John Walker's Electronic House

A Weather Update

by on Jan.05, 2010, under The Rest

In case anyone thought I was kidding.

UPDATE! The weatherman on BBC Disappoints West just said, “As for tomorrow, that’s in the laps of the gods.” So there you have it folks.

So after 15 minutes of some very pretty snow about three hours before it was forecast, there’s been nothing. In fact, it’s rained. And then at about 3pm the Met Office issued severe weather warnings for the South West starting at 6pm, Bath to receive 15cm overnight, terrible conditions, all roads and rail to stop.

This is now the revised pattern for snowfall tonight:

See, lies.

It’s actually curling up and around Bath. The previous 6pm blizzard is now showing a forecast for rain.

This is my point. They absolutely, categorically cannot predict the weather. They cannot get it right for three hours in the future. And yet every day they announce what it will be in five days time. It sometimes is, because if you roll a dice you’ll sometimes guess which number it will land on. But they cannot predict it.

Bath was due to be the epicentre for dramatic snowfall. Now we are likely to be rained on.

These forecasters are con-artists, and we should be treating what they do with the same contempt as homeopaths and psychics. And no, if it randomly happens to snow tonight, it won’t change anything. Whatever weather happens to happen, at least one of their rotating forecasts today will have been wildly wrong. They’ve predicted absolute polar opposites (or should I say pole-to-equator opposites) in the last six hours, London receiving four complete 180 flip-flops about whether it would receive any snow, and the South West now apparently safe from what we were warned would be the most dangerous snowfall in decades, er, two hours ago. So can we put an end to this idiocy, and treat those who claim to predict the weather with the same disgust and disdain we we do those who claim to predict the future.

And yes. I’m really bloody pissed off it’s not snowing.


12 Comments for this entry

  • Richard

    My favourite has to be Rob McElwee who stated after doing a long weather forecast “The clouds will snow if they want to, or they won’t”.

    This is actually how accurate weather prediction is, and you have to respect him for actually saying it and not pretending.

  • Blackberries

    They can’t decide whether Hampshire will get much snow either. Basingstoke’s currently getting a few flakes but we’re just outside that forecast loop. Essentially, they just don’t know what’s going to happen even 3 hours into the future. Sigh.

  • westyfield

    Great. Now they’re saying Bath isn’t going to get snow, so we’re all going to die in a blizzard to rival a nuclear winter.

  • NM

    As I said to John earlier, I don’t mind that this is no more than an educated guess which seems to be little more accurate than context-weighted chance. What I do mind is that they pretend that their game is more than that, and spend millions on supercomputers and hubristic weather models which act as nothing more than a very expensive coinflip.

  • John Walker

    I think there’s a simple solution. Each weather forecast must begin with a map of what they had predicted for, say, 6pm yesterday, alongside a map for the weather that happened at 6pm yesterday.

    This would provide a useful context for the viewer, demonstrating the accuracy they can expect. And I believe it would humble, if not humiliate, the forecaster before he opened his mouth. Perhaps a little less hubris and a little more honesty would make their silly guessing a lot more palatable.

  • NM

    That’s a good idea. They should also have different members of the public look at the sky and predict what the weather will be. This “ad hoc” prediction should be compared with the supercomputer prediction. I daresay that neither will be more accurate over time.

  • Robert Morgan

    I’ve given this some thought, and I’ve decided it’s dangerous fallacious nonsense that’s beneath you all.

    If you’re bothered, honest meteorological information is out there in a few clicks, and it’s easily comprehensible. It tells you things like (they think) there is a 70% chance it will rain from 10am-2pm. So long as that’s right 6 or 7 times out of 10 – and it seems to be in my experience – then it’s working.

    Complaining that such a prediction is sometimes wrong is just silly.

    When you watch weather forecasts, you have to translate it back into these sort of statements. Most of the population can grasp this. What they hear is “sounds like it might rain tomorrow” – which, beatifully, coincides with the best the weather guys can offer – and quite possibly the best that’s actually possible ever. They’re not peddling certainty.

    As NM says, it’s “little more accurate than context-weighted chance”. Of course! No one is *really* saying otherwise. Still, such a thing can be of limited use in making decisions.

    The bit that’s really beneath you is where you express surprise that they can’t predict which hour it’ll snow but profess to say something about next week. It’s *easier*. It’s easier to say roughly what it’ll be like next August than to ascertain the precise moment at which a balloon will burst. They said it would snow on you, and it has. You don’t like that they got the time and the quantity wrong?

    In short: I don’t like the bit where you compared weather forecasters to homeopaths and charlatans. It’s as if you don’t understand the problem with those people.

  • Fede

    You cannot really expect nationwide weather forecasts to be accurate!
    In my experience, only nearby meteorological centres can predict fairly well local weather, for reasons including more precise maps and more experience of local currents and weather.

    Maybe I’m just lucky, but local weather forecasts are rather good here, the accuracy of next day forecasts on the site linked below is over 80%. Of course the covered area is small, it’s more or less 5000 square km.

    It isn’t fair to say weathermen are like homeopaths and psychics: they don’t say “this is what will happen”, but rather “this is what might happen, assuming nothing will interfere with the system and change the parameters”.

  • John Walker

    Oh, and to everyone bleating on that the Met Office are better, no they sodding well aren’t. I’ve followed their forecasts all day too, and they’ve absolutely flipflopped continuously too. And they too maintain that it’s currently offering me a blizzard, and has been all evening. It seems that me staring out my window is a more efficient model of weather forecasting than the Met Office. Meanwhile, I wish someone had taken up my bet that we’d not see any significant snow all night.

  • km

    So is now a bad time to tell you we’re getting 7-9IN starting tomorrow night?

    (hmm, wonder how long that link will stay like that)

  • NM

    “As NM says, it’s “little more accurate than context-weighted chance”. Of course! No one is *really* saying otherwise. Still, such a thing can be of limited use in making decisions.”

    They should employ a little old man to look up at the sky, shrug his shoulders and say “it looks like rain” rather than spend millions on maths and computers, which end up doing the same thing. I hope, Mr Morgan, that you now understand my complaint. Weather is de-facto chaotic, and it is quixotic and hubristic to think that more of Mr Intel’s chips’ll finally knock it into line. I agree with Randi – they’re a bunch of money-wasting charlatans.

  • NM

    To wit: at around 3pm, the BBC changed its hourly forecast to suggest it’d be snowing heavily here from 3pm to 6pm. Suffice to say, it stopped snowing completely at 3:30.

    And now the BBC hourly weather reports suggest that tomorrow will be completely sunny where I am, with some cloud later in the afternoon. But their 5-daily report suggests that tomorrow will have heavy snow.

    FFS: they can’t even agree with themselves!