diamond geezer

 Sunday, August 19, 2007

So, after all that forecasting, what was yesterday's weather actually like?

According to the Met Office, and their jolly informative graphical representation of the last 24 hours weather, it was like this:
light rain

That's grey and threatening during the early morning, the odd shower with sunny intervals during the day, a heavy downpour at teatime, light drizzle in the early evening, and an overcast end to the day with the odd shower.
Which looks about right.

light rainYesterday's weather was hugely complicated, and yet the online forecast still attempted to summarise it in just one symbol - "light rain". This single symbol might have been a decent summary of the day as a whole, but it was rarely representative of the weather at any one given moment. Which is a bit rubbish.

Anyone who'd seen this single symbol and then planned their day around it would have been sorely disappointed, even deceived. They might have cancelled an outdoor activity in the late morning or early afternoon because it would be "raining", whereas in fact the weather was mostly dry. Or they might have fired up the barbecue in the early evening, because the forecast was only for "light rain", and then been utterly drenched by a torrential downpour.

Why do we pretend that Britain's weather can be summarised in a single graphic? It can sometimes, during an anticyclonic heatwave for example, but most of the time our weather is much more complicated than that. One single symbol can never hope to hint at all the nuances of a day's weather.

In particular, it's not enough to know that it'll rain at some point during the next 24 hours, we need to know when. Sure, most TV weather forecasts give further detail, as do online forecasts if you know where to look. But one weather symbol per day isn't informative, it's just dumbed-down meteorology for stupid people. Weather forecasting websites are treating us like ignorant fools, and what's worse we believe them.

What we need is additional information. We need better-pinpointed rainfall forecasts which detail "when", as well as "how heavy". They'd only be best guesses, obviously, because rainfall is notoriously difficult to predict with any accuracy. But they'd be better than nothing. We need the Met Office to provide us with something like this...

London rainfall forecast: 18th August
Light showers: around 3am, and between 10am and 4pm
Heavy rain: around 5pm
Light showers: just before midnight

...or they could even do it graphically...
light rain

Surely it wouldn't be too hard to provide simple short-term weather forecasts that hint more accurately at roughly when a band of rain is due, not just that it'll be wet. It can't be beyond the computing power of the Met Office computers in Exeter. Even if the forecast is just for the next 8 hours and not the next 24, a simple graphic with approximate times would still be bloody useful. How about it?

Although I fear that today's forecast might still look like this...

London rainfall forecast: 19th August
Chucking it down: all day
Weather warning: stay in

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