April 2017 – Weather World

Figure 1 – Courtesy of Armagh Observatory

I’ve just watched another interesting installment of Weather World on the BBC and noticed from the credits that it was written by Nick Miller. He and Sarah Keith-Lucas hosted the proceedings that were centred at a number of locations in Northern Ireland:

  • Belfast International Airport – Aldergrove to you and me, and saw why weather is so important for aviation at airports.
  • Ulster Aviation Society Museum – where they looked at the history of ‘weather flights’ across the Atlantic.
  • Armagh Observatory – and saw how observations are made today, and at their long running climate recordings, which started on the 27th of December 1794.

I’ve changed some sunshine cards in my time at a number of stations across the UK, some of the locations that the recorder was sited were far from ideal, but the observatory at Armagh as a novel approach to getting around the problems of trees getting in the way, the sunshine recorder sits in a lift like device that raises and lowers the old Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder what looks like 50 foot into the air (fig 1), I hope after that platform doesn’t affect the wind speeds that they measure from the anemometer up there though. They take their weather observations very seriously at Armagh!

At a 24 hour station you could always change the sunshine card late in the evening, it seems strange to see it being changed at 09 UTC in the morning, there were times that someone forgot to change the card, or on very wet days the card almost disintegrated because it was so wet.  Seagulls also liked to attack the cards for some reason, and then there was the perilous job of checking the previous shift’s sunshine card, was that a continuous burn or not, and just when did you start or stop measuring the trace at sunrise and sunset?

I like Sean Kelly the weather observer at Armagh, he’s been doing the job for the last 18 years, and seems to have the right attitude to technology, they’ve tried automatic weather stations in the past, but found that they weren’t reliable enough. That’s what we said in the Met Office for over 30 years, we had a good run for our money but in the end we were replaced by an AWS, try getting a job as a weather observer at the Jobcentre now, Sean might well be one of the last one of us left here in the UK. Nick explained about how observations are taken each morning at 9 o’clock, “this weather ritual that has been happening for over 200 years” he said, except for last Tuesday when it looks like they had a day off (fig 2).

Figure 2 – Courtesy of the BBC

Given the brief from the producer, and the time constraints of the program, Nick Miller did a pretty good job in getting his story across, Sarah Keith-Lucas came across as a really nice person that I’m sure she is. Interestingly they kept it to just the two of them, and wisely in my opinion, didn’t include any input from the ubiquitous Carol Kirkwood. It’s possible that the BBC have decided to use Nick Miller for these kind of programs in favour of John Hammond from now on, and maybe that’s the reason why he decided to take an early shower.

Dust Storms

Image 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

I watched a fascinating documentary on BBC4 the other night about dust storms and what a serious risk they pose to people’s health, especially in the Middle East, dust storms might look dramatic but they must make people’s lives a misery. I liked the matter of fact tone of the documentary, which is in marked contrast to many other ‘scientific’ documentaries that you see from the BBC about weather and climate in recent years, that’s probably because it was a program made for the BBC World service.

Apparently the Sahara is the source of 50% of all dust in the world’s atmosphere, and 25% of dust storms can be attributed to man, but it’s something we can do something about, if countries can only work together. I had heard about the ecological disaster that man had made of the Aral Sea in the early 1960s, but Lake Urmia in Iran was news to me, a terminal salt lake that’s shrunk to less than 40% of its former size is yet another disaster to add to that list, and because the fine particles from the sediments in the dried out lake bed are an ideal source of dust in storms because they can be so easily lifted by the wind.

You can find the program on iPlayer for the next month and I encourage you to watch it. 

