Monday, 27 July 2015

Slap Bad Weather Journalists With A Large Fish

Fellow English people (the rest of you will have to imagine this bit) - you remember that hot day we had back at the start of the month? I do. It was warm one Monday. And then on the Wednesday it was even warmer. 

And then I promised myself I'd remember a newspaper article, ready for the end of the month. Like about now.
"Second British Heatwave Could Bring Hottest Ever Temperature". 
Now had this been the weather-infatuated Express, or the global-warming-obsessed Indie or Gruaniad, I could understand it. But this was the Telegraph.

The sub-heading actually told you all you really needed to know about the headline's accuracy. I'll be honest, I didn't bother reading any further at the time. And I've not bothered now, either.
Some forecasters are predicting that temperatures could even pass Britain's all-time highest temperature of 101F (38.5C)
Which does some brilliant vagueness. If there were two forecasters in the whole world out of a million, predicting that the weather passed the record temperature, that would still be "some". And even the "some" aren't too certain. They're predicting that temperatures "could" pass the all-time high. Presumably all so the Telegraph can crowbar the all-important "101F" into the sub-heading.

That's the important thing. That's what we all read, isn't it? 
100 - Phew wotta scorcha 90 - Time for another cuppa 80 - Time for a cup of tea 70 - Nice Day  then boring temperatures nobody really cares about 5 Parky 0 Freezing -5 Taters -10 Brass Monkeys
For the rest of the world, and probably those under 30 years of age, I should explain something. The British have never quite taken on metric measurements. It's all we are taught at school, but then in real life we insist on dealing in feet, miles, pints and stones. But in temperature we do something that may appear really, really odd. This is what the British Thermometer looks like, as it exists in our heads.

So if the temperature is cold, we think in Centigrade. Because zero sounds like cold, doesn't it? Whereas 32 just sounds like it ought to be somewhere in the middle. And if the temperature is below freezing, makes sense it's minus something.

Whereas if the temperature is hot, we think in Fahrenheit. Because 32 (which is hot in Centigrade) sounds like it ought to be somewhere in the middle. And if the temperature is really hot - really apocalyptically hot - so hot even a third cup of tea may not help - it makes sense that it's 100.

So the Telegraph put that 100+ temperature in there specifically to draw our attention. Make us go, "oo - that's gonna be hot then." Tickled our weather obsession, gave us a nice little story to excite our early summer, and went on its way whistling thinking it would never be held to account for what is, when all is said and done, a non-story - "some people think it might be hot".

Well, no more. From now on, every time a newspaper makes a medium-range prediction of extreme weather, we should hold them to account. We should note the date and time of their prediction and, if they are wrong, the editor should be summoned to Marble Arch, there to be slapped round the face with a wet fish. If they're a bit wrong, or going on a Met Office warning and it turns out to be OK - that's fine. This happens. But if, for the following month they forecast record heat or in September tell us that one weather "expert", who lives in his shed with an owl and a piece of sea weed, claims it will be the coldest winter in history - if they're wrong, the editor must head for Marble Arch and the Royal Wielder of the Wet Haddock will be waiting for him or her.

Yes, it's rough justice. But this nuisance has got to stop. If Jeremy Corbyn proposes this law, I'll pay my 3 quid and vote for him.


  1. I think that weather is what you find it to be. You're either hot, cold, wet or freezing and slipping and sliding everywhere.

    So, why all this scientific hoo hah when it's patently obvious that a finger wetted and raised in the air will tell you whether it's windy or not and which way the wind is blowing.

    A quick look at the tea leaves in Granny's cup will tell you the forecast for the next week or so (black spots in a china sky).

    Nah, b***** the met office and tv forecaster (apart from that Carol Kirkwood, who's a nice, mature lady of riper years and things) and just stick with looking out the window first thing and go with that.

  2. I think Billy Connolly nailed the weather reporting system in a conversation he reported that he had had with a presenter called Wincey Willis (have I got that right?). I can't repeat his actual words on this chaste blog (well it was Billy Connolly, what do you expect?) so I will paraphrase:

    "Face it, love, people don't watch your spiel to find out about the weather; they watch it to ogle your female attributes. If they really wanted a weather report they'd just look out the replicating window."


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