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Weather update.

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Eddie Mair | 12:15 UK time, Friday, 23 October 2009

Several things. First - get a load of this map - from the pages of Radio Times in March 1990. James Canovan sent it to us...he says there was a weather experiment at that time which "lasted only a few weeks; evidently the weather people got 'bored' with it.


Secondly, in PM tonight, we'll have a big weather announcement. You might even call it a Big Weather Announcement. But I wouldn't go so far as to call it a BIG weather announcement. Suffice to say, if you've taken an interest in our experiment, we'll have some news that will be of interest to you in PM.


  • 1. At 12:36pm on 23 Oct 2009, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Intriguing stuff Eddie. What no-one wants is the 'weather people' to get bored with any new ideas.

    I do feel sorry for them though. I suppose as promising young 'weather people' they imagine they can bring the weather to life and project their own style and personality into their reports. What a crushing blow to discover that the public just want the common or garden weather, no embellishments.

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  • 2. At 12:47pm on 23 Oct 2009, popoy0524 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 3. At 4:42pm on 23 Oct 2009, needsanewnickname wrote:

    I wonder how that went down in Wales, N Ireland and the colourless place north of the Scottish border?

    Oh, and a small reminder that the people who give us the weather on the Beeb are Met Office employees; meteorologists.

    Maybe they do embrace the chance to shine a bit. Good luck to them - but preferably on the telly, where we can edit out the flourishes and see the maps.

    Having said that, I have the geatest respect for them as professionals. But preferably without the er-QUIRKS of thee er-WAY some of. Er-them talk ABOUT theee er-wet ANNND windy errr-WEATHer.

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  • 4. At 5:58pm on 23 Oct 2009, needsanewnickname wrote:

    Well! So the new weather format is to be extended across R4 for the moment.

    I hope Roger Bolton is aware. I can see Feedback getting busy over this...

    It's fine by me, by the way.

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  • 5. At 5:58pm on 23 Oct 2009, BrianH wrote:

    Hi Eddie

    I love PM. I love your hard, fair and humorous style. But I've never been so bored as I am by PM's constant obsession with the weather. Please, PLEASE, can we obsess about something else? ANYTHING else!

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  • 6. At 6:01pm on 23 Oct 2009, Anne P. wrote:

    Thank you PM, thank you Peter Gibbs and colleagues. A really good result.

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  • 7. At 6:04pm on 23 Oct 2009, Elizabeth wrote:

    What good news - no more 'spits and spots of rain' and talk of umbrellas-just straightforward forecasting. But it would still be good to have a few more seconds allocated so forecasters didn't have to gabble to make way for a trailer.

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  • 8. At 6:29pm on 23 Oct 2009, beaytifulprofessor wrote:

    I am very strongly in favour of taking the regions in order separately. And please keep Farenheit, for those of us brought up on it. (Why 3 minutes or less includind rubbish future programmes?You uised to have 5! Even 4 woukld be better) Anthony T

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  • 9. At 9:28pm on 23 Oct 2009, Geoff Realname wrote:

    A salutary reminder, while we congratulate ourselves on a good result for listener feedback, that changes don't always stick (though, from the look of that map, things were a bit too complicated on the previous occasion). I'm sure that this time the forecasters will be professional enough not to become 'bored' but will adapt their style to present the forecast in the way which best suits the medium.

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  • 10. At 9:33pm on 23 Oct 2009, Northern_Listener wrote:

    Great news about the new weather forecast format being introduced across the whole of Radio 4. Result!

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  • 11. At 08:56am on 24 Oct 2009, Fifi wrote:

    I've said it before and after this I won't say it again:

    "Radio 4 listeners shun 'padding' in favour of 'just the weather'. SHOCK! HORROR! PROBE!"

    Anyone who is surprised should be re-tuning to Five Live.

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  • 12. At 1:48pm on 24 Oct 2009, needsanewnickname wrote:

    Fifi - giggle!

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  • 13. At 10:28pm on 25 Oct 2009, colinsc wrote:

    Excellent new weather format. However firstly forecasters must now be given a guaranteed time slot, and secondly they should try to avoid subjective terms. Not only does the impact of the weather vary greatly between individuals, but the impact on that individual will vary depending on their circumstances. However citing the impact of the weather on a particular event or activity is fine within reason - and of course defined weather hazards should continue to be stressed.

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  • 14. At 10:09am on 26 Oct 2009, JCRogers wrote:

    On Friday's programme Peter Gibbs asked the question 'If I said the temperature was 25 degrees Fahrenheit would anyone understand what I meant?'

    My answer is:

    Yes of course I would - it sounds as natural and normal to me as being asked 'would you like a nice cup of tea?'

    On the other hand when temperatures are quoted in Celsius it sounds more like 'voulez-vous une tasse de the?'. Of course I can work out what Celsius temperatures mean - I just have to convert them to something meaningful in my head.

