Wind and Air and Earth and Rain

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

The BBC is about to dispense with the services of the Met Office for its weather forecasting.  This high profile divorce has money, maths and technology at its heart.  The BBC says that the Met couldn't come up with a decent App for smart phones (and anyway was too expensive); the Met says that the BBC is reluctant to allow it to express weather forecasts in terms of event probabilities on the grounds that no one outside W1A 1AA understands them.  So, rather than good old British weather forecasts, we're likely to get Dutch or New Zealand ones.  Umm.

It is certainly worth looking at different sources of forecast to see how this probability business pays out.  Here's the Met office forecast for Bath, where temperature is presented as an integer, and rain (precipitation) as a probability in percentage terms.  Whatever its accuracy, there is rich detail here.

Here's the BBC's forecast for Bath where the rain forecast is in terms of little pictures.  There is little detail, although you have to admire the way the temperature data bobs up and down.

And here is Google's where there is more detail than the BBC (and the same waviness), but less than the Met office.  The likelihood of rain is just presented as a % (of what they do not say).  I don't like the way you have to click between temperature, rain and wind.

My own preference is for the Met Office because of the detail.  As most of my weather forecasts come online, I'll not be troubled by the BBC's decision – though I am concerned by it.  The BBC knows that lots of people don't understand probabilities (actually, they don't really understand percentages), and seems to be determined to keep it that way.  A shame.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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