What is the point of the 5-day weather forecast? You know the sort of thing. Forecasts like this on the BBC website, or like this on the Met Office website. Forecasts that predict what the weather's going to be like for the next five days. Forecasts that people use to help plan their outdoor life, up to five days into the future. Forecasts that people read avidly. Forecasts that people trust and believe. Forecasts that are always wrong.
I've been checking London's 5-day forecast online every day this week, on both the BBC and Met Office websites, to try to answer the following question.
"What's the weather going to be like on Saturday?"
Here's what I discovered.
Monday: Sorry, no weather yet. Saturday may be five days away but there's no news on Saturday's weather forecast. The 5-day weather forecast only includes today and the next four days. It's a four-day weather forecast. Sorry.
Tuesday: According to the 5-day forecast, Saturday's weather will be sunny intervals. Looks nice. Not perfect, but nice enough. Looks good for going out and doing stuff. Looks perfect for barbecues and going to the park and hiking and sightseeing and all sorts of outdoor things. Saturday will be fine.
Wednesday: According to the 5-day forecast, Saturday's weather will be partly cloudy. That's a shame, the forecast's deteriorated since yesterday. Where's the sun gone? Ah well, at least Saturday won't be wet. It'll still be OK for going out and doing stuff. Saturday will be OK.
Thursday: According to the 5-day forecast, Saturday's weather will be light showers. That's annoying, the forecast's deteriorated again since yesterday. Looks like it's going to rain now. That's not so good for going out and doing stuff. Ah well, at least there'll still be sunshine between the showers. Saturday will be mixed.
Friday: According to the 5-day forecast, Saturday's weather will be light rain. That's not fair, the forecast's deteriorated again since yesterday. Looks like tomorrow will be dull and wet. Not good for barbecues and going to the park and hiking and sightseeing and all sorts of outdoor things. Might as well make plans to stay in. Saturday will be grim.
Saturday: And now it is Saturday, and the weather forecast is still for light rain. And, looking out of the window, that forecast appears to be correct. It's dull and grey out there, with the threat of imminent drizzle. It looks like the BBC got the weather forecast right, but they only got it right yesterday. Why did they bother predicting today's weather earlier in the week? All they did was raise our hopes on Tuesday, and then slowly dash those hopes bit by bit throughout the week. Saturday is looking disappointing.
The 5-day forecast is a sham. The 5-day forecast is a lie. And yet we still check it, religiously, to try to find out what the future holds. Why do we bother? Why do they bother publishing it? If all the supercomputers at Met Office HQ can't predict when a band of rain will pass overhead more than 48 hours in advance, why tell us? Even in the 21st century, the mysteries of Britain's weather are still completely beyond prediction. It's about time these 5-day forecasts came with a health warning, and that we stopped believing them. Because the weekend isn't always as good as they promise it's going to be. Still, at least next Wednesday looks nice...