunset tables.
- Lightning Strike data containing the number of strikes in or near a particular
location as well as statistical information concerning the strength and
coverage of the strikes.
- World wide remote marine buoys that observe and record a host of
atmospheric and oceanographic data.
In accordance with 28 U.S.C. 1733, properly authenticated copies or transcripts of
records or publications can be admitted into evidence. Although this statute only
applies to Federal Counts, many states have similar provisions. All data received
from the National Climatic Center are certified documents reflecting their
authenticity. Additionally, work records, charts, tables, etc., that have been
compiled in the normal course of business have been accepted into evidence.