Escaping from the tyranny of Mild

What odd weather we had the past couple of weeks. Nothing to worry about, though, so please continue driving and flying as if we weren’t already past peak oil. Enjoyment of my daily commute depends a great deal on the weather, combined with how I end up dressing for it. So I’m an assiduous meteo-nut, looking for the most accurate, most detailed, most suitable and contextually sensitive forecasts available: radio narratives, maps, textual descriptions, tabular data, graphs…. Anything I can find, really.

Broadcasted radio forecasts seem to compete in their uselessness: Radio 4 embeds it within the Today Programme‘s bunfight journalism, to make sure you tune away and miss it; Radio 2 only gives a level of detail that might help between the doors of your Renault and the office; BBC 6 Music I don’t think does weather at all, certainly not worth speaking about; local weather is a mobile and hard-to-find beast; and Radio 3 surpasses itself, with a kind of anti-information coupled to occasional focusses on single cities, based solely on arts festivals that might be running that day. As if Chopin needed the sun.

Meanwhile, all of these forecasters scramble over each other in their efforts to segue seamlessly from talk of drought conditions and hosepipe bans, to hasty, panicked overuse of the word “mild” to describe their likely cause. It’s mild; the weather’s mild; mild for this time of the year; mild conditions; mild, mild, mild. Petroc Trelawney prefers to use the word “marld” instead, as this is a trigger word which activates Telegraph sleeper cells who haven’t yet gone to queue outside the post office that morning.

In despair, I usually migrate to online forecasters, despite the ruinous effect a glowing iPad has on my usually gradual awakening. Metcheck these days has finally stopped being an engine for generating Microsoft IIS errors, being instead an engine for generating standard HTTP 403 errors. Weatherspark is nice, although its reliance on Flash means I have to start up a laptop in bed to read it, and it’s not always spot on with the predictions. Rain Today? is a one-hit wonder with limited forecasting power, but still useful. And Accuweather gives a slightly frothy overview of the day, which wouldn’t be so bad were the website not also hard to dig around on to get beneath the froth; and anyone born in the late 1970s would be incapable of taking seriously anyone called “Brett Anderson” talking about climate change.

The king of sites remains – despite its cramped, spidery, ASP-like layout and fonts – the Met Office itself. You have to hunt a bit for the wealth of detail: they still haven’t really worked out how to present it properly, without hiding some bits behind a pseudo-hierarchy of pseudo-tabs that are too small for iPad fingers. But any meteorological site, which situates forecasts and recent observations so close together in its interface, deserves enormous respect for being both focussed on the user’s desire for knowledge and also unafraid of being somehow blamed for weather’s inherent unpredictability. Now, if they could only sort that out, then there’s a service I’d pay for.

This entry was posted in climate, environment, journalism, location, media, radio, research, technology, truth, understanding, web. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Escaping from the tyranny of Mild

  1. looby says:

    Shhh! That last sentence!

    I have on my desktop, but yes, I like the Met Office best too. I like the way it flatters this amateur into doing a bit of home forecasting: you look at the pressure patterns and the precipitation radar, and you can have a go yourself.

    They seem to be one Government department who have naturalised the instinct to share useful information and their methods, rather than keep it hidden away or charge for it.

  2. smallbeds says:

    I know, I know; I’m tempting fate. It just saddens me that I was so close at one point to actually spending money on Metcheck.

    I like Weather Online. I will put that on my list.

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