Showers sharper than forecast

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC (Spotlight 6.55 pm on the 17 August 2017)

Today’s showers were a lot sharper than forecast by the Met Office model that was used in the BBC forecast on Spotlight yesterday evening (fig 1), with some white pixels in the weather radar, indicating intensities of >32 mm an hour (fig 2). Thankfully they were moving quickly.

Figure 2

Neither was there any mention in the forecast of any thunderstorms in any of today’s showers over the southwest of England (fig 3).

Figure 3 – Courtesy of Blitzortung

Just checking to see how they did on last nights national forecast, and again no mention of any thunderstorms (and any flashing lightning graphics), or of the intense showers indicated by the weather radar. All Darren Bett seem to be interested in was saying how cool it will be, he must have been out of the country for the last four weeks or so. All I can think is that the new Met Office model is having problem in convective situations like this, I am assuming of course that the BBC are still using Met Office NWP data at the moment!

Figure 4 – Courtesy of the BBC (weather for the week ahead)

Or did they mention this large area of very heavy rain in the afternoon over Wales in earlier forecasts. Is it only me that notices just how poor the weather forecast was?

Figure 5

Observational and forecasting cloud problems

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

The Met Office seem to be having problems with both forecasting and observing just how much low cloud there is across the southwest of England again today. Although it’s cloudy across Cornwall at the moment, there is little in the way of low cloud at 09 BST over much of Devon as you can see from the visible satellite image (fig 2), and this at odds with the NWP graphics in the BBC forecast for this time (fig 1). No doubt the SC sheet will roll ENE’ward this morning and things will cloud over here, but in the meantime temperatures are around 24°C and its a lovely sunny morning. A similar clearance of cloud occurred yesterday at lunchtime, when the cloud cleared and the early afternoon was sunny, after another forecast of a mainly cloudy day from the graphics. The model does seem to overgenerate low cloud at times, and it doesn’t seem to make any difference if the base is at 2,000 or 7,000 feet.

Figure 2

The AWS the Met Office use are far from perfect either, both Exeter airport and Dunkeswell were at it again this morning overestimating how much low cloud there was. In my mind, there is absolutely no way there was 7 or 8 oktas of SC at 5,000 feet at either of these sites at 08 UTC this morning (fig 3). I can see why for safety reasons the AWS is programmed to err on the high side at an RAF station, but this is just plain misleading.

No wonder the presenters get the wrong idea about the weather across the region from observations like this. I think it might be a good idea if the Met Office introduced weather or skycams to these AWS as they did when they initially started trialling them, it’s either that or I drive down to the airport and start my observing career over again to see what’s going on.

Of course any outstation forecaster who uses one of these AWS will know full well its shortcomings and limitations when it comes to reporting cloud amounts, thankfully my observing career had come to an end before one was introduced at Kinloss. I should imagine that it can get a bit fraught at a fast jet station when the AWS suddenly announces that there’s 7 oktas of ST at 200 feet when it’s just a patch sat over the LCBR.

You could conclude, that the over forecasting and the over observing of low cloud, are some how linked, but as far as I know low cloud amounts from AWS don’t find their way into any NWP model, or maybe things have changed.

Figure 3


BBC weather presenters and EQ

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

Why is it that when there is any fine weather around do they always invariably end their presentation by stating how warm  or hot it will be in London or the southeast tomorrow[1]?

Is is because they lack even a smidgen of EQ[2] regarding the remaining 56,879,498 of us (65,514,2488,634,750) that don’t actually live, or ever want to live in the southeast of England? The weather may be equally as sunny, and on many occasions the temperature anomaly might be just as high wherever you live, but it always seem to boil down to just one thing – tomorrows forecast maximum temperature for Heathrow.

Why couldn’t they occasionally just end the forecast by saying something like – Enjoy the fine, sunny weather wherever you are in the country

Knowing that the temperature is going to exceed 30°C tomorrow in the London area just isn’t that informative for the 86.8% of people who don’t live there, especially if you live hundreds of miles from it, and try to avoid it like the plague.

I don’t know how it affects any of my readers, but it sure annoys the hell out of me, because they all do it, and always will do it, irrespective of where they originally hail from, because it’s not about where you are from, it’s about where they call home now, somewhere in deepest Metroland.

  1. Or, if you happen to be listening to Chris Fawkes by him saying – and that’s ya’ weather.
  2. Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goals.