Image 2 – Lake Urmia courtesy of the BBC

Look back at Sunday’s maximum temperatures

I thought that I would look back at yesterday’s (9th April 2017) maximum temperatures forecast by the BBC. This is not a moan about the temperature contrast across the south of the country, their most certainly was a good contrast, it’s more to do with the sites that the BBC choose as representative of their region and label in their graphics. The one that infuriates me the most is Plymouth in the southwest. There is a method in their madness though, because the Met Office bonus is dependent on how these extreme temperatures are scored in verification, choosing a coastal site (which is difficult not to do on an Island) can pay dividends, because the extremes, and therefore any potential misses are not as large. I believe that yesterday’s maximum temperature of 20.0°C at Exeter was more representative for the whole of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset, than a forecast maximum of 14°C was for Plymouth, and even here the temperature reached 16.8°C. Rather oddly many of the temperatures on the chart don’t reflect the colour filled temperature contours that they are overlaid on, for example, a forecast maximum of just 16°C at Birmingham was always going to be wrong but the background colour is a mid-orange colour.

I think that I would have the full support of the South West Tourist board if the BBC put a little more thought into how they forecast regional temperatures.

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

I couldn’t help myself and resist scoring the maximum temperatures on the chart, if anything it underlines the fact that the Met Office model seems to have as many problems underestimating maximum temperatures as it does overestimating low cloud at the moment.

Figure 2

Where would you go to catch the sun?

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

Where would you go for a day out and catch the sun? It’s a simple enough question, but I bet the majority of the people who saw this chart wouldn’t say the southwest of England.

I don’t know why this surprises me because I moan about it every time spring and summer come around. The BBC presenters in past years have done irreparable damage to the tourist industry of the southwest with misleading charts like this. It doesn’t matter how many times that you complain that a maximum temperature for Plymouth Hoe is just not representative for the whole of the southwest peninsula (especially in a SE’ly) it has absolutely no effect in the slightest.

To be fair weather presenters must feel a little left out and neglected once the named storm season and all that gesticulating and arm waving that goes with it have finished, so they return to their first love, extreme temperatures, and if they are occurring in the southeast of England so much the better!

BBC News: ‘New’ wave-like cloud finally wins official recognition

© Courtesy of Gary McArthur and the BBC

I saw that the ‘New’ wave-like cloud asperitas has finally won official recognition on the BBC News. All we’ve got to work out what its exact name is when we see it, apparently its now just called plain asperitas, which is a shame, because undulatus asperatus does have more of a ring to it.

Undulatus asperatus above Tallinn – Courtesy of Ave Maria Mõistlik and Wikipedia



Do you watch the weather with the volume down?

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

Do you watch the weather with the volume down? I would just like to admit for the record, that when I watch the weather forecast on the BBC (I rarely watch ITV weather), it’s more often than not with the volume on mute. Yes, I know it’s very childish but I can’t help it, perhaps it has something to do with some kind of weird syndrome that I have, although I occasionally relent for presenters like John Hammond.

Why do I do it? Well to be honest, and as most of you know, I am pretty outspoken, and I do like to voice any criticism of the forecast or how it’s been presented directly to the TV set, almost as if the presenter is in the same room. I’ve found that this, and the occasional blaspheming that sometimes accompanies it, puts a strain on our marriage, and it’s just safer to listen in silence, because at least then I can’t complain about something that I can’t hear, but that still leaves the graphics, or the forecast temperatures to have a go at, and believe me I do!

On that point of ‘why do I bother watching at all’, it’s probably because at present the BBC is the only place that I can see the latest NWP model data that the Met Office generate. As most of you know, the Met Office jealously guard all its detailed NWP model data, and it’s not readily accessible in any detail from the Internet. This could change if MeteoGroup, who are imminently poised to take over the BBC contract decide to make use of free GFS data from the Americans rather than buy it from the Met Office. It would be perfectly possible for them to run the service without Met Office NWP data. Of course, but they would also require climatological and observational data, satellite imagery, weather radar, and SFERIC data, and for that they still might require the help of the Met Office.

It will be interesting to see what changes MeteoGroup may introduce when they take over in the next few weeks, perhaps it will be more dynamic and somehow brighter, but the presenters won’t change, and the BBC will want to make the transfer as seamless as possible, so you might be hard pressed to notice any change apart from the logo at the start (fig 1).

