Neil Pickford tests the temperature
I write this dispatch surrounded by the sounds of gunfire, explosions and the screams of dying men.
I’m at home and my son is playing ‘Call of Duty’ on Xbox LIVE next to me.
I was taking a few days off work and had been thinking about rain. It’s not surprising– my wife had democratically decided we should use this time to lay a new path in the garden and it was quite important to timetable parts of the process around the weather or the whole project would be a disaster.
Regular consultations of the Met Office website were therefore in order – and we were delighted to see that it’s been rejigged to give even better, far more localised information. Now we can choose to receive weather forecasts that focus on either Beverley Racecourse or The Friary – far better than a generalised Hull-centred picture. I registered from the 5-day forecast that a given day was going to be perfect for concrete-laying – then was somewhat surprised to find it raining on the morning in question.
As I kept going back to the site I started to notice that things weren’t quite as fixed as I might expect. It seemed to me that all these tables, so confidently predicting what was going to happen within a few hundred yards of me during any given period over the next 100 hours were somewhat – how can I say it politely? – flexible. Data seemed to be changing constantly.
I thought I owed it to myself, and my readers, to conduct a scientific exercise and find out how reliable these Met Office Five Day forecasts really are.
I selected mid-afternoon on my first day back at work as my focus. I then downloaded the prediction for that day on each of the five leading up to it, noting the changes. Here are the results:
Four days in advance – Met Office prediction: Light shower day
Three days – Prediction: Light shower day
Two days – Prediction: Thunder shower day
One day – Prediction: Thunder
The day itself – Prediction (on-line at 8am): Heavy rain
The reality was different. At 8am (when I was cycling to work) it was raining fairly heavily but soon the rain had ended and, apart from a few spots at lunch time and late afternoon the day was mainly overcast with occasional flashes of sunshine. In other words, pretty much a total fail (excuse me – that’s one of those modern phrases I’ve recently picked up from my gun-toting son).
Remember that these results come from the same computers used to tell us how climate is going to change over the next few hundred years. Hmmmmm.
Mind you, there were flash floods in Pocklington at lunch time, so that might be where the water all went but, hey, it’s not me who’s claiming to predict where each individual rain drop is going to land.
Many years ago The Two Ronnies joked that the man who stuck his finger out of the window to test the weather for the Met Office had gone to work for British Railways, where he got twice as much job satisfaction. On current form I reckon they need to tempt him back.
And that gives me an idea – a Minster-orientated service that’s far more accurate than the Met Office and doesn’t need millions of pounds spent on stupid computers.
I’ll send my son up the north tower and he’ll be able to tell you whether the weather is going to waver – it’ll do us both good to get him away from the Xbox.