Blue skies smiling at me, nothing but blue skies, do I see

The new Cray Supercomputer that the Met Office have recently installed maybe able to do more than 16,000 trillion calculations a second, and take in hundreds of thousands of weather observations from all over the world, and run an atmospheric model that contains more than a million lines of code, but it still has the devil of a job when it comes to forecasting the amount of low cloud. Here’s the forecast and reality for 10 UTC this Sunday morning.

Figure 1 – Courtesy of last nights BBC Weather

You could argue that the cold front ran a little faster than forecast, but it’s been sunny since 06 UTC down here in Devonshire. It’s true the model does clear away the cloud by early afternoon, but the reality is that for a good part of the southwest, is that it was never there in the first place.

The last time I commented about this, I was told by the head of News and Social media at the Met Office Helen Chilvers, that it occurs when the low cloud is in thin layers, and slips between two model levels, and that’s why it’s so difficult to forecast. The model over did the rain as well, but I won’t get into that, because I have to get out and enjoy some more of this unexpected sunshine.

Figure 2

Another cold day in June

Figure 1

There was just a single station out of 162 in WMO block #03 that had an above average air temperatures at 12 UTC today (29th June 2017) and that was Fair Isle in the northern Isles, the rest of the stations all had negative anomalies that ranged from -0.1°C to -6.6°C (figs 2 & 3). That in itself gives you a fair idea of just how cold the weather has been for the last couple of days for the end of June.

What irritates me is how the various weather presenters that I’ve seen perform today, don’t seem to latch onto the main theme about today’s weather, and that, in my opinion is just how cold it is for June. Yes it’s cloudy, and yes it’s wet over western Scotland, and yes there’s a lot of cloud, and yes it’s windy in western areas, but more than all that the common theme everywhere is – it’s bloody cold.

Figure 2

Figure 3


Maximum temperatures in the southwest and the BBC

Every year when the summer starts in earnest and weather presenters start talking about how warm it is (particularly in the southeast), they start presenting charts with temperatures across the southwest of England several degrees lower than the rest of the country, and every year I can’t help writing a protest blog like this one! Today was a perfect example, take a look at yesterday’s forecast temperatures for 16 PM (15 UTC) today as presented by Jay Wynne on BBC 1 at 1.25 PM.

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

Now have a look at today’s actual values from across the country (fig 2).

Figure 2

As you can see it’s actually 20.8°C in Plymouth, 21.1°C at Culdrose and 23.0°C at Cardinham, so the forecast for Plymouth is too low, not only that, where the 19 label is drawn on the BBC graphics right on top of Exeter, where the temperature at 4 PM today was a hot 27.1°C, that’s a full 8°C higher than on the chart. The forecast temperature for Plymouth looked wrong yesterday, and it was wrong in reality today. For goodness sake, why don’t the BBC simply choose a city that’s more representative of the southwest, or perhaps display the maximum forecast temperature for the whole region.

  • I did a quick search and I can see I’ve already had a go at the BBC this year back in April.
  • It looks like its not only maximum temperatures that get me going.
  • And here is last years effort.

The one thing you can’t accuse me of is, and that’s a lack of consistency when it comes to temperature forecasts from the BBC.

A little bit too optimistic

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

There was a little bit more rain than expected in Spotlight forecast at 6.55 PM yesterday (fig 1), and the front was a lot slower and more reluctant to clear Cornwall, with some kind of secondary feature following on behind the initial band of rain (fig 2).

Figure 2

Now that I’ve seen the midnight analysis (fig 3), I now realise that the secondary feature is the cold front, and that the initial rain band is the warm front.

Figure 3 – Courtesy of the Met Office

Here’s a quick look back at yesterday’s estimated rainfall totals in the southwest (fig 4), most of it falling before 15 UTC if truth be said. It finally did brighten in the late evening, as the upper cloud finally began to retreat eastward.

Figure 4 – Courtesy of the Met Office

Dartmoor triggers intense shower

Data courtesy of the Met Office

In the last couple of hours, the high ground of east Dartmoor (possibly around Haytor) seems to have triggered a thundery shower that quickly tracked NNE across the west of the city of Exeter. It looks to have been quite an intense, but short sharp shower. I say thundery, but so far Blitzortung has only detected one flash of lightning from it.

What seems very silly to me, watching the latest forecast on the BBC News channel (which looks like it may have been taped), is how the weather presenters prefer to use NWP model rainfall rather than real-time weather radar images. In a dynamic convective situation like today, you would have thought that’s what they would be most helpful to the public. Likewise the BBC presenters never ever use real-time SFERIC data, or come to that rapid scan 5 minute visible satellite imagery. What’s the point of having all these various ways of observing the weather in real-time, and then not using them?

