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Don't mock the weatherguy -- or else

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
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  • Dean Obeidallah: People quick to blame weather forecasters if prediction even slightly off
  • But he says that's not fair; weather is capricious, and forecasters should be respected
  • He says it's galling when weather people seem giddy, enthusiastic and get it wrong
  • Obeidallah: Disrespect them and they may turn on you, leave you to figure it out on your own

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah is an award-winning comedian who has appeared on TV shows such as Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil" special, ABC's "The View," CNN's "What the Week" and HLN's "The Joy Behar Show." He is executive producer of the annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival and the Amman Stand Up Comedy Festival. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Before the last drops of rain from Hurricane Irene had dried, the attacks began on meteorologists for not accurately forecasting the exact strength of this weather system.

The cries came from mainstream media, social media and even the unsocial streets of New York, where I live: "How can these guys call this a friggin' hurricane?!"

Whenever the weathermen/women are the slightest bit off in their forecasts, they instantly became punching bags for the rest of us.

People ask: How can the weathermen be wrong so often? Here is the simple answer: They are trying to predict the future! It's a forecast, meaning a prediction about an event yet to happen.

And to make it more challenging, they are dealing with the weather, which to me, is a mystical, awe-inspiring creature. How can anyone know for certain what this supernatural beast will do?

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Yet these climate prognosticators, these weather gurus, these meteorologist psychics, if you will, are continually attacked for not predicting with pinpoint precision that, for example, 3 inches of snow, not 6, will fall from the mass of water droplets, known as clouds, positioned thousands of feet above us.

Some also take issue with meteorologists for seeming too excited when a major weather calamity is on the horizon. Yes, it's true, sometimes the forecasters do seem almost giddy, but to them, these events are like the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Magic: The Gathering world championship all rolled into one.

And keep in mind the usual plight of our weatherpeople. Most have college degrees in atmospheric or meteorological sciences; they were picked on in high school for being president of the Weather Club and bragging that they knew the difference between stratocumulus and cirrus fibratus clouds. They went into this field to make a difference in people's lives. But in general, they are relegated to a three-minute segment right after the sports and just before a story about a water-skiing squirrel or "Joey," the snake who can swallow a whole corn dog.

So instead of mocking, I ask simply: Should we not be praising the courage of these people who head out into the belly of the weather beast to give us a first-person view of doom descending, all the while dressed meagerly in their flimsy, local-TV-station-issue rain gear?

And does it not add insult to injury that as waves crash around them, as they duck flying debris and are pelted with melon-size hail, they are required to make nice with the anchor with the chiseled features and perfectly coiffed hair, who sits safely in his climate-controlled studio and whose only contribution is to offer such insightful comments as: "Looks like a wet one today, huh, Sam?"

If we continue to mock these heroic weatherpeople who try to make our lives in a challenging world a little better, then don't be surprised when, one day, we hear them collectively announce, "Enough!"

Don't be shocked when weather forecasters around the nation rise up in a Howard Beale "I'm mad as hell and not going to take it" moment and, from then on, keep all the information about the coming weather to themselves.

Where will be then? What will become of us when the glib news anchor asks: "So what's it going to be like tomorrow, Sam?" To which Sam responds: "I'm not telling you, Bill."

The anchor may plead: "But, Sam, it's looking dark and cloudy. Should we be worried about the weather tomorrow?" And Sam will calmly respond: "Maybe, but you should have thought about that before you smugly mocked me on air last week when I didn't predict correctly the exact time the rain storm would start, which ruined your precious golf game. ... Now, back to you, Bill."

My point is simply this: We must recognize that these weatherpeople are doing the best they can to predict the future. And for that, we should praise, not mock them, because if we continue to do so, there may come a day when they stop sharing their prognosticating gifts and instead leave us like cavemen to predict weather based on the sounds of insects and our swollen feet.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.