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Forensic Meteorology: An Investigative Legal Tool

Solving murders, establishing fault in car accidents, proving negligence in premises liability matters and otherwise being a valued member of an investigating team is probably not what most aspiring meteorologists think about when they first head off to weather school.

Forensic meteorology is, well, hot these days, though, and a few practiced meteorologists are plying their trade in the forensic sciences in precisely such ways.

Slip and fall, for example, is big. Richard J. Mancini, principal of Mancini Expert Weather Investigations in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, says that about 80 percent of his work is in this area. Weather reports are useful – sometimes critical – for the consideration of negligence. If a person is injured on another’s property in a fall and the property owner denies that he or she had a reasonable duty to clear away ice or snow, satellite pictures, Doppler radar and other weather-related technologies can supply compelling evidence to support or refute the claim.

Likewise with some car accidents, where knowledge about the weather can be useful in accident reconstruction, insurance claims and other matters. A forensic meteorologist can pinpoint the weather conditions that featured at a certain location on a specific date.

Other areas of law, too, seek weather information in a wide variety of matters, both criminal and civil. John Scala, a former meteorologist who now consults on court cases, says he has been asked to supply weather data to help determine the time of death in a homicide. Such information can also be extremely important in fraud cases; Scala has noted that people have sometimes intentionally damaged their home roofs and siding with hammers and then claimed hail damage.

And weather data can also be quite telling in domestic spats. One forensic meteorologist relates a case where a woman threw all her husband’s clothes into the yard and then claimed that heavy rain that night ruined them. It turns out that not a drop fell; rather, she hosed down his entire wardrobe with a garden hose.

Related Resource: www. pittsburghlive.com “Forensic meteorologists look back, not to the future” November 12, 2010

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