Saturday, 9 January 2010

The "Big Freeze"


Unfortunately the bad weather is not bringing out the best in our TV newsreaders and weather forecasters. After getting it completely wrong with their forecast of a "barbecue summer" last year and then, again, saying the current winter was likely to be mild, they don't sound nearly apologetic enough about the current freezing weather (in Gateshead, one single snow-free day since 17 December). Apart from inaccurate forecasts, it also seems they're unable to sing from the same hymn sheet. Just after Christmas the Radio 4 forecaster said "a thaw is on the way" with a temperature in Newcastle of 5 degrees celsius. Ten minutes later, the BBC TV forecaster said "No let up in the cold weather" and predicted temperatures around zero. Guess which one was right? In addition, the BBC has taken to using irritating clich├ęs like "the big freeze" (something I may be guilty of as well) as if it was a tabloid newspaper.

More than once lately I've noticed meteorologists indulging in the habit of revising a 5-day forecast downwards as the day approaches. Midweek they were telling us that the maximum temperature in Newcastle on Saturday (today) would be the magic 5 degrees celsius. Just a day later this was down to 2 and now to zero - as it happens, exactly as it is now according to my thermometer. Congratulations for being able to tell us the weather by the time it's arrived! It certainly seems that meteorology is not an exact science - but if this is the best they can do, why bother at all with "monthly outlooks" and forecasts for seasons ahead?

And do they really need to rub it in? On our local news broadcast the other evening I actually heard the forecaster say "no let up in the freezing weather - and there's plenty of time for it to get even colder!"

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