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Consistency v accuracy

Richard Chapman Richard Chapman | 12:15 UK time, Friday, 13 June 2008

As BBC Weather continues to extend its reach and range of services on television, radio, interactive, online and mobile it is becoming a hot topic of conversation as to whether we concentrate our efforts on working with the Met Office to improve the accuracy of the weather data or the consistency of that data between all of our services and platforms; of course in reality and over time we need to do both.

Weather map showing UK temperaturesTo assess where we have got to Claire Douglas, BBC Weathers Producer, data and graphics explains how the process for ingesting and delivering the weather data works:

"One of the major drivers for moving to a new Weather system in 2005 was to be able to provide consistent weather data throughout the BBC.

Previously a significant amount of manual work was needed at the BBC Weather Centre; each forecaster/presenter would create a collection of slides and manually add symbols and temperatures to the core maps. This data was limited to that presentation and was therefore not shared across the website or Ceefax.

Weather map showing temperatures in ScotlandOur current weather system, provided by Metra who are based in New Zealand, is set up to ingest weather data from the Met Office and push the information to all platforms as soon as it is available. Any changes made at the BBC Weather Centre or in the Nations and Regions are fed back to the central database and synchronised with all the databases, as well as Ceefax, the Weather website and applications such as Facebook."

This approach ensures a consistent message is available wherever you are viewing BBC Weather output. Progress continues, this week we have improved the updates from the weather database to the website for site specific information - every 30 minutes any changes to this information are delivered to the website at bbc.co.uk/weather to our mobile weather service, BBC Ceefax and to BBCi.

Weather map showing temperatures in PlymouthWe are questioned about our ability to be consistent but with the majority of our TV and radio output being live we have the opportunity to make changes right at the last minute - this means we are setting very high standards.

There is a balance to be struck and we are dealing with a continually developing weather story 24/7 but I believe that improvements in technology and speed of data transfer can only improve matters further in time.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I don't know if your remit extends to BBC World but their world weather coverage is just awful, and not helped by the habit of pastering forecasts for four "representative" cities in the region all over the actual weather map. This in turn would not matter so much if the choice of four actually covered the region, but whereas for North America they do, for the Middle East they don't. No Turkey, no Israel, no Iran. Instead, all Gulf countries, compounding the BBC's tendency to think that the Gulf and the Middle East are synonymous, as in (haha) Middle East Business Report, which is no more than weekly publicity for Dubai. If someone has to continue with these cour regional cities, please make them more representative.

    Regards

  • Comment number 2.

    I still think we need to see Scotland at the same scale as the rest of the UK. Do us a favour, and put the map back the right way up. We need to see our own weather at a decent scale and resolution more than we need to see great swathes of Scandinavia, France and the Low Countries.

    It doesn't matter how accurate and consistent your weather predictions are if we have to squint at the screen to see it!

  • Comment number 3.

    *agrees with christownsend*

    When's the next Weather graphics relaunch due, and will it finally recognise that Britain isn't a desert? The current graphics are STILL ugly as hell, rarely show an isobar chart and - as Chris said - marginalise Scotland.

  • Comment number 4.

    *agrees with christownsend*
    *agrees with SBReboot*

    Please put the map of Scotland back the way it was. Having it skewed like this makes it pretty unusable.

    And bring back the isobars!

  • Comment number 5.

    it is nice that we are improving our weather services at the bbc....

    thanks to Claire Douglas for her work....

    also to the rest of the bbc weather centre staff.


  • Comment number 6.

    *agrees with christownsend*
    *agrees with SBReboot*
    *agrees with rwillmer*

    Put Scotland back to the proper size.
    The way it is just confirms the LBCs outlook of the UK

    :rollseyes:

  • Comment number 7.

    *agrees with christownsend*
    *agrees with SBReboot*
    *agrees with rwillmer*
    *agrees with Tengsted*

    Yes, please put the UK map back on a level scale - I live in London, but still hate your distorted and skewed representation of the UK.

    You should show all of the UK in equal proportions - the BBC weather map is one of the easiest ways for people (especially the young) to learn about what is where in our land - yet we currently have this distorted representation that is no use to (wo)man nor beast - even if it gives a thrill of 'change' and 'new' to the BBC looking for ways to spend our tellytax.

    Please change it back! Most people still hate the change of perspective, even now.

    Also, the UK is a green and pleasant land - as anyone can see via Google Earth, as depicted in your previous green and blue colour scheme. We aren't an arid brown desert, and aren't likely to be soon even if the shrillest of global warming doomsayers is right! Can we have the green back too please? (Even if not, please, please fix the distorted 'perspective' view of the UK - it's just an awful daily reminder of the BBC's arrogance towards its involuntary tellytaxpaying 'customers'). Thank you!

  • Comment number 8.

    I think the current graphics look great - perhaps the 'Scotland skew' should be fixed, but apart from that, it all looks great IMO.

  • Comment number 9.