There is one place that will not change data provider this Spring though, and that’s the daily video forecast from the Met Office site itself. The graphics are pretty good, and apart from certain map projections that squash Scotland, and the way the new graphics engine render fronts (you see I’m at it again), it’s usually very good (fig 2). Who knows, the way television is migrating, or should that be mutating, from a terrestrial broadcast service to an internet streaming service, this is how we’ll watch TV and weather forecasts in the future.

Figure 2 – Courtesy of Met Office (you’ll notice it was muted)

Reykjavik time-lapse captures overnight snowfall

I was a bit late on this one but I saw this on the BBC this morning and thought that you might like to see it:

Reykjavik time-lapse captures overnight snowfall – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-39108533

Does disaster just follow him or is he just having a laugh?

Image 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

I noticed that Tomasz Schafernaker had an occlusion heading in the wrong direction into tonight’s 6.30 PM weather on BBC1. I get the feeling that this guy knows exactly what he’s doing, and is just having a laugh, but I could be wrong. I bet the Met Office are so glad that he’s not their problem anymore, not that they could control him very well either, because I believe he was either suspended for a time, or maybe even sacked and eventually reinstated by them. I notice that on yesterday’s Countryfile program that he was also up to high jinks as well, some tweets even suggesting that he was tipsy, I just wonder what his colleagues make of him?

Image 2 – Courtesy of Twitter

Exeter catches the BBC out again in more ways than one…

The -5.2°C overnight minimum at Exeter airport last night caught out not only David Braine in the Spotlight SW weather forecast at 6.55 PM, but also John Hammond in the later national forecast at the BBC.

Figure 1

It’s always very difficult gleaning evidence after the event in any BBC forecast from the previous day, suffice it to say the -5.2°C (fig 1) was considerably lower than either presenter forecast.  Even the forecast temperatures for 08 UTC this morning left a lot to be desired (fig 2 & 3).

Figure 2 – Courtesy of the BBC

Figure 3

Fog all day at Exeter

What annoyed me with David Braine last night is the fact that even though Exeter Airport had been in fog all day on Tuesday, with visibilities of 100 or 200 metres and a maximum of 1.8°C (as had we in Bradninch), he never even bothered to mention it. The plot grid (fig 4) is especially for David as a reminder that it might be a very good idea to have a look at a handful of observations from across the southwest before going on air. Even Holly made a quick reference to the fog in ‘southeast Devon’ in the weather at 1.40 PM. As for the Spotlight news team, they were probably too busy having another go at the NHS to mention any travel disruptions at a distant airport, but I digress…

Figure 4

I can’t believe that hundreds of people weren’t inconvenienced by not being able to fly where they wanted to yesterday (and in the last week) from Exeter. Surely that’s newsworthy to the people of the southwest? When David did mention fog in his presentation, it was with a passing reference to Dorset and Somerset. Curiously the fog that had blighted the airport for days cleared by the early hours by drier air that had been advected up from France.

Minimum Temperatures

As for his stab at the minimum temperatures they were wildly on the high side, he was too busy going on about how cold it will feel on Thursday when the wind picks up, the increased wind chill in the strong SE’ly wind, and what a shock to the system it will be.  And I do know that Exeter Airport is a well-known cold spot, which doesn’t excuse the insertion of an extra low value on the chart to cover this possibility.

Plymouth Centric Spotlight

It may have been much milder in Plymouth, but for a number of mornings in the last week I’ve been scraping the ice of our car, so I know how cold it’s been in our part of Devon. All I can conclude is just how Plymouth centric both his, and the rest of the Spotlight news teams thinking really is.

At 08 UTC this part of mid-Devon was covered white in frost as the sun was rising and the sky was a gorgeous Mediterranean blue, the temperature at Exeter Airport was a full 12°C colder than it was at Plymouth, it’s as if we were in a different world, because of course geographically we are.

BBC News: Spectacular cloud photographed over Australia

Courtesy of the BBC

I saw this spectacular cloud photographed over Australia on the BBC news and thought that you might like to see it.