Miles Kington: An occluded front of waffle to the east

'We always forecast worse weather than it really will be. Then people are relieved if it's not that bad'
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The Independent Online

Every day we listen to the weather forecast, and wonder exactly what it means and why it never seems to match what actually happens. All the time the explanation was staring us in the face. The weather forecast doesn't make sense because it is in code! Weather forecasters use a private language, open only to other forecasters. But at last, the code has been cracked, thanks to a forecaster who has come over to the other side, bringing her secrets with her.

What they say

"Time for the weather, and here's Joanna Baird to tell us what kind of day to expect..."

Joanna Baird: "Thanks, Jim, and good morning again."

What they mean

"I've been sitting around this bloody studio for two hours, listening to endless waffle about Afghanistan and Jack Straw, and now I've got to speak very fast to cram it all in before the pips, so can I just get on with it and then rush off home to bed?"

What they say

"So, Joanna, have you got any better weather for us today?"

"Not a whole lot better, I'm afraid, Jim."

What they mean

"Dear God, if he asks me that question once more, I'll brain him. He heard this forecast at 6 am and 7 am, so it's not likely to have changed a lot, is it?"

What they say

"Let's start with Scotland today."

What they mean

"We've had a lot of letters from the Scots complaining we leave them till last, so we're pandering to them today by putting them first. Not tomorrow, though."

What they say

"Meanwhile, a better day for the north..."

What they mean

"More sunshine in the north. We know sunshine isn't better for everyone, because millions of you are praying for rain, but until Judgement Day the forecaster will equate sun with good and rain with bad, so you'll have to lump it."

What they say

"Further down in Lincolnshire and East Anglia..."

What they mean

"People from Lincolnshire were writing in saying they weren't mentioned, until we realised they don't know where the hell they are – they don't admit to being in East Anglia or the East Midlands or anywhere, so we decided to lean over backwards and name this one county."

What they say

"In the south-west..."

What they mean

"We never define the south-west. We never, for instance, mention Wiltshire, because although nobody knows if Wiltshire is in the south-west or not, people in Wiltshire never write in to complain like Lincolnshire people do."

What they say

"Yesterday's pattern is changing..."

What they mean

"Yesterday we said it would be wet. It was warm and dry. But we never look back – that would admit we got it wrong. And we always forecast worse weather than it really will be. Then people are relieved if it's not that bad."

What they say

"Early mist patches"

What they mean

"You won't see any early mist. Mist patches always happen elsewhere."

What they say

"Patchy fog."

What they mean

Ditto.

What they say

"East-facing coasts."

What they mean

"There are no east-facing coasts in Britain. Except on the east coast, where they all face east. Meaningless phrase."

What they say

"It will feel colder than it really is."

What they mean

"There's another!"

What they say

"Sunshine and showers."

What they mean

"Covers everything. You can't go very wrong with sunshine and showers."

What they say

"Clouds spilling from the west."

What they mean

"Clouds don't spill, of course, unless you watch speeded-up footage as we do, when they go very fast and do sort of spill – wow, there goes another!"

What they say

"Typically, 17 degrees in Bristol."

What they mean

"Why Bristol? Because we mentioned Cardiff yesterday. Could have been Swindon. That's the way we weather people are – easy come, easy go."

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