BBC weatherman: why I wait for the sun to come up
Published 05/07/2011 | 08:23
Ever since Michael Fish reassured viewers that there was no chance of a hurricane hours before the storm of the century, the BBC's weather forecasts have been met with a certain scepticism.
Now one of the corporation's top forecasters has confessed that he stays awake until dawn and peers at the sky to see if his reports were right.
Jay Wynne's admission will exasperate the millions of viewers who rely on the BBC for information about tomorrow's weather.
"I have been known to drive around after nightshifts, waiting for the sun to come up," said Wynne, who delivers forecasts on BBC One and BBC News 24. "At night, it's difficult to tell what kind of cloud there is on satellite pictures, so I like to see if I was right. More often than not, I am."
Wynne has a masters degree in applied meteorology from the University of Reading and more than a decade of experience with the BBC Weather Centre. He is one of several BBC forecasters interviewed about their craft in the new issue of Radio Times.
One of his colleagues, Nina Ridge, complained that members of the public expect her to be knowledgeable about the weather. "People always expect you to know the forecast, whether you've been at work or not," said Miss Ridge, a former PE teacher.
"I dropped the kids off at school this morning and the headteacher asked if it was going to rain on sports day on Thursday. It's a lot of pressure. Alex [Deakin, another BBC forecaster] was on holiday last week and he rang up and asked for a forecast because he wanted to play golf. That's almost more pressure than forecasting to the whole nation."
Michael Fish and Bill Giles, the BBC veterans, were also interviewed and Mr Fish was asked why weather presenters "always feel obliged to apologise for the rain".
"That should certainly not be true for mainstream BBC National Broadcast Meteorologists, though not necessarily for other presenters," Mr Fish replied. "When I was one of them, I used to impart on them in training that broadcasts must be impartial as you certainly can't please everyone all of the time."
David Blunkett, Britain’s former Labour Home Secretary, last week criticised the "flowery language and repetition" of many BBC forecasters. He singled out Liam Dutton, claiming that the weatherman had used the phrase "the rest of the day" eight times during the course of one report.
Mr Fish is retired from the Met Office but continues to present bulletins on BBC South East. In an infamous October 1987 broadcast, he said: "Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she had heard that there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you're watching: don't worry, there isn't."
A few hours later, southern Britain was battered by the worst storm since 1703, leaving 18 people dead and costing an estimated £1 billion in clear-up costs. Mr Fish maintains that he was referring to a hurricane in Florida and his words were taken out of context.
Mr Giles, who retired from the Met Office in 2000, was asked if there was any truth in old wives' tales about the weather.
While 'red sky at night, shepherd's delight...' has a basis in meteorology, the idea that cows can predict rain is bunkum. "Cows sitting down only means they are tired," he said.