Certainly use NWP images for forecasting, but masquerading NWP forecast data as real-time observational information is wrong and just plain misleading.

I remember coming home from work on the 16th of August 2004, it must have been just before 4 PM, to watch Michael Fish prattle on in the forecast about how hot it had been recently in Greece. This too was a taped forecast that they used on the same BBC News channel. The news was later interrupted by breaking news about flash flooding that was occurring at that precise moment in Boscastle. It seems to me that little has changed since then in how we present the weather, if this intense shower that I noticed this afternoon had been slow-moving and a little larger, the same thing could have easily happened all over again.

WeatherscapeXT from MetraWeather

Figure 1 – Courtesy of MetraWeather

I wrote something a few weeks ago saying that the MeteoGroup takeover of the BBC contract was imminent. I wondered about what the graphics would look like but never thought to look at who MeteoGroup have teamed up with to supply the graphics. It’s a New Zealand concern called MetraWeather, who have as far as I know, been responsible for supplying the BBC with the current system for the last 10 years or so. Looking on their website they are all excited about something that they call Weatherscape XT black edition™ (fig 1). If the screenshot their promotional video is anything to go by it looks to be a step up from the existing graphics software in use at the BBC, isobars seem to be light blue on a dark blue sea, but the colours I’m sure are totally configurable. This is what they say about it courtesy of their website:-

  • Compelling graphics
    Weatherscape XT’s powerful graphics terrain engine and weather animation effects deliver beautiful rendered; full-screen graphics in real-time
  • Complete customization
    The powerful design tools integrated into Weatherscape XT enable your graphic designers to create unique weather presentations that reflect your programming style, and compatibility to both your brand guidelines and those of your sponsors and advertisers
  • High-quality maps
    Weatherscape offers designers both stylized and realistic location-specific maps at standard resolutions of between 15 to 300 metres ensuring crystal-clear, accurate rendering. The big question is – can they fix the projection that’s been shrinking Scotland for the last 10 years?
  • Rapid data updating
    At the core of Weatherscape XT is the capability to rapidly receipt and update data inputs from radar, gridded model data, satellite imagery, lighting data, local observations, typhoon tracks, and warnings and alerts provided by non-meteorological data providers warning of events such as tsunami, forest fires and volcanic activity. By the way it’s lightning and not lighting – I kid you not!
  • Powerful data editing
    Weatherscape XT is uniquely configured to enable broadcasters to edit and interpret meteorological data such as gridded model fields, observations, forecasts and warnings, or to create custom forecasts for special events including elections, sports tournaments and live performances. 
  • Data management
    MetraWeather customer engineers have vast experience in configuring Weatherscape XT to automatically and continuously ingest and manage data provided from both global and regional meteorological data suppliers 
  • Content for all screens
    Weatherscape XT is easily configured to automatically output weather graphics and content for all broadcast and online channels including highly successful weather presentation solutions for proprietary streaming media, kiosks, and connected mobile and tablet devices.

MetraWeather is of course a subsidiary of MetService, the now privatised New Zealand Met Office, and this weather graphics system was probably built by their own team of programmers. I’m guessing (and I could be wrong), that the Met Office didn’t do that with their new weather graphics engine VisualEyes™, they always seem to prefer playing it safe, and teaming up with an outside concern to do the development, rather than doing it themselves in-house, which is a great pity, especially for the IT staff. None of this kind of development is rocket science and hasn’t been done before, it just needs someone with a clear vision of what they want to achieve, and of course a team of talented developers to get it done.

Will the BBC graphics look like this?

One of my readers after reading my article about NWP Web viewers has kindly pointed me to one that the MeteoGroup are trialling at the moment. It’s called MeteoEarth and it’s very ‘Google Earth’ like with a spinning globe, although you can display ‘flat’ maps. There are a number of basic overlays available, but they are just that quite basic, and the contoured pressure overlay does need further work to look right. It might be early days for their web application, because that’s what it really is, perhaps this is some kind of test bed. They seem to be encouraging people to embed MeteoEarth into their own websites, and you can also hook up to social media through various buttons. It makes me wonder if it resembles in any way the graphics engine that they are planning to use when they take over the BBC contract very shortly.

Figure 1 – Courtesy of MeteoGroup

The info box makes interesting reading as well…

Figure 2 – Courtesy of MeteoGroup

They are making use of global ECMWF data in the MeteoEarth, wouldn’t that be a turn up if they did the same thing at the BBC! I can’t see this happening somehow, especially the political ramifications of using European NWP data in preference to Met Office NWP data when, we are just about to begin the Brexit negotiations.