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
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
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.