Outlook for forecasts: 84% correct

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL FISH can still get his weather forecasts wrong, in spite of the announcement last night by the Government that it was setting accuracy targets for the first time for the Meteorological Office.

The Ministry of Defence announced that the Met was being set a target of 84 per cent accuracy to be achieved for the 24-hour national forecast broadcast at 5.55pm by the BBC.

Critics may think that fir cones, red sky at night, cows lying down in fields or arthritis may offer greater accuracy.

The Met is still living down the memory of the occasion when Mr Fish told a television viewer, who had telephoned the Met, not to worry about the possibility of a hurricane hitting Britain. That night Britain was lashed by the Great Gale of 1987.

But the Met defended its reputation. A spokesman said: 'It's a reasonable target. We reckon we are reaching 86 per cent accuracy at the moment. I am not yet aware that any of our competitors in this country can make that claim. They all make a great stir when they get it right, but it's consistency that matters.' The Met used up part of its permitted allocation of 16 per cent wrong forecasts yesterday. The forecast was for dry weather but there was thunder, lightning and torrential downpours in parts of the South-east.

The spokesman conceded that the Met got it wrong. He said a slow cold front had been expected but 'the wind suddenly upped sticks and moved quickly'.

The change in the weather yesterday dispersed the worst smog of the summer, reducing high levels of ozone and nitrogen dioxide that had spread across most of South-east and central England.