The chances of storm Fionn are looking more doubtful in the light of the 12 UTC run of the GFS model (fig 1). It’s still certainly going to be very windy across more southern areas, but with the low tracking a more southerly track across northern England closer to 53° rather than 56° north, the risk of severe gales further north has diminished. The gradient in this run across the south is tight, but not as tight as in previous runs, that’s because the low itself is now expected to have a central pressure of 983 hPa rather than 971 hPa at 00 UTC on Thursday, which also robs it of its “explosive cyclogenesis” label. Quite a change – I wonder if it’s a blip that won’t be repeated in future runs, or has the model latched on to some changes upstream that have taken some of the fire out of its development?
The GFS (fig 1) and the UKMO models (fig 2) are in broad agreement about the position and intensity of storm Fionn at 00 UTC on Thursday. I say storm Fionn because this must be a sure-fire bet now, and probably the weather community’s worst kept secret. I wonder if Met Éireann will nip it and name it before the UKMO does because it looks like so far this season they seem to be taking it in turns.
From the limited NWP data that I can access from the Met Office it seems the track in this T+72 is much further north than in the earlier run. They’ve also shortened the 1000 km bent back occlusion they had in that run, and it with this feature that the strongest gusts occur in storm Fionn. If the GFS is to believed, the strongest winds will be in a swathe across Northern Ireland and northern England. A rough calculation makes the speed the lows moving eastward at around 50 knots, so it’ll be all over by dawn on Thursday. I see the Met Office have an early warning of strong winds in place for Thursday for the whole country south of 56° north, but no word yet about whether it will be named Fionn. Isn’t NWP just wonderful and a marvel of science, allowing us to speculate about severe gales from a low that doesn’t even exist yet.
Another cyclogenetic episode this week as it looks quite likely that storm Fionn will rush eastward across central Scotland from the Atlantic at around 60 knots if the latest forecast from the GFS is correct. If I’ve done my calculations right, the low will have moved 2,678 km and deepened by 36 hPa in the 24 hours ending at 06 UTC on Thursday – so it’s not hanging around!
From the only relevant forecast chart I can find from the Met Office (fig 2), it looks like they track the low further south at 52° rather than 56° north, which I can only imagine would impact even more of the population. The question I have about that particular forecast chart is how come a low that’s only 24 hours old has a bent back occlusion wrapped around the length of that one?
Cold air has returned to put a stop to the warm snap across the eastern United States. That’s the plotted 3 hourly observations for the last week (fig 1) for Albany in New York state. Last Sunday they were reporting temperatures as low as -22.8°C, but a warm snap rapidly warmed things out from Wednesday, and by 00 UTC last night Albany were reporting a 18-00 maximum of 17.2°C, then just 15 hours later the temperature has fallen by 24.4°C as cold air flooded southward, so by 15 UTC this afternoon it was -7.2°C and snowing again. Quite an amazing sequence of rapid warming and cooling. Here’s the thermograph (fig 2).
Why do BBC weather presenters always stand on the left*?
I suppose the simple answer to that is because it’s were they have been told to stand by the producer. In recent years the BBC presenters have definitely become more animated with their arms and hands gesticulating in an attempt to show the inner workings of any intense storm that comes along, but they always have remained on the left. There’s no comparison these days between the almost static approach of Michael Fish and Tomasz Schafernaker for instance, but I’m sure if he were allowed to move – instead of being almost nailed to the spot – then he would.
* It’s obvious that I’ve never been a presenter, because after writing this I realised that BBC presenters do in fact stand on the right – so I should clarify that I mean on the ‘left’ of the viewers screen!
Why the left’s not good for the UK
Our weather in the UK is predominantly driven by the Atlantic Ocean and comes in from the west or southwest – so where do we position the presenter? Yes, precisely in the wrong place – where any low pressure or frontal system first shows its hand. I’m not suggesting they should all now stand on the right, or that they should be continually moving around, what I’m suggesting is to let them decide where to stand depending on the weather situation. For instance if the flow was westerly the right hand side of the screen would be surely the best place. (I’m not suggesting for one moment that in a southerly situation that we should suspend them by sky hooks and drop them down from the ceiling of the studio on a pulley hoist, it’s a great idea, but I’m sure health and safety wouldn’t be keen).
What do they do elsewhere?
I thought that I’d take a quick look round the world and see which side of the screen other weather presenters stood. It looks like in Western Australia they stand on the right, it might be that the left might be better here though (fig 2).
In New Zealand they also seem to stand on the right, but standing on the right looks far better than standing on the right because of the geography of New Zealand (fig 3).
In America covering the entire country from west to east means that nailing the presenters shoes down on the left will definitely not work. The presenter can freely move around to point out weather on the east coast just as Bill Murray did in Groundhog Day (fig 4).
At least the BBC presenters can rotate a little on the spot, but the forecasters of Meteo France seem to have both feet firmly rooted to the studio floor with their upper body hardly swivelling at all (fig 5).
The Germans are pretty mobile, but again they favour the right rather than the left, perhaps it’s because most people are right-handed and that suits them better (fig 6).
The Irish seem to have gone along with the BBC and stand on the left (fig 7), but again why not be daring and stand on the right!
Not surprisingly there’s been little thought given down at the Met Office to doing any differently from how its been done for the last 63 years at the BBC, with Alex Deakin again stood on the left, completely blocking any potential developments at 50N and 50W in the NWP forecast animation (fig 8). It’s such a pity, because the graphic are great, and it looks like they’ve still not managed to figure out how to change the spacing for those ridiculously closely packed barbs on all the cold/warm/occluded fronts produced by their new graphics engine, compare it to how it should look in the German and New Zealand graphics.
In my quick tour of the world of weather forecasts, courtesy of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, I would say the majority of presenters still stand on the left rather than the right for some unknown reason, but I think things maybe be slowly changing as the weather presenter is “unchained” and becomes more mobile.
It maybe that weather presenters stand on the left around the world because on the 11th of January 1954 – George Cowling (fig 8) presented the world’s first live broadcast weather forecast on BBC TV – probably stood on the left (I can’t be certain because I don’t think there’s a video of that forecast), or then again maybe not.
There’s change coming to the BBC weather this spring though, because Meteogroup are taking over. I’m not sure if they are going to use weather graphics supplied by Metraweather, but if they do they may well swap from the left to the right, or maybe even allow them to be as mobile as the presenters are on Channel TG4 in Ireland are who do use Metraweather (fig 9). This is how a weather forecast should be presented, with the presenter unfettered to move about wherever he or she wants depending on the situation – very impressive.
The way January 2018 is going it looks a safe bet it won’t feature in either the warmest or coldest top thirty lists by the end of the month (fig 1). January’s have steadily been warming in the last 140 years in Central England at the rate of 0.85°C per 100 years, and the last cold one was back in 2010, in fact cold January’s are very much a rarity these days (fig 2).