The joys of being a weatherman

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My father however wasn't quite so keen on the white stuff because he was a driver so it wasn't much fun for him on the roads travelling around South Wales. I couldn't understand how he felt at the time but now I'm older I can see his point of view.

Snow is a double edged sword in this country, it's pretty to look at, children and 'some' grown-ups love it, but it doesn't take much snow to cause chaos and as a meteorologist it's by far the most difficult weather parameter to get right.

The hardest part is deciding how much snow is going to fall and where the worst hit areas will be, with many people hanging onto your every word.

A picture of the Snowdonia Range from the Bala side by Leanne Hughes:


Rain can sometimes be patchy and snow can be very hit and miss too, especially when it's in the form of showers but snow has a much bigger impact.

1 mm of rain is roughly equivalent to 1 cm of snow. You'd hardly notice 1 mm of rain but you would definitely notice 1 cm snow!

Recently, many parts of Wales have had a lot of snow but some places, even just a few miles down the road, have had next to nothing.

These days short term forecasts are much more accurate than they used to be with advances in technology but the computers we use, although very powerful, are not perfect.

There is always a varying degree of uncertainty in any forecast depending on the weather situation. That's why forecasters often use words like: may, could, perhaps, possibly, mainly, rather, largely and hopefully in their forecasts.

A small drop in temperature, just half a degree, can make all the difference between rain and snow. Altitude can make a big difference too.

It can be raining on the coast but snowing on the hills and mountains. Also, heavy rain can cool the atmosphere around it and rain can turn to snow.

These are all things that a forecaster has to consider when making a forecast. At the end of the day, meteorology is not a precise science.

You can only do your best with the latest information available at the time but nothing is set in stone, things can change and sometimes quickly.

For example, a front bringing rain or snow could slow or speed-up, weaken or intensify. And this could make all the difference between having a dry or wet morning, whether you can play golf or put the washing out.

The trouble is, people tend to only notice the times when the forecast doesn't quite go according to plan. I've worked for the Met Office for 23 years, the last 14 years as a forecaster, and the one thing you need in this job is a thick skin and a sense of humour!

The other day when I forecast snow, it was a huge relief the next morning to pull back the curtains and see everything covered in a blanket of snow. I had got it right but if I hadn't I would have had a lot of explaining to do...

The joys of being a weatherman.

Derek

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