Accurate forecasting is cold and wet

weather signs

It is usually good to be proved right but sometimes you really want to be wrong.

Back in 2001 when I was rural affairs editor for a newspaper in North Wales, UK, I went out on a limb.  It was the time of foot and mouth disease and by tracking all the reported cases in that outbreak against the previous one in the 1960s, I predicted the date that the final case that year would be confirmed. Although no scientist, my prediction – made weeks earlier – was just ONE day out.

So, it meant that the British government at the time, headed by prime minister Tony Blair, wasted masses of money and caused so much heartache by killing tens of thousands of animals unnecessarily. Why was it unnecessary? Because no such drastic mass slaughter took place in the 1960s yet that outbreak lasted only one day longer.

Soon after starting this blog at the beginning of August, I criticised weather forecasters and others who kept talking about driest and hottest summer since records began. From my own observations, I could not believe it and asked ‘where is the sun?’ This was one time that I would love to have been wrong.

Well, although trying really hard not to appear to be superior (ok, ok, not too superior), an almost smug ‘I told you so’ smile has just crossed my face – because, although disappointed by the weather, my analysis was right.

Temperatures may have hit a record high in some parts of the UK, though not where we live, in July but a wet and windy August made this summer the country’s coldest in the past three years.

The average temperature for summer was only 13.9C (57F) – and this was despite London Heathrow Airport recording a high of 36.7C (98F) on one sweltering day in July.

Not only was August cold but, to make matters worse, more rain fell than average for the month that ended with a wet bank holiday weekend. The Meteorological Office has now said that the counties of Dorset and Hampshire as well as the Channel Island of Guernsey had the wettest end to any summer in the last 50 years. At the same time, Cornwall and the south coast had to put up with rainfall approaching three times the monthly average for August.

slingo Dame Julia Slingo, Met Office chief scientist

The Met Office’s chief scientist Prof Dame Julia Slingo said: “No-one can deny that we have had a pretty disappointing summer with a lot of unsettled weather and only a few warm spells, especially through July and August.”

Disappointing! She got that right. Disappointing weather after what turned out to be disappointingly inaccurate forecasts of better things.

She admitted early predictions that temperatures and rainfall would be near normal had proved to be wrong. No kidding! It seems like the BBC has made the right decision to give its weather forecasting business to someone else – even though that decision was made on the grounds of costs not accuracy.

Bearing all this in mind, Lisa and I are really pleased to be moving to Spain in two months’ time. There we will be assured of long hot summers with just occasional rain. We really cannot wait.


It’s summer? Really? Where is the sun?

cloudy sky

Do you get fed up with news reports claiming that this, or next, month is set to become the hottest July, or whatever, since records began? If so, you are just like me.

You see, it is not only the weather that irritates me with so-called summers having too much rain, overcast skies even when dry and biting winds. It is the seeming inability of the weather forecasters to get any prediction of sunny weather correct. They have no problem with rain; if that is forecast then it’s pretty definite it will rain. But say that we are set for sunny day, or even a collection of them, is doomed to failure.

Saturday news on the internet was quoting meteorologists as saying yesterday would see temperatures to rival Spain with them reaching 26 Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) in England, 24 (75) in Wales and 22 (72) in Scotland. Guess what, nope didn’t happen at least not here in Wales. Here it was only 19 Celsius (66 Fahrenheit) just after midday.

Looking out of the window, yesterday I saw a completely overcast sky with no blue showing at all. Also, although it soon died down, the wind was whistling around where we live.

So much for yesterday being the start of a heatwave.

And, for all the media hype about hottest months in the UK, there has not been one in 2015 so far. In fact, the hottest June, August, September and October since records began all happened in 2014.

This, in comparison, July got off to a great start with the hottest July day ever on the 1st but that was it. In fact, July was so cold on some days that we turned our heating on and, from talking to people, I know that they did the same thing. Needing heating in July is plainly ridiculous.

August is supposed to have a heatwave and with three weeks left that is still possible. But realistically it really is only possible, not probable at all. I would not put money on it and I am most certainly not going to be holding my breath in anticipation.

It may be memories that have improved with time but I can remember sunny summers in my childhood. Not every day, of course, but days and days when I could enjoy being out in the garden enjoying the sunshine. And I can clearly recall my mother and then teenage sister sunbathing on our lawn much more frequently in the early 1960s than would be possible now.

As for yesterday equalling the temperatures in Spain, what a laugh. Even if they had reached the predicted levels, they would not have been anywhere close to those in Spain. Checking yesterday’s weather where we will be moving to in November, I found it to be 31 Celsius (87 Fahrenheit), a bit different from the UK.

It just makes our plans all the more attractive and confirms that we are most definitely doing the right thing. All that lovely sunshine and natural vitamin D too. Lisa and I really cannot wait to be there.