How often do forecasters actually get the UK weather right?

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1. A national obsession

The weather is our national obsession. Are we in for a “snowmageddon” winter? Will the long-promised barbecue summer ever materialise?

As well as being a favoured topic for small talk, it's also critical for maintaining national productivity. The storms which hit the country in February 2014 cost the economy an estimated £14bn. Freak weather events can also take lives.

So despite forecasters running the latest prediction software with legions of super-computers, why do many of us think they get it wrong so often?

2. Forecasters’ bad reputation

Weather forecasters attract our disdain when things turn out differently from their predictions. They are the obvious ones to blame when rain ruins a picnic or trip to the beach.

But is that fair?

Everyone's affected by what psychologists call “confirmation bias” – the tendency to notice evidence that supports a pre-existing belief but ignore information which contradicts it. So people tend to think forecasters always get it wrong because they forget the thousands of correct forecasts and remember the incorrect one. Watch the clip to see an infamous forecast.

3. CLICKABLE: The trickiest seasons

Predicting temperature or rain is much harder in certain seasons. Click or tap on the hand icon to find out why.

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Source: Met Office. Analysis by Ewen McCallum, Royal Meteorological Society and Maarten Ambaum, University of Reading. Temperatures refer to minimum temperatures.

4. CLICKABLE: The easiest weather to predict

Which is easier to predict rain or windspeed? Different types of weather are easier to get right than other. Click or tap on the hand icon to find out why.

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Source: Met Office data for a five-day forecast.

5. How much have we improved?

Weather improvement graphic

Source: NATURE 525 (7567), Bauer et al., copyright 2015 (adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd)

BBC

Overall, the accuracy of the forecast has improved hugely over the last four decades. Our current five-day forecast is as good as our three-day forecast was about 20 years ago. Our useful forecast window has increased by an extra day every 10 years.

6. Test yourself on UK weather

Do you know what the UK weather is really like? You might be surprised by some of the places.

Windiest place in the UK?

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Shetland

The average windspeed across the North Atlantic islands is a coruscating 14.7 knots.

Wettest place in the UK?

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Crib Goch

The Grib Goch ridge in Snowdonia, North Wales gets an average of 4,635mm of rain every year.

Coldest place in the UK?

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Cairn gorm

Cairn gorm in the Highlands of Scotland has an average temperature of just -1.5 degrees Celsius.

Sunniest place in the UK?

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Bognor Regis

Bognor Regis sees 1920 glorious hours of sunshine, on average every year.