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The PM weather forecast. More press reaction.

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Eddie Mair | 08:25 UK time, Wednesday, 14 October 2009

pmweather.JPGIn the Times today, our new weather forecast (and the PM Blog!) are mentioned.

Chris Smyth writes: "The new-style PM forecast is shorn of all recommendations on what to wear, what to carry and how to feel about the day's conditions. Gone are the "spits and spots", "bits and pieces" and other less than meteorological terminology."

You can read his entire article here.

In the same paper, Paul Simons gives the experiment the thumbs up. He writes:

"Hooray! Radio 4 has finally got the message that they've got to rethink their weather forecasts."

You can read more here.

1140 UPDATE: This is the view in The Daily Telegraph.


  • 1. At 09:19am on 14 Oct 2009, Looternite wrote:

    Chris Smyth in the article said:
    "BBC Radio 4 listeners have never been noted for their willingness to embrace change. Nor might they be expected to react well to being told that, in order to understand the weather forecast, they will henceforth need to consult a map."
    That's you lot he is referring to, not me!

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  • 2. At 09:31am on 14 Oct 2009, Sid wrote:

    Eddie - looks like you'll need to clarify that you only need to look at the map if you don't know where you live.

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  • 3. At 09:33am on 14 Oct 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    What weather report? When that 'thing' at the end of PM comes on, I turn the radio off. If I want the weather, I just look out the window above my head.

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  • 4. At 09:52am on 14 Oct 2009, U14138029 wrote:

    This thread and the two other most recent are missing of the main/front page of the the blog. Whassup?

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  • 5. At 10:06am on 14 Oct 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    Looternite: Oh yeah?

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  • 6. At 10:08am on 14 Oct 2009, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Preston: I was blogging at about 4am this morning and no comments were available because the blog was "undergoing maintenance". The gremlins have been in to fix it when, perchance, it wasn't broken. While they are "fixing" it, I would like to request putting the 'Recent Comments' section back please. That was ever-so-handy and I'm getting RSI with all the scrolling that has to be done to catch up on interesting threads. Does anyone second this suggestion?

    On last night's weather thread radfempo suggested that, for Ireland, political boundaries should be avoided in favour of geographic. I'm all for that.

    For those who are finding it difficult to think in terms of Centigrade, a tip until you get the hang of it: 16C = 61F and 28C = 82F.

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  • 7. At 10:15am on 14 Oct 2009, Anne P. wrote:

    Lady Sue, you might find using the 'End' key and page up/down helps with the RSI - although I and many others would second your request for Recent Comments in its old form.

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  • 8. At 10:21am on 14 Oct 2009, GiulioNapolitani wrote:

    #4 This thread and the two other most recent are missing of the main/front page of the the blog. Whassup?

    If you are using Internet Explorer 8, try going into "compatability view". It works for me.

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  • 9. At 10:34am on 14 Oct 2009, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    Take that ! Fight back against Murdoch ! Yay !

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  • 10. At 10:39am on 14 Oct 2009, U14138029 wrote:

    GiulioNapolitani (8)- I'd rather that the 'blog fixers' adjusted their system to make it compatible with me. It was yesterday.

    . . . and here's the missing 'f' from my off.

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  • 11. At 10:40am on 14 Oct 2009, GiulioNapolitani wrote:

    No need to thank me...

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  • 12. At 11:02am on 14 Oct 2009, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Thanks Anne - hadn't tried that before. However, further to the scrolling, is also finding the relevant thread - more scrolling and clicking followed by either:

    a) trying to remember what number my last comment was - harder than recalling the weather - to see if any comments have been made subsequently;


    b) clicking on a different thread that perhaps hadn't caught my attention or imagination before, if a blogger whose comments I find interesting/witty/generally worthwhile has made a comment there.

    Any more support for bringing back 'Recent Comments'?

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  • 13. At 1:45pm on 14 Oct 2009, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Re: the Telegraph article. Was it the author or the sub-editor who rendered "German Bight" as "German Bite"?

    Or has he - like Jeremy Hardy - had unmentionable fantasies while listening to Charlotte reading the Shipping Forecast?

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  • 14. At 2:02pm on 14 Oct 2009, U14138029 wrote:

    SSCat(13) - And did you spot the rather appropriate byline of this former lifeboatman? Horatio Clare.

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  • 15. At 2:15pm on 14 Oct 2009, Sid wrote:

    Lady Sue - another one, though perhaps not as useful: -40C = -40F.

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  • 16. At 2:18pm on 14 Oct 2009, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    PF (14):

    Ahah! That explains the error: "I see no slips!"

