Weather: In the midst of a meteorological muddle

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
A letter to a daily newspaper has ruffled the dignity of two of our major weather forecasting agencies. Yesterday, however, the Case of the Vanishing Winds was solved, and the forecasters came out of it rather well.

The Daily Telegraph blamed the Meteorological Office; the Met Office blamed the Press Association; the Press Association say that their forecasters got it right. The winds of the past week have been as nothing to compare with the furore that a single letter to the Telegraph has blown up.

As reported on this page yesterday, the letter at the heart of the dispute blamed the men from the Met for the forecast published in the paper on Saturday that mentioned light breezes instead of the blow-your-roof-off gales that in fact happened. Yesterday's Telegraph, however, printed a reply from Peter Ewins of the Met Office, pointing out that his organisation does not supply the forecasts for the Telegraph. "Our forecast throughout this stormy spell has been accurate." The Telegraph gets its forecasts from the Press Association Weather Centre which, said Mr Ewins, "sent a forecast that was not updated".

If we gave the impression yesterday that the men from the Met Office did not notice the high winds until it was too late, then we offer our deepest apologies. And if, in the last paragraph, we gave the impression that the men from the PA Weather Centre (who also supply the forecasts that appear in this paper) did not notice the high winds until it was too late, then we offer them our sincere and profuse apologies, too. In fact, both organisations were forecasting the gales more than a day in advance.

So what went wrong? The forecast, when it left the weather men, was as spot on as could have been hoped for, but somewhere on its way to the newspaper, a wrong button was pressed and an old and irrelevant set of predictions was sent in place of the intended one. It was just another of those annoying errors that can occur when high technology meets human fallibility.

Before anyone accuses us of savouring another newspaper's discomfort, let us point out that it can happen to anyone. Indeed, it happened to us only last week. As several readers wrote to point out, Moscow did not welcome in the new year in an unseasonal temperature of 80F. It was just that, by a very similar error to the Telegraph's, we managed to feed our weather readers with some of July's leftovers instead of the fresh and accurate temperatures supplied by the PA Weather Centre.

All the above means that our forecasters, both at the Met Office and PA, are doing an even better job that was suggested yesterday. Far from struggling to keep up with some of the messiest weather conditions seen in our skies for a long time, they have managed to stay well ahead of the game and have given warnings of the storms and high winds well in time for people to heed them.

It was unlucky that just as the forecasters had come up with the exact goods needed to restore their dignity after the fiasco of 1987, one small disaster in transmission turned it into another apparent failure. As a spokesman for PA told us: "If we could have picked any day in 1997 in which we didn't want that to occur, it would have been last Saturday or Sunday."

Comments