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

A A A

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.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little