Percentages in weather forecasts

Back in the 90s, when everything went all high-tech and digital, TV weather presenters went giddy with the new technology available to them. Computer generated maps, satellite imaging, animated clouds; you could see them almost reach orgasm as they pressed their little button causing the screen behind them to morph and sparkle. Whereas before, Michael Fish would have a handful of weather symbols to stick (not always successfully) on the printed board next to him, now, at the click of a button, he could conjure weather fronts, cloud surface areas and the percentage chance of rain.

Hang on, come again? The percentage chance of rain? How does that help me exactly?

With the old method you would stick a rain symbol over London or you wouldn’t. It was either going to rain, or it wasn’t. Now you’re introducing probability to the mix? I didn’t tune in to a specific channel at a specific time to listen to a highly qualified person tell me that it might rain but it might not.  You’re a fucking meteorological expert; give me a forecast, not the odds! That’s what you purported to offer before. And now, just because you’ve gone all digital, you think a percentage or two makes the weather forecast better? It just makes it even more useless. I swear to God, it’s not unusual to hear a met expert declare that there’s a 50% chance of rain as if he or she is actually being helpful. All you’ve told me is that it’s either going to rain or it isn’t, you daft cunt! How does that help me decide whether to pack a fleece or a cagoule?

What’s that noise? Oh, it’s the Devil’s advocate telling me that surely it’s better that the forecast is open about the confidence of their predictions? Fuck that! When all they had was a sticky symbol, that had to make a choice – their reputation was on the line. If they put up a white cloud and then it rained, they would get lambasted for getting it wrong. You know what? I’m glad they had to agonise over that decision; it meant they had to think long and hard about what they told us plebs at home.

Now, the minute there’s even the slightest doubt, they just stick a percentage on it. “Oh it did rain? Well, I did say there was a 90% chance of it staying dry. What’s happened there is the 10% I predicted.”

It’s a lazy cop-out.

The only thing that is of any use to me, the viewer, is a 100% guarantee. Anything else and I might as well ask a magic 8 ball.


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