    The BBC News website weather forecast for London is never accurate. I've been sat in 3 hours of pouring rain before, looking at your forecast telling me that it's supposed to be sunshine. At your temperature forecasts are so wildly inaccurate that I've given up relying on there.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Another vote for 'fixing' the Scottish view. It's like trying to see Edinburgh from the window of a plane hovering directly above Paris - very difficult!

    The 'skew' is great if you enjoy pretending you're an astronaut looking down from space. But for television viewing, I just want to get a clear and simple picture of the weather in my area - the 'skew' makes this very difficult.

    Have you carried out any viewer research to find out what viewers think?

    I'm sure the 'skew' seemed like a very clever idea at the time, but it doesn't work.

    Please fix.

  • Comment number 12.

    *agrees with christownsend*
    *agrees with SBReboot*
    *agrees with rwillmer*
    *agrees with Tengsted*
    *agrees with silverfoxuk*

    There is no point in viewing the UK from a low altitude over Paris if it's more representative from a higher altitude over Lancaster. [And the flyby view of different regions still makes me seasick]

    It's a bit of a pity that the point of the blog entry -- the transmission of data to a variety of platforms (which is good, albeit subject to steve5312's misgivings) -- has been overshadowed by a graphic artist's misguided use of a system's capabilities.

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree with steve5312;

    I've never found BBC weather to be accurate when looking at London weather. It's a bit of a running joke in my group of friends.

    Often the 5 day forcast will say rainy today, and the 24 hour forcast will have show no hint of rain. Maybe the new system will fix that. I Will wait impatiently to see.

  • Comment number 14.

    I really do not understand why everyone complains about the colour of the map. It's hardly an important issue and the colour does allow the contast between cloudy and sunny areas to be more visible

    In terms of consistency, I agree there is room for improvement. I live in Bristol and very often the local weather forecast (on Points West) will be completely different to the national one in terms of rain, cloud and sun. Surely you are all working from the same data so the forecast should be exactly the same across all BBC communications? Also, if you look at the Met Office website it will quite often be different from the BBC's. Any reason for this?

  • Comment number 15.

    Oo-er. I didn't mean to stir up such a hornets' nest! Still, I suppose it shows that this issue is still a thorny one that hasn't gone away just because the Beeb altered the tilt of the map (a little) soon after they launched it.

    I have to say, I feel aggrieved at having to squint at my own corner of central Scotland. If I lived any further north I'd be furious. Even when the map zooms and pans, it's just about useless for getting an idea of what's going on in the western and northern isles.

    The question now is, will Richard Chapman come back in here now and post a new blog entry in response to our comments, or at the very least will he add his own comment here?

  • Comment number 16.

    Probably not; and the rest of the BBC will be too busy admiring the weather systems over Norway...

  • Comment number 17.

    #15 - That's a good point. On so many BBC blogs, of which the Sports Editors are the worst, the person who started the Blog never actually comes back to answer the points raised. Is that because they are too busy sipping champagne with the next creative agency they are going to waste money with creating 'idents'?

    Or is it because usually they have no structured and reasonable response to the criticisms raised other than "Well, we asked some random focus group made up of media yuppies who said we were right."

  • Comment number 18.

    I think the fact that the original entry was posted on Friday at lunchtime with not a word in response to the comments pretty much answers that. It's the same on most BBC blogs, with one or two notable exceptions.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm afraid that the 'new' graphics were a triumph of presentation over accuracy and the lack of isobars and fronts now mean we have splodges of blue.

    I've given up with relying on the BBC weather maps - now use the Met Office site directly which is ironic as they provide the data for the BBC! The Met Office site is more reliable and more detailed.

    Also, the skew is irritating - if I lived in the Shetland Isles, I'd be hopping mad. And what of the Chennel Isles - hardly get a mention.

    After last weeks BBC Trust Report about the under-representation of the Nations and Regions, can we expect the wether forecasts to not be so focussed on the South of England.

  • Comment number 20.

    I miss the old-school map with the old-school symbols, when a cloud was a cloud and you didn't have to peer so closely at the TV to see if your part of the country was a little darker than the others (I've come to assume this means it'll be cloudy). Although to be honest if you live north of the Central Belt you'll be peering a good deal more than the rest of us.

    By the way, while we're discussing weather, can someone advise your weathermen/women that not all of us think sunshine and 20C at 7am is 'a glorious start' and some of us don't want to hear their personal preferences about what constitutes good or bad weather. For me, I prefer a duller, cooler day, as then my hay fever won't bother me. It just annoys me how they assume they know how we all feel about what they're telling us.

    Oh and that woman who does weather on BBC Breakfast, her name is Carol I think, I know she sounds Scottish herself but if she says 'Scitlind' one more time I am going to scream.

  • Comment number 21.

    Whilst the animation is most impressive, and the detail for England and Wales is largely outstanding, I do have sympathy for those living in Scotland and Northern Ireland - you barely see them on the main map, let alone when it is panning. Furthermore, the uninterrupted sunshine in the top right and top left corners of the map look extremely unprofessional. Surely the MET has data for those areas as well, or should the addition of the said data prove prohibitively expensive and/or against the interests of the television license payer (certainly against my interests), those parts of the map should be removed entirely.

