The Short Humour Site

Home : Writers' Showcase : Submission Guidelines : A Man of a Few More Words : Links

A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison


We are very proud of our work here at the London Weather Centre. Our pride and joy is our multi-million pound super-computer. This allows us to precisely define the weather conditions at any point on the Earth at any time in the past. It is disappointing that the general public do not share our enthusiasm for this achievement, demanding, as they do, information on weather conditions in the future. This, of course, is impossible - nobody can predict the future. Sadly, however, we are forced to continue to try in order to maintain our funding and our jobs.

Various predictive techniques are used: pine cones, seaweed, tea leaves and goats entrails to name but a few. Whilst it is undoubtedly true that the accuracy of short term forecasting improved considerably when the team moved to an office with windows, the precision of other methods still remains much less than would be expected by random guesswork.

Blind guesswork, however, traditionally worked well for public forecasts. Often it was more or less correct, and public dissatisfaction on days with a prediction better than the actual outcome, was balanced by relief on days when the converse was true. This was, of course, until October 16th 1987.

I recall the card pulled at random from the hat, prior to the evening forecast, predicted fine and settled weather. It was somewhat disappointing, therefore, when the worst storm since 1703 subsequently flattened the south east of England - we got that date from our super-computer! Accuracy had to be improved to foretell extreme conditions, or the Weather Centre would close.

Initially, we rewrote the cards in the hat to predict worse conditions on the assumption that greater relief on good days would balance greater unhappiness on very bad days. This quickly ended when we realised that regular public preparation for conditions of a biblically apocalyptic nature - which then never happened - was rapidly undermining confidence in our service.

The breakthrough occurred as I watched the regional news and weather. It was clear that regional forecasts meant that those in different locations saw different weather predictions. Every regional forecast, therefore, is now structured in the same way.

We predict average conditions for the local area, we predict excellent conditions for one adjoining area, and for the adjoining area in the other direction we forcast Armageddon. People are happy if the local report is about right, or if the nearby fine weather has reached them. They are also relieved at having escaped the storms, snow, flooding, earthquakes and volcanic activity occurring just a few miles down the road. Human nature being such as it is, the latter is also associated with a certain self-satisfied smugness. Should they experience poor conditions, they usually accept that weather systems can move.

In conclusion, the temperatures for your area today will be average for this time of year with a chance of sunshine and some showers. Areas to the east will have a bright, sunny and warm day with above average temperatures. Sadly, in areas to the west the death toll continues to rise.