    True, I'm in my forties and yes there are a lot of younger folk out there who use Celsius quite naturally, but I find in normal conversation in the office most people talk in Fahrenheit.

    Besides, given that the majority of people worldwide for whom English is their first language use Fahrenheit, I wonder why the BBC has been so keen to make us change to Celsius. Surely we're not going to have the news read to us in French next!

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  • 15. At 10:27am on 26 Oct 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    I agree with JCRogers on this. I'm quite happy to use metric while shopping - partly because I feel more confident with the system, but also because I can take my time and, if necessary, do a little conversion in my head. When it comes to the radio (or TV) weather forecast, however, we are already taking in quite a lot of information in short term memory, so there's quite a bit of cognitive load. If we have to add to that load by converting temperatures in order for them to become meaningful to us (i.e. Will I need to wear an overcoat tomorrow when I go out?) we risk losing other vital information from the forecast.

    It isn't difficult for forecasters to say something along the lines of
    '18 celsius, that's 65 fahrenheit' in order for those of us who've grown up with fahrenheit aren't disadvantaged. Over time, we do gradually become more familiar with the system, but despite being very open to the use of celsius, I for one can't yet easily work out how hot or cold a temperature is when it is given in that form.

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  • 16. At 11:08am on 26 Oct 2009, Lady_Sue wrote:

    I disagree with both Big Sis and JCR. I have a vague idea only of the temperature given in Fahrenheit and get foot-stompingly annoyed when the quote it. No-one will ever make the mental adjustment to thinking in and understanding Celsius if the temperature continues to be given in both formats.

    A tip from an earlier thread to help: 16C = 61F and 28C = 82F.

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  • 17. At 12:59pm on 26 Oct 2009, Anne P. wrote:

    Exemplary forecast just now from Thomas - thank you.

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  • 18. At 1:08pm on 26 Oct 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    Lady Sue: I think you miss my point. I cannot work out what a forecaster is saying when he gives a temperature in Celsius, which means that I, and others like me, have no idea of how hot or cold the weather is. I do make an effort to grasp it - but, in a sense you've got the same problem as me, but in reverse, when the forecast is given in fahrenheit - and YOU get 'foot stompingly annoyed' about it! Which is why I suggest that, until people are REALLY used to it, the dual system is the only fair way ahead.

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  • 19. At 1:08pm on 26 Oct 2009, hillndale wrote:

    The weather forcast had become just a lot of verbal wallpaper. It was very difficult to concentrate enough to get past the needless chatter, and to focus in on the bit of the forcast that was relevant to ones own area. So anything that more closely approaches the order and clarity of the shipping forcast would be very, very welcome.
    Informality and chat can be taken too far and used in the weather forcast serves only to confuse and irritate.

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  • 20. At 2:25pm on 26 Oct 2009, Liz Verran wrote:

    I'm in my late 50s and have no difficulty with centigrade.
    0 = freezing
    10 = cold
    15 = mild
    20 = get out the sun-tan
    25 = hot
    30 = ouch!

    Well done with the weather, Eddie. Hope the idea spreads - I'm more infuriated with the other R4 attempts now I've heard how it could sound.

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  • 21. At 2:51pm on 26 Oct 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    Well, lizzievee, I knew that too, but those gaps are significantly big when it comes to celsius. Which, for somebody like me who is very sensitive to changes in temperature, doesn't help a lot, I'm afraid. And I don't think it takes the weatherforecasters too long to add in the fahrenheit for folk like me. Who, by the way, is far from ancient ;o)and lived for many years in celsius only countries.

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  • 22. At 4:32pm on 26 Oct 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    On the subject of weather, and to lighten things up:


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  • 23. At 5:02pm on 26 Oct 2009, colinsc wrote:

    Celsius was initially introduced over 45 years ago and I seem to that there was meant to be a year or so when both Fahrenheit and Celsius would be used together before Fahrenheit was phased out.... However perhaps what emerges from peoples comments is that there is too much emphasis on the temperature in any case, at least in winter. Temperature is only one of various criteria that contribute to the chill effect with wind speed, the dampness of the air, the humidity (both relative and absolute), precipitation, the degree of insolation and the state of ground all playing an important part. In fact when the temperatures drops from just above to just below freezing the chill effect can decrease, especially if sleet or wet snow turns to dry snow.