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  • 17. At 2:35pm on 14 Oct 2009, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Thanks Sid. I hope not to need that one, though it will come in useful when next I am flying and they give the temperature on the wing tip of the plane.

    If you haven't seen it, Eddie has made some very interesting comments on last night's PM Glass Box - pertinent to what happened with last night's programme and what might, or might not, be in store for us this evening.

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  • 18. At 3:49pm on 14 Oct 2009, SevernBridge wrote:

    I don't understand why the BBC spends so much time and effort on weather forecasts anyway. The weather isn't particularly interesting in general, and could just as easily be read out by the presenters, continuity announcers or newsreaders, rather than employing masses of people just for the weather.

    But to go to all that effort, and still be able to do weather forecasts which so many people obviously find difficult to understand indicates that the BBC is much more interested in providing jobs than it is in keeping the licence-fee payer and listener informed.

    Let's just have concise, accurate forecasts, delivered with minimum cost and fuss.

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  • 19. At 4:45pm on 14 Oct 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    As I have said before ( NO COMMENTS, PLEASE!), for C to F, multiply by 2 and add 30. That will be close enough for a man on a galloping horse for the range you use in every day life. Just subtract a few degrees as it gets near 80-90. You won't feel the difference. (Trolls, MYOB.)

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  • 20. At 5:37pm on 14 Oct 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    And some of us are still stuck with the pound when we would rather use kilos. Ha, ha, gotcha!

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  • 21. At 5:43pm on 14 Oct 2009, needsanewnickname wrote:

    Bring back recent comments?

    Gosh! What a good idea!

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  • 22. At 5:55pm on 14 Oct 2009, SproutGhost wrote:

    LOL......Explorer 8!
    That's made my day!

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  • 23. At 6:04pm on 14 Oct 2009, needsanewnickname wrote:

    I liked Paul Simons; 'a storyummary of the whole weather system ' (par 5).

    Good new word.

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  • 24. At 6:12pm on 14 Oct 2009, Peter2037 wrote:

    The new area format is great. Now can you please stop Fahrenheit as well? The use of two numbers confuses, you could use the time saved to teach Celsius with "a cool 10" "a warm 20" "a freezing 0" etc. Please do this.

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  • 25. At 6:53pm on 14 Oct 2009, goodsheepdog wrote:

    At last! The new form of weather forecast is what I have been waiting for for years. Don't ever go back to the chatty nonsense we have had to put up with for so long. Please.

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  • 26. At 7:04pm on 14 Oct 2009, mangerton wrote:

    Heard it tonight - brilliant. No more of this nonsense about "going through the afternoon". Tonight's forecaster was even able to pronounce "Scotland" correctly. Amazing. Please introduce him to Daniel Corbett, who sorely needs elocution lessons.

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  • 27. At 7:42pm on 14 Oct 2009, johnskrine wrote:

    Boring, I know, like the weather forecast, but I just wanted to say of the new one YES, it WORKS, keep it. Perhaps we should all subscribe a few bob to a fund for a creative writing course for weather forecasters, so they can use their frustrated creative talents in some better way than confusing us.

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  • 28. At 8:05pm on 14 Oct 2009, JohnGammon wrote:

    I heard the new style forecast today and alas after so many weeks of discussion on PM it was still no good at all for me. I think the principal problem is that weathermen are not journalists, and their jobs seem to require a radically different, probably incompatible discipline. The weatherman is there to provide information, the journalist is there to disseminate this in clear terms.

    Where this weather broadcast goes wrong is that it is not clear what it's there for. It is NOT for those who've been listening since 1922 and haven't missed an episode. It is NOT for those who will pick up the phone and make a complaint if the weatherman forgets to give the Fahrenheit reading. It's a highly practical few minutes for the general listener that tells us whether we should wear a coat when we go out, or take an umbrella. So let's bear that in mind when the words go down on paper.

    The main technical problem is there are's a lot of lifeless phrases that were probably cliches in 1950, but more importantly these provide no or useless information to the listener. Here are the phrases that particularly struck me, or didn't strike me, today. What are "variable amounts of cloud"? - they're ALWAYS variable. Is it cloudy or isn't it? If it is cloudy, is it going to rain? If not, don't bother mentioning it. Nobody cares about how many clouds there are unless it's going to rain. For the same reason, don't bother saying "Cloud breaks will filter in from the North Sea." - there's no useful information there at all. Ditto "light and variable winds", "There may be an isolated light shower", and - my personal favorite from today - "Sunny spells will develop more widely." Such phrases could have been designed to make the viewer lose concentration. Be more specific, and if you can't don't mention it! One phrase I couldn't understand at all: "local drizzle" - does this mean "localised"?

