Boost the economy: give us weather forecasts we can use

At a time when we are being encouraged to spend to help the economy, I find myself incensed how weather forecasting is putting people off making the most of the summer and getting out and about.

Picture the scene: the weekend is here so we all take a look at the weather forecasts to see what to expect. If the forecast is generally okay we’ll likely head out somewhere but if not we’ll remain at home. Now, the main deciding factor in our decision-making is the weather forecast and it has for too long now let us down with excessively pessimistic prognoses of the weekend’s weather.

This weekend the forecast was fairly clear with a chance of showers on Saturday and a huge rain band passing over us on Sunday delivering heavy rain throughout the day. At least, that’s how you’d understand if watching the main weather forecasts. The BBC news forecast showed the whole region around us blanketed in blue (i.e. rain) for the whole of the day while the website confirmed rain and showers throughout the day too.

Clearly Sunday wasn’t a day to be setting off out anywhere. Only, it was. There was some rain overnight and a crash of thunder in the early hours but the whole day thus far, and it’s now getting on for 4pm, has been fine and sunny; really quite warm in fact; a fine summer’s day. Now there’s a clear contrast between what was forecast and what happened. How many people wrote off any plans for the day only to find – probably when it was too late in the day to change – that in fact a great deal could have been made of it. Trips could have happened, attractions visited, lunch out enjoyed, souvenirs purchased, the car topped up with petrol, perhaps dinner out; we’d have enjoyed ourselves and a great many businesses would have benefited as a result.

Thanks to the way the weather is presented this wouldn’t have happened and it’s high time we called for a change. There have been countless weekends since this summer got underway that we would have likely written off due to the forecasting. British weather can certainly be unpredictable, so inform us in such a way that we can best hedge our bets to get the most out of the weekend. It’s not as if we require wall to wall unbridled sunshine but if there’s a chance of a shower in an otherwise fine day then this is what we need to know. Currently the emphasis is on the precipitation and not that the other 98% of the day could be enjoyed perfectly well without disruption from the weather.

We Brits work long hours and need our weekends to being invigorating, exciting, entertaining and fulfilled. Fun at the weekend will likely also mean more productivity come Monday. We’re a stoic lot and won’t flinch in the face of uncertain weather; we’ll be prepared but we’ll get out there if there’s just a chance to enjoy the day. We’re currently being let down, told that a rain shower equates to a washout of the whole day. Forecasts need to reflect the activities of the population. Give us an idea of the chance of rain and told to take a brolly on the off-chance but to otherwise continue with plans for the day. We need an air of optimism, supporting that national spirit of can-do, in spite of some potential meteorological adversity. As a nation obsessed by weather we require and should demand realistic, practical forecasting. The price of continuing to get this wrong seems to be largely unrecognised but it is huge and must be addressed.

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