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  • 24. At 7:54pm on 26 Oct 2009, astra-castra wrote:

    The weather forecasts are certainly better and the debate has helped BBC take them more seriously. People that spend time outside want to know especially about rain and wind.
    I gave up listening to the Today program a year or so ago when I found the presenters too irritating. But I often turned on the radio at 7-55am to hear the weather. What I got was John Humphreys squeezing the forecast down to an impossible 60 seconds before a trailer that I had heard four times already and would hear again for a program that did not interest me came on. This morning the forecast was far better than it has been but still too short.
    PM today, Monday, was allotted exactly 90 seconds so presumably was not being squeezed for which we should be grateful. The presenter did not gabble and it is easier to follow measured speech. But my preference would be for a forecast of 3 minutes and do away with the trailers.
    The alternative of looking up the local weather on the BBC website does not work by the way. Those forecasts are infrequently updated and therefore hopelessly inaccurate. It is actually better to look at the "Past 12 hours" where you get an accurate account of your region's weather about half an hour ago.

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  • 25. At 10:19pm on 26 Oct 2009, Irvinblogger wrote:

    I do find the rather limp excuses from those people that can't cope with Celsius a little sad. It just takes a little effort, Lizzievee had the right idea with her own table. We are part of Europe and need to change. We buy petrol by the litre not gallons any more fruit and veg by the Kg and material by the metre. I work in the building industry which has been using SI units for the past 30years. So come on make an effort and get converted.
    And to all those that seem incapable of converting once they reach middle age I'm 58! I do think the bbc don't help the longer you perpetuate the situation the longer people feel that they don't need to change. When we went to decimal currency we dropped the old £sd over night and everyone coped.

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  • 26. At 11:09pm on 26 Oct 2009, Big Sister wrote:

    Mr. Holier than thou Irvinblogger, I think you need to be a little more forgiving of those who, like me, find fahrenheit easier to deal with than centigrade - or celsius, and yes, they are slightly different too. For your information, I've been using the metric system for everything else for a very long time, having lived in France, Spain and Italy at various times, and have no difficulty with these. The problem with the temperature scales is that they are so very different and, when you're LISTENING to a weather forecast, it is difficult, if your mind still works primarily in fahrenheit, to grasp the significance of the numbers. If you're READING a forecast, it's a bit different.

    Frankly, I think you're just a little arrogant on this matter. I'm about the same age as you and, as I say, use the metric system with ease, but there are at least two generations older than us who, like us, were taught the 'old' systems and who have lived with them for even longer than us. My mother, now well into her nineties, struggles to cope with the changes - and why should she? Neither I, nor indeed she, would ask that the 'old' system should predominate exclusively, simply that a little accommodation should be made for the fact that we find it easier to use than the 'new' system by giving, for the next few years, the temperatures in both systems. After all, it isn't her fault, or the fault of any of us who were brought up within that system, that it is what we were taught, is it?

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  • 27. At 10:23am on 27 Oct 2009, colinsc wrote:

    There does seem such a preoccupation with temperature when it is often the least important element of the forecast if one is concerned about the chill effect. I've known no chill effect with a temperature of minus 17 Celsius, but a very marked chill with plus 17 Celsius. It would be great if a simple chill effect scale was available, but there are too many variables -a good deal of research would have to be carried out. Incidentally whether the temperature is just above or below freezing is very important as far as weather conditions are concerned, and surely everyone must find Celsius easy to understand then.

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  • 28. At 10:39am on 27 Oct 2009, U14138029 wrote:

    Big Sis (26) - Whilst not particularly taken with the tone of Irvinblogger (25) I have to say that I think that he does have a point. If weather forecasters had dropped farenheit 10, 20 or 25 years ago, I'm sure that everybody would now be perfectly happy to deal with centigrade.

    Having said that, I know exactly what mpg I get from my car, but I haven't a clue what the kpl or mpl would be.

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  • 29. At 1:28pm on 05 May 2010, Claire Burton wrote:

    I wish someone could have forecast how long this cold spell was going to last. It is now May 5 and in County Durham today it is 4 degrees where we live, up in the hills. We have been burning oil and logs since September and I suspect it will be June before we can stop spending a fortune on heating the house. I like Liz Verran's scale - we are permanently between Freezing and Cold :)

    On a serious note, and perhaps this is not the place for a rank about country folk vs city slickers, but it is frustrating that the politicians have made no effort to consider the issues facing rural homeowners. We have put up with extra road tax because we have 4x4s (because we need them) but noone speaks up for us during a prolonged cold spell. About 2 million people in the UK are off-grid for gas and rely on heating oil. There is no equivalent of Ofgem to ensure a fair balance between consumer and distributor and we just have to pay whatever the going rate is for our oil. The only way to avoid getting ripped off is to shop around but there is only one comparison site for oil called http://www.whichoilsupplier.co.uk and it does not cover all areas of the UK. So we are forced to get on the phone to 10 or suppliers and start haggling. In December the prices were nuts and heating oil users were completely taken for a ride.

    Anyway, rant over. Let's hope it warms up a bit. Next year I'll be stocking up on logs and coal. Not environmentally friendly but at least they are relatively cheap.

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