You can stick your forecast where the sun don't shine

The Met Office has been hit by a storm with Britain's coastal resorts accusing it of pessimistic predictions which keep punters off the beaches


Weather forecasts rarely put David Cam in a sunny disposition. As a director of Blackpool Pleasure beach for the past 25 years he has, listened to countless forecasters try to predict when the heavens will open.

He knows that even the mere suggestion of a light squall is enough to persuade day-trippers to cancel any thought of heading to the seaside that day.

The problem, Mr Cam believes, is that the weather in coastal climates like Blackpool is often much brighter than a few miles inland but few broadcasters or meteorological websites bother to point out the difference.

"Inaccurate weather forecasts are an issue for us every day throughout our operating season," he says. "The British people often say they don't believe in weather forecasts but they trust them enough to rely on them as they plan their days out. If the forecast is wrong it can have an enormously detrimental knock-on effect on beach resorts like us."

Which is why Mr Cam was not in the least bit surprised when tourism chiefs in Bournemouth snapped at the Met Office earlier this week, calling their bank holiday forecasts "inaccurate... cautious and negative". Although the Met Office correctly predicted that last Saturday and Sunday would be perfect beach weather for the South Coast, they wrongly envisaged thundery showers for the bank holiday Monday.

Instead, Bournemouth's long sandy beach was bathed in sunshine and the mercury hit 2C, making it the hottest day of the year so far. Tourism chiefs believe Bournemouth missed out on 25,000 extra visitors who would have all spent an average of £41 for the day.

With a wealth of super-computers, satellite imagery and radar technology at the Met Office's disposal, predicting the weather is a more precise science than it once was.

But even the experts admit they occasionally get it wrong, particularly when it comes to sudden downpours and thunderstorms.

Byron Chalcraft began working as a forecaster at the Met Office in 1982: "When I joined it was the early days of super-computers but the information we get now is so much better. It's now very rare for the overall scenario to be anything other than what we predicted. But thundery showers and storms are so localised that it's often very difficult to tell exactly where they will break."

Residents of the Scottish Highland village of Carrbridge have become so incensed by inaccurate weather reports from the BBC that they have threatened to sue them. The tiny village of 700 relies heavily on the day-tripping tourist trade and is often sheltered from rain by the Cairngorm Mountains. Yet locals believe the forecasters all too often wrongly predict rain for the area.

Danny Fullerton runs the Landmark adventure park on the outskirts of the village. He believes the problems that operators have in the town are twofold: "Firstly the language that broadcasters use is overly negative. If a bit of rain is forecast they'll use 'light showers' rather than 'mainly dry' which is still accurate but is much more likely to encourage people to take a trip somewhere." Mr Fullerton, 50, also believes that the BBC's weather website – where you can enter a postcode to see what the weather will be like somewhere – makes the forecast look more accurate than it is.

"People never expected to get postcode accurate weather forecasts until providers like the BBC started offering it. But they are essentially promising information that isn't as accurate as it pretends to be."

Colin Dawson, the chief executive of the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, believes broadcasters need to stop "talking down" the weather: "I appreciate the difficulties of truly accurate regional forecasts, particularly when we have so many little micro-climates, but among broadcasters there is a tendency to lean towards pessimism about the weather rather than optimism," he says.

"Broadcasters can't help themselves, they always seem to say things like 'Not a good day to head to the beach' or 'Where's it raining at the moment then'. It does huge damage to the tourist industry. Inform people where it's raining, but please don't forget to tell people where and when it's sunny."

A lot of hot air? How forecasts are made

* Weather forecasts are notoriously difficult in Britain because of its maritime position on a latitude that experiences wide fluctuations in wind speed and barometric pressure.

* Meteorologists make forecasts based on data on wind speed, barometric pressure, rainfall, temperature and cloud cover. They use super-computers to calculate how these changes are likely to affect future weather patterns.

* In the past, meteorologists made forecasts by collating data from instruments on ships and weather stations on land. Satellites have played an increasingly important role.

* Satellites can measure over a wider area of land and sea by monitoring clouds and weather fronts. They have proved invaluable in providing real-time weather snapshots. The improved power and speed of computers has really advanced forecasting. The latest super-computers the Met Office uses can make millions of calculations per second.

* As a result of better computers, the Met Office can model the weather at higher resolutions, down to an area of 1.5sqkm. This means it can make accurate predictions covering areas the size of a small town rather than the larger slices of the country commonly covered 20 or 30 years ago.

* Weather forecasts are reasonably accurate over a three- to five-day period but longer range forecasts covering several months are only educated guesses based on longer range phenomenon such as oscillations in ocean currents. Such forecasts are never very detailed and can only give a broad outline of what to expect.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape