John Walker's Electronic House

A Man Complains About The Weather

by on Jan.05, 2010, under The Rest

Right, I’ve had enough. There is nothing else in the universe that we would tolerate being as wrong as British weather forecasts.

I recognise the problem. It’s about predicting the events of a literally chaotic system, taking place on a small island surrounded by seas. That makes it incredibly difficult to accurately predict the movement of warm and cold fronts as they swirl in from various directions. It’s so difficult, in fact, that they can’t do it. I don’t blame the weather forecaster for this. I don’t blame anyone for the unpredictability of chaos. (I’m generous like that.) But I DO believe it’s time to stop letting these half-blind soothsayers from getting to pretend it works.

In an age when the terrified BBC can’t put a programme on air before its producers have filled in multiple compliance forms for fear of being caught lying about something, surely the weather forecast should have to have some massive caption running along the bottom of the screen reading: “WARNING: AT BEST THIS IS A WILD GUESS.”

The point is, those lying bastards keep lying to me about snow, and I HATE THEM. And it’s not as if they’re close. I wouldn’t mind if they were close. Have a guess, based on the likely continued movement of the fronts, and estimate that it’s going to probably rain. Sure, fair enough. Still, don’t say, “There will be 5mm of rain in Brighton,” when you’re GUESSING THAT IT MIGHT RAIN, but best guesses are acceptable. But when the BBC weather site is so astronomically inaccurate that it gets the weather wrong as it’s happening, something is more seriously broken. And worse. Over this Christmas the weather forecast has literally got the weather from the past wrong. THE PAST. And not just a bit off. The opposite of what happened.

My favourite weekend was the one immediately before Christmas, where on the Friday night they forecast snow over all of Bath, all night long, and all the way to lunchtime the next day. They continued to forecast this at least three hours into this promised time of snow, maintaining that it had happened and would continue to happen, on a night where I could see every star in the sky. An phenomenally clear night. Then come Sunday they made it quite clear that it would be quite clear, a cloudless night, ground frost likely. That would be the Sunday night my housemates and I had a snowball fight in the road.

And YES! I KNOW! I’m writing a blog post complaining about weather forecasts. I know what I’ve become. I know how pathetic this is. But you have to understand how badly I want it to snow. Just once, properly. That other Sunday night, we got maybe half a centimetre that settled. Last year, when the country was buried beneath literally feet of snow, Bath got an inch. Two at most. It was the most snow I’ve seen in my adult life. I was so tremendously excited. I also had to pretend that the counties to the north, south, east and west hadn’t got feet of it. Genuinely, in every direction. I’m cursed. (You kill one gypsy’s dog with an axe and it’s a lifetime of problems.) I remember a few years ago when I was living in Winsley my parents told me it was snowy and lovely in Guildford. I was heading home that weekend anyway, so looked forward to it. To arrive to green fields, while it snowed significantly in Wiltshire. I got back two days later to see the last of it thawing away, as heavy snow fell on Guildford.

So it comes to tonight. This is the weather forecast for midnight tonight, Bath marked with an X:


That’s the epicentre of the snowfall directly over Bath at midnight. It’s meant to begin snowing around 3pm, and finish around 6am tomorrow, with the heaviest falls at midnight. As I look at the blue, blue skies out of the window, I’m dubious. If it doesn’t snow tonight – and by “snow” I mean actually properly snow for a sustained time, covering the ground in a thick layer of white loveliness – then I am going to seal the Met Office in a giant rocket and fire it directly into the sun. With a weather forecast warning them that conditions are going to grow consistently colder.


24 Comments for this entry

  • Drug Crazed Dropkick

    I’m off college today because of the snow. I actually hate it. I’m unlikely to get any work done. Again.

    This is the most snow I’ve seen my whole life in Eccles, and it is only beaten by Mossley, because there are so many hills there.

  • Lewis

    Come to Leeds. Not only have the weather forecasters been consistently reasonably accurate about when the snow would come, we also have five inches of it and it continues to snow right now. And there have only been two days since that weekend before Christmas on which there hasn’t been any sign of snow on the ground.

    Frankly, I’ll swap with you. I’m fed up of the bloody stuff.

  • John Walker

    Everyone who comments here complaining that they have snow is going to be hunted down and killed. Just so you know.

  • Lewis

    (Mainly because of what it does to people. What’s with it? I mean, fair enough, it’s nice to experience something unfamiliar, and if you rarely see snow, it might be quite exciting. But it’d be really exciting if, after a continually cloudy series of months, the sun finally shone. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t immediately grab the nearest mirror and reflect it into your eyes. No other form of weather causes people to throw it at each other.)

