diamond geezer

 Saturday, November 15, 2003

Weather fivecast

Isn't it amazing how far into the future they can predict the weather these days? I don't mean 100 years into the future when the whole globe warms up (or is it cools down?), I mean next week. They never used to be able to do that. In fact go back a couple of decades and you were lucky if they got even tomorrow's weather half right. You'd go out in your shirt sleeves and it would chuck it down with rain, or you'd take your umbrella to work only to lose it on a park bench in the ensuing heatwave. But nowadays they have super Cray computers running atmospheric models millions of times a second, meaning meteorolgists can give us an in-depth analysis of sun, cloud, wind, rain and temperature next Saturday well before we get there. Or can they?

I've been keeping track of a couple of five-day weather forecasts for London over the last five days, jotting down what they said today's weather would be like. I've been to the BBC website's 5-day weather forecast, and also reading the 5-day cartoon strip on page 54 of the Evening Standard every day. Just what were they predicting about Saturday's weather earlier in the week? (Oh, and for my American readers, those are temperatures in degrees Celsius, we're not expecting snowdrifts)

The BBC has been fairly optimistic all week that it's going to be dry today, maybe with a bit of sun, but not especially warm. The Evening Standard, on the other hand, has been predicting precipitation (either showers or drizzle) instead, albeit with slightly higher temperatures. Two very contrasting forecasts, and they can't both be right. At least the Standard has been consistent all week, even if that's consistently downbeat, whereas the BBC has changed its mind a lot more about cloud cover and temperature. I notice that both media ended the week on Friday with a forecast virtually identical to the one they gave on Monday, so maybe all those fluctuations were unnecessary anyway.

Update: Saturday dawned crisp and bright, with light wisps of cloud scattered across a blue sky. Not too cold, not too windy, no sign of rain, sort of nice really. And so it stayed throughout the day, a bit more cloud every now and then, and even overcast at times, but mostly fine and sunnyish. So the BBC win the prize for predicting the type of weather, even though they never once quite came up with 'sunny intervals'. As for the temperature, congratulations to the Evening Standard who were spot on with 12°C, and had been pretty much throughout the week. But they were very wrong about the showery drizzle, which never manifested. Overall then, sort of close-ish (particularly BBCi), but neither forecast was reallly convincing. It appears that the best way to forecast the weather is still to wait until the day itself and look out of the window. Computers, even bloody enormous computers, don't seem to be able to beat that yet.

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