Weather Watch
Weather analyst Philip Duncan checks the forecast and the story behind the temperatures

Weather Watch: A cliffhanger story every day, everywhere

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Weather really is the ultimate language. It's universal, it affects every human, shapes our news, our history, brings life and takes it away, makes money, costs us money. And despite the mega millions pumped into predicting it, forecasters still are nowhere near 100 per cent accuracy - even if some think they are.

Whether you're in the middle of Russia, the south of Florida, the top of Everest or on a tropical island, the weather forecast is something most of us check every day.

The weather also brings us together. Severe weather events that physically tear a community apart usually lead to the community bonding and strengthening. But not always.

In a few weeks I will visit New Orleans, perhaps more famous now for Hurricane Katrina than for jazz and blues and its French Quarter. You could argue it's also more famous for the BP oil spill.

When Katrina slammed into the city in 2005 many argued the US government failed it and its people. The community has fallen apart in a number of parishes (suburbs) and I'm going there, finally, to witness what Mother Nature can do to a well-established city, and to see why tens of thousands of people have not returned.

Communicating the weather is much like reading short thrillers all by the same author. Something may or may not be coming; may or may not be damaging; may or may not affect plans. Cliffhanger until tomorrow's episode.

Some meteorologists criticised our early discussions of last week's incoming low, not because it wasn't going to happen, but because the actual rapid deepening of the low was mostly taking place out at sea.

Yet, if we focused on the weather directly over us each day, it'd be a boring story, and incredibly shortsighted. Like a traffic report for your side-street rather than the motorways.

A huge number of storms churn away out there. Most miss us, but each year a few don't. That's why we monitor and communicate the facts.

Weather really is the ultimate language - a mood killer to talk about while on a date, but a hell of a way to ease awkward social moments, because it's a conversation we can all take part in.

- Herald on Sunday

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