    Precis - Give a brief precis at the beginning but also at the end of the bulletin and throughout. Unfortunately, once the word "anti-cyclone" is used, I immediately stop listening unless it relates to something I've ALREADY heard. The forecast should ALWAYS give the weather first and mention the technical background to it secondly: "It's cloudy over Britain, what with the anti-cyclone hanging over us at the moment, so wherever you live expect a bit of rain."

    Regions - Personally I think the map is a mistake, because most British people know less about geography than they do about meteorology - Scotland, Wales, North, Midlands, South, West etc is all that's needed, and I think that's what people meant when they said it should be more like the shipping forecast. If you're going to carry on with the regional format, the presenter MUST take a second or two to PAUSE when he is about to mention each region. This would be one of the occasions when dead air is useful - the listener can be easily woken up and will be aware when the region name is read out. It's also worth mentioning the region once again in the course of each section, maybe giving a recap just in case. "So, cloudy all night in the north."

    Don't say, "Northern Ireland, tonight again cloudy." What's the "again" there for - You've drawn attention to the fact I wasn't paying attention earlier, while at the same time distracting me from what is being said - it's redundant.

    Does anyone really care what the temperature is? - Surely it's cold, warm, hot, windy. Maybe the radio is not the best medium through which to disseminate this (doubtless fascinating for some) information. I also don't think telling me the "highs" or "low" temperatures helps me, nor how Cardiff compares with Plymouth.

    Even more difficult was the weatherman seemed very hesitant and stumbled over words. Please have fewer words and fewer stumbling.

    I would be happier with a bulletin in the true sense of the word - a shorthand weather forecast. "Tonight - cloudy in the north, rainy in the south. After midnight it'll be rainy in the midlands and cloudy everywhere else. Tomorrow - rain and wind all day in all areas. In the afternoon there may be some sun in Glasgow." Fill the rest of it with cunning precis, along the lines suggested above.

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  • 29. At 8:44pm on 14 Oct 2009, da5kha wrote:

    It is good not to have value judgements. I consider rain good unless it is torrential. We need rain to provide food and water to survive and I was going mad with the assumption that we are such sophisticated city dwellers that only sunny weather is good. On the whole I approve.

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  • 30. At 8:48pm on 14 Oct 2009, pause111 wrote:

    I agree with all JohnGammon No. 28 said except for the comment about the map - this is one of the causes of the general dumbing-down of the BBC/education/life in general. Just because people may know little of UK geography is not a reason to pander to their ignorance and thus perpetuate and extend it.

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  • 31. At 07:37am on 15 Oct 2009, crescent wrote:

    The new weather forecast is fab! Thank you so much. Clear, concise and not at all irritating. Please, please keep it - in fact please make all the other channels and especially News at Ten adopt the same style.

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  • 32. At 10:34am on 15 Oct 2009, amphibiousantipodean wrote:

    I love the new style weather forecast. It is much easier to follow as it covers the country in the same order each day, and is in sensible sized regions. It also gives regional maximums and minimums so you have some idea of what temperature toexpect. Some of us have different ideas of what temperatures are warm, chilly etc.

    Personally I would like more statistics from the day before as we sometimes get on early morning forecasts,but I can see this could be confusing for those people who not only can't understand degrees celsius but also do not know where they live.

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  • 33. At 1:21pm on 15 Oct 2009, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    I agree with those who like the new format. It's very clear and consistent.

    John (28):

    "variable amounts of cloud"? - they're ALWAYS variable.

    Two counter-examples: Overcast all day and clear all day. Also, Scotland rarely has homogenous weather, it has a cold, dry, North Sea coast and a warm, wet, Atlantic coast. I imagine the other larger areas you suggest are similarly disparate.

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  • 34. At 3:23pm on 15 Oct 2009, bungalowlady wrote:

    Having always found it hard to hear the relevant part of a weather forecast so was very interested in your attempts to find a more effective format. Congratulations - the shipping forecast type of format being used this week is great. Now can you stop people phoning me when it is on?

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  • 35. At 4:26pm on 15 Oct 2009, David_McNickle wrote:

    This is in the Indy today:


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  • 36. At 5:56pm on 16 Oct 2009, tortoise4square wrote:

    Sorry I am disappointed.
    First, when giving info please state the place and then the info, be it temperature, the wind speed or whatever. If you do that then I can listen for my area and only focus on relevant information. If you place the info first then I have to pay attention to every irrelevant detail in case it relates to my area and that is certainly too much for me.
    Please try an experiment. Give essentially the same forecast to two groups and ask everyone to listen for the weather in a certain area but throughout tell the one group the place before giving the info and tell the other group the info before stating the place. Surely the first group will do better.
    Secondly you have dropped the "story" of the weather. I don't believe that it does distract or confuse. In fact if the "story" is well told then it helps us to understand why and how the weather is changing and often it helps us to estimate how accurate each forcast is likely to be.
    So please put back the "story" and get place and info in order.