  • David McBride

    I’ve similarly found to be singularly unhelpful in predicting ambient conditions in the Big Blue Room — but the Met. Office’s own site,, has been far more useful.

    Having a colour-coded map warning me as to how screwed I’m likely to be transport-wise is particularly helpful..

  • John Walker

    You people would go up to a dying child in a drought and say, “I’m completely fed up of rain! Rain, rain, rain! All it ever does is bloody rain. Be careful what you wish for.”

    And yes, I am absolutely equating my lack of snow to play in with children dying in droughts.

  • Lewis

    A dying child in a drought would most likely not throw the pail of water in my face should I give her one.

  • Masked Dave

    I’m snowed in today up in Manchester *smug*

  • Masked Dave

    But Lewis, what other weather is perfectly formed as a toy?

  • NM

    James Randi wrote an article comparing the success of weather forecasters with woowoo predicters and found the former just as inaccurate as the latter, and concluded that weather forecasting is basically like a medium who “warm reads” (forgive the pun) atop a big guess.

  • Jazmeister

    I have snow and it’s great. Have you considered chasing snow across the country?

  • x25killa

    Hasn’t snowed much in chippenham for the past couple of weeks. I do hope we get a nice, thick layer of snow tomorrow or else I be bringing my pitchfork and torch to the BBC Studio shouting “WITCH!!!!” at the weather forecaster.

  • Quercus

    Nick – what is “woowoo”?

    John – I sympathise as we have the same thing here in decidedly-not-snowy Bournemouth.
    In our case however the weather forecast doesn’t seem to be so random during the event – just hopelessly wrong the days before it.
    Twice now we have had the forecast at the beginning of the week confidently claiming “heavy snow” for the Friday and over the weekend, only to suddenly vanih by the Wednesday and be replaced with either rain or vaguely overcast.

    It is frustrating having children desperate to play in snow and having friends further up north asking if I have been out in the snow with my children when in fact the most we have had in the past month has been a thin smattering on windscreens once one morning when we woke.

  • Rev. S. Campbell

    You’re all missing the point, possibly because of Mr Walker’s blatant lies about the amount it snowed in Bath last February. The point about snow is that it marks out the seasons. Down here, where it’s snowed twice in the last 19 years, you don’t get anything that could be sensibly identified as a “winter”. You just get six grey, drizzly, miserable months of November which seem to go on forever.

    Back home in Scotchland, however, you get three of the grey, dark, coldish months and three months of up-to-the-knees snow and “Jesus-Christ-I-can’t-move-my-eyeballs” cold, and you feel like you’re making some tangible progress towards spring, when Scottish temperatures can rise as high as two or three Centigrade.

    THAT’S why snow rules.

  • John Walker

    Quercus – you’re on the internet, look it up!

  • Andy Krouwel

    Quarter past one in a-few-hours-to-your-north (at cloud speeds) Burford and there is NO SNOW to report.

  • John Walker

    Snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow is falling outside my window.

  • Andy Krouwel

    Hang on, I’ve got some now too. A tentative ‘Hurrah!’ (louder when I’m not, for example, at work.)

  • David McBride


    The Met Office map just went Red in large areas near you. I’ve never seen that before. It reads:

    Very Heavy Snowfall
    2000 Tue 5 — 1100 Wed 6

    There is a high risk of an extreme weather event affecting parts of Southern England this evening and overnight. A period of exceptionally heavy snowfall is expected with accumulations of 15-30 cm and perhaps in excess of 40 cm. This is expected to cause widespread disruption to the transport network and could lead to problems with power supplies.

    You might want to check on your reserves of canned food and candles…

  • John Walker

    I just watched the forecast, and *hilariously* that heavy snow is due to move up until it reaches the very edge of Bath, and then go West. I’m really not kidding when I say snow avoids me. It literally takes a right angle to avoid Bath. If their lie-based forecast is randomly correct, of course. I’m willing to bet money right now that in fact Bath gets none at all.

  • Laura

    Laugh, I nearly cried!
    John, I’ll be there to seal the doors of the met office rocket if they get it wrong tonight…

  • jamestwofive

    i remember reading an analysis of uk weather forecasts a few years ago and my post-work brain is unable to choose the right combination of keywords to find it on google. i think michael fish was most accurate with 48% or something.
    the met office does have ‘key performance targets’.
    enjoy the target for precipitation.

  • Oddtwang

    John, you’re like the opposite of that unwitting rain god character in H2G2 – So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish IIRC.

  • Lu-Tze

    You might have been marked as the epicentre…
    But it was me in my tiny little village who got the chills.