  • Comment number 22.

    The underlying purpose of the change to the graphics was a sound one-but for me the execution remains poor. Time is wasted showing pretty pictures and a misleading headline. Further time is wasted panning round the regions giving a projection of detail say between cloud and sunshine, which will be unlikely to reflect reality given the variables involved. The general refusal to show pressure charts, which would only take seconds, seems to be based on the assumption that viewers are thick-so treat them accordingly.
    On the commercial channels weather forecasts are a token effort to get round Ofcom's bar on sponsorship of news programmes. So we have to rely on the BBC. The BBC really needs to remember its public service commitment-to serve all of its audience whatever its level of sophistication or interest.

  • Comment number 23.

    I agree with several of the posts above - can we please have the isobars back? They made it much easier to assess timing of weather systems, and the probabilities of weather deviating from the expected pattern.

    Also, references to "the North" should either be "the North of England" or "Scotland" or even "the North of Scotland".

    As for the angle of the map, perhaps the best solution would be separate national forcasts for England and Wales on the one hand, and for Scotland and Northern Ireland on the other.

  • Comment number 24.

    So, no plans to reply, huh?

  • Comment number 25.

    Leaving aside the perspective issue with northern Scotland, I still believe that the revamped weather maps are a vast improvement on a the previous symbols. It's a much more accurate and realistic portrayal of likely weather conditions in any given spot than simply covering an entire area of the country with a giant representation of a particular type of wethar which in many cases paid little regard to how that would change throughout the course of a day.

    Whilst I can understand the demands for the map to be shown in green I understand how the lighter colour used is more effective at highlighting the contrast between sunny and cloudy areas.

    I would like to see more cities and places shown on the map (from a geographical interest point of view as much as for the benefits in terms of working out the weather forecast) but otherwise I quite frankly can't see what all the fuss is about - did you Luddites object to the replacement of magnetic symbols and rue the introduction of colour too?

  • Comment number 26.

    All the fine words in your editorial are being devalued every day by your continuing refusal to present Great Britain in its true size and shape on your TV weather. This map is the most commonly seen map of Britain for most people, and I notice that English people are starting to think Scotland really is the small, peripheral place your map indicates it to be. On the day of the Scottish Cup final, a Talk Sport presenter said he was sure Dumfries to Glasgow was no more than 30 or 40 miles. Later the host had to confirm it was 77 miles.

    I must say though, I don't blame the guy. If you are judging the size of the country by the BBC weather map, its no surprise he made this error.

    Deliberate or not, your policy is having the effect of making Scotland (plus the north of England to some degree) seem small and insignificant, exactly the London centred attitude the BBC has recently been criticised for by an official report, I note.

    In addition, I must reiterate the views of at least one more correspondent replying to your blog. You just cannot see what the weather in Dundee is going to be! People on the south coast of England, by contrast, can just about see their house, so large are the zoom-in maps there.

    This is a continuing injustice which I promise you creates widespread anger and resentment, as you would know if you ever ventured further north than the bleak sub-arctic wastes of Watford.

    Rob

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hello,

    I posted a link to a map of England based on the UK populations:

    http://www.olib.co.uk/popmap/

    It was rejected as off topic so the moderators could not see its relevance.

    To many of the above posters how the weather map of the UK is represented is very important with the apparent unfairness of the skew of the map in representing consistency and accuracy. The map may show some of the rationale behind the skew and counters the previous comment. I apologize if this relevance was not immediately obvious.

  • Comment number 29.

    Hey Richard,

    It has been a while - still composing your response?

    Despite being rightly slated for the Scottish map slant you are not prepared to even recognise this concern?

    Poor

  • Comment number 30.

    I couldn't let this marked inconsistency go without asking how on earth this happens.

    Having seen the single image summary for tomorrow on the bbc homepage as 'light rain', I thought I'd check the 24hr forecast to see when the rain will be most likely as I'm cycling into work at the moment and don't have mudguards.

    So the summary for the 24 hours of Wednesday 16th July is 'light rain'. The predominant weather type, the weather type which if you were to ask anyone in my region tomorrow was the weather type they would describe the weather for that day as, is 'light rain'. Got that.

    The predominant weather type predicted for the hours from 0100 to 1900 at 3hr intervals is as follows:
    Clear, Partly Cloudy, Sunny Intervals, Sun, Sunny Intervals, Sunny Intervals, Light Rain

    Light rain, according to that doesn't occur until the evening. If I were to average out those symbols into one to describe the whole day, it would have to be sunny intervals.

    How is it possible for the SAME SOURCE to report such inconsistent weather predictions?

    /weather/24hr.shtml?world=0361

    Please for the sake of my sanity, just stop publishing one or the other since you don't seem to have a clue.

  • Comment number 31.

    Richard:

    Correction: Claire Douglas, BBC Weathers Producer,

    Proper english: BBC Weather's....

    ----
    I have been on the new weather site; and it is quite useful!

    ~Dennis Junior~

 

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