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  • 37. At 6:04pm on 16 Oct 2009, andyjackdaw wrote:

    I am big fan of the shipping forecast format - used to live on an island - and really like the new weather report PM is trialling. The map issue is a red herring - once you know where you live it is a non-issue. But i do sympathise with some who have said it is hard to remember the information after the forecast. Because it is concise and cuts out all the fluff that we hated- it is dense and you need to listen hard. Simple to fix - just have the reader slow down a bit. So what if this takes more precious PM time. This is after all the one part of the show everybody is interested in - and the news we get ad infinitum anyhow. So give the forecast the time it deserves so that we can all benefit from the great new format.

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  • 38. At 11:08am on 17 Oct 2009, Callendar wrote:

    The fuss about the Radio 4 weather forecast is beyond belief. Listeners complained they couldn’t remember it, so they put a map of the areas on the BBC website. (These areas have been in use for at least 30 years.) But that wasn’t enough, apparently, so there is a plan to have little arrows on the map to show where the forecaster has got to. The radio forecasts have a time limit, no matter how complex the weather, so why listen to this very brief summary, meanwhile watching the map on your computer, when with two clicks of a mouse you can get a vastly better and more detailed forecast on the Met Office website?

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  • 39. At 6:35pm on 20 Oct 2009, newblueowl wrote:

    I like the new weather format very much.The pace gives my brain time to take it in when cooking and listening and the predictability of the order in which each region is mentioned is a delight, especially as I live in the first one! It definitely smacks of the shipping forecast and that is 'cast iron'.

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  • 40. At 11:15am on 21 Oct 2009, CGladstone wrote:

    Thank you BBC. The weather forecast is now concise with the area mentioned first and then the weather. I garden for a living, so the weather is relevant to me! I find it helpful to know if the rain is going to be light or heavy showers.
    Also the forecast makes a huge difference for those gardens/businesses that are open to the public. If it says “it’s going to be a wet weekend in Kent” then the public stays home when more often than not only parts of Kent get the rain. Accuracy is helpful.

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  • 41. At 6:07pm on 21 Oct 2009, geniusGeogteach wrote:

    The trial gives excellent clear and structured forecasts - The map issue is a red herring for complainers. What did they do in to old style forcasts? - they had even less locational information to go on on previous style. Keep the new style please

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  • 42. At 9:59pm on 22 Oct 2009, juneetrain wrote:

    North of Scotland as an area is not helpful as the weather can be very different on either side and to the north. If you persist in using it I will really turn off.

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  • 43. At 8:44pm on 06 Nov 2009, dryeoyeo wrote:

    Most listeners want predictions of temperature and precipitation to be able to plan activities and suitable clothing. Temperatures, and wind direction and strength are usually predicted with adequate accuracy but rainfall is uncertain except when continuous or absent. Is it possible to introduce a more quantitative prediction of showers with a combination of changes in probability over time, such as 25% at 0900 increasing to 75% at 1200?

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  • 44. At 5:25pm on 11 Nov 2009, backwell1 wrote:

    I do hope Gordon Brown receives the support he deserves and that people see the Sun for what it is. I will now be voting Labour and will never buy the Sun again.

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  • 45. At 08:09am on 01 Dec 2009, Michael Hardy wrote:

    So the SNP wants the people of Scotland to have a referendum on Scottish Independence? Why can't the poeple of England - yes, ENGLAND - have a referendum on Scottish Independence? All the Scottish people living and working in England, who to a man/woman seem to hate the English, can return home to their wonderful, beloved country where they can get jobs, pay tax to the new Government of Scotland and work for growth and properity. They won't have to spend billions on a replacement for Trident and when a nasty, aggressive foreign power starts to threaten them we English can sit back and watch without putting any of our service men and women at risk. And my tax won't be going to subsidise free prescriptions, care for the elderly and university education up there. No, the new Government of Scotland can raise all the tax it wants - from the 12 people in Scotalnd who will actually have jobs! Please encourage the Welsh and the people from N.Ireland to step forward too! Better still, lets shorten the process. Let English people have a referendum for an Independent England! Once rid of "The Union" we can then remove ourselves from the European Union too. But then we will of course be doomed to a future of failure and isolation - like Norway and Switzerland!

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  • 46. At 09:38am on 01 Dec 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    45: I hate to tell you but ... this thread is about the Weather Forecast.

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  • 47. At 09:50am on 01 Dec 2009, Frankly wrote:

    When the Scots have independence, they'll have their own weather!

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