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In Back to the Future II, it starts out as pouring with rain when they arrive in 2015. When they land, Doc goes to get out but Marty protests, saying it's raining too much. Doc then looks at his watch and times perfectly the stop of the rain. Doc then attributes it to the excellence of the Weather Service and complains its a pity about the postal service not being as effective. The weather changes from pouring with rain to a nice sunny day. This seems a bit too fast and unnatural (see below video).

My question is, did the Weather Service improve predictive power substantially to provide such accurate results, or did they in fact control the weather?

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According to the Futurepedia page on the US Weather Service, indeed the weather was controlled, not merely predicted. As the article explains, the extent of the control is unknown. Although the article does cite the possibility that Doc already knew the weather because he had been to the future before, it seems most likely, according to the article, that the weather was controlled, as evidenced by the specificity of the forecast in the USA Today for October 22 2015:

  • Mostly Clear — 12:00 AM - 1:36 AM
  • Partly Cloudy — 1:37 AM - 6:36 AM
  • Heavy Rain — 6:37 AM - 7:23 AM
  • Light Showers — 7:24 AM - 7:29 AM

Nevertheless the possibility does remain that predictive methods have been substantially improved, however it will be assumed that the Futurepedia is correct.

  • 3
    How does this indicate control rather than merely more sophisticated prediction? – Valorum May 29 '15 at 5:48
  • @Richard; I've added a video which shows the particular point I'm referring to. It just seems to me that it is ridiculously fast to go from a considerable amount of rain to basically perfect sunshine naturally! – Often Right May 29 '15 at 7:06
  • Well, the cloud passes. I'm not sure that's proof positive. – Valorum May 29 '15 at 7:12
  • 1
    Having spent some time in the States, this doesn't seem at all unusual to me. When I was in Florida, this skies would open daily at 4pm and then be completely clear by 4.15pm. It was bizarre. – Valorum May 29 '15 at 7:19
  • 2
    @N.Soong: I suspect the very quick transition was intended to clearly convey how accurate weather predictions are in the future, rather than imply weather control. The joke doesn’t really land if it takes a few minutes of drizzle for the rain to stop. – Paul D. Waite May 29 '15 at 10:25
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I agree with The Doc's answer, but I wanted to make a few additional arguments in favor of weather control:

  1. The times of weather transitions in USA Today quoted in The Doc's answer only give times in minutes, but Doc seems to know when the transition will happen down to the second, telling Marty to "wait 5 more seconds" and then marveling "right on the tick!" If it's weather control, the explanation could be that the Weather Service always schedules weather transitions to happen at __ minutes and 0 seconds (right at the transition from one minute to another), which would make it unnecessary to publish the time in seconds.

  2. The scene description in this script draft (which had Doc say 'Wait 3 more seconds' rather than 5) seems to emphasize the suddenness of the transition, saying it happens "abruptly" and putting an exclamation point at the end:

In 3 seconds the rain abruptly stops, to be replaced by bright sunlight!

  1. Normally when the word "efficient" is used in the context of a business or government agency, it's talking about the ability of the business/agency to deliver some fairly concrete good or service on time and in a cost-effective way, the word "efficient" is not normally used for the ability to make good predictions...for example, I've never heard a polling agency (or polling aggregator like FiveThirtyEight) be referred to as "efficient" when their predicted results closely match the actual election results.

  2. For an out-of-universe argument, a lot of the humor in the future scenes is from having outlandish future developments presented in a matter-of-fact way, like Doc tossing aside the fact that "justice moves swiftly in the future now that they've abolished all lawyers", or the near-instantaneous growth of the pizza in the pizza hydrator. Weather control seems a lot more outlandish, more like something out of one of those gee-whiz optimistic tales of the future from the 30s/40s/50s (see this magazine cover from 1954, for example), than just more accurate weather prediction. Also note that Gale and Zemeckis seem to have a nostalgia for these kinds of old-school optimistic visions of the future, an early script draft of Back to the Future featured Marty returning to a version of 1985 that was straight out of one of these science fiction visions, with flying cars that had 1950s style fins on them, a city with an "old-fashioned modern look" and "streamlined buildings", the McFlys having a robot butler, etc.

  • Don't have the script on hand but I'm pretty sure he says wait 5 more seconds – Often Right Oct 29 '15 at 22:07
  • I particularly like the efficiency argument; +1 – Often Right Oct 29 '15 at 22:08
  • @The Doc - You're right about the five seconds, I got confused by the fact that the BTTF II script draft I linked to had it as three seconds. – Hypnosifl Oct 29 '15 at 22:17
  • no worries; I fall into that trap myself regularly 😉 – Often Right Oct 29 '15 at 22:43

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