Weather Watch

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

Weather Watch: Forecasters under pressure to get it right

Farmers need to keep an eye on the forecast. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Farmers need to keep an eye on the forecast. Photo / Brett Phibbs

When I first got into weather forecasting I thought it would be simple - we check the data, we make a prediction, the forecast is either accurate or it's not. However, over the years, I've grown to see that among the people who want my opinion are some who have no understanding of the most basic weather maps, and some who know more than I do.

Most people just want the basics - hot or cold, wet or dry.

Waikato resident Helen Ryan told me she likes to shop around for her weather. "I usually refer to a couple of forecasts, to make comparisons, mostly online. I have also been known to check out the Sky weather channel, as restricted as it is only giving a two-day forecast. In addition, I watch the national news weather at least four to five times per week, so I have all bases covered."

But reading the maps? Like many other New Zealanders, Ryan mostly just wants the forecast. "Ninety-five per cent of the time I am solely reliant on what you and other forecasters predict.

I suppose I need to break that habit and try to read a map - maybe I'm too lazy!"

When it comes to the farming community, many prefer the maps and want less of the generic banter.

Most who work on a farm or orchard know the weather well. I think of them as secret weather geeks. Many own weather stations, watch hours of weather forecasts each week and make up their own predictions. Many of my family friends still farm, and at every opportunity will talk to me about it.

I love working with farmers because, as I said, they share my passion for weather.

Country99TV news producer Drew Chappell says forecasts are vital for farmers. "Feedback from farmers confirms that in-depth big-picture weather reports are critical to their success and planning.

"From a heads-up on when it's clear to begin harvesting to the warning that a freak front is on the way and it's time to get stock to higher ground, informed and detailed weather analysis can make a vital difference on the farm."

So I may get frequent playful digs from farmers and other weather enthusiasts, but they need and want forecasters - even if only to have someone qualified to affirm their own predictions.

- Herald on Sunday

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