You can significantly increase the accuracy of a weather forecast by slipping in a few extra words. For example, instead of "Showers" on Friday, writing "More sunshine than showers" gives you a good indication that it's going to be a pretty nice day. Or instead of "Few Showers" it becomes "A pretty wet day". For wind, instead of "Fresh westerlies" it becomes "Westerlies, a little breezy at times".
The point I'm trying to make is that slapping one label on to 24 hours of weather just isn't accurate enough - and certainly not in a country that's famous for having four seasons in one day.
Unfortunately weather icons or one or two words are the quickest and easiest way to let you know what the week's weather will be like at a glance. But I challenge that as being the "olden days" - and I see no reason why we can't use GIFS (icons that show more than 1 image) or slightly longer sentences in the forecasts.
The arguments against this will be that we're adding an opinion to what is, in theory, a scientifically thought out description. But that's a funny way to look at it. A great example is in Auckland. If someone asks you "What's the weather like outside?" you're answer would pretty rarely be - in fact I'll go out on a limb and say never be - "Showers chiefly in the west". I think it might be more like "Pretty sunny, could be a shower". Or "Some showers out west, otherwise fine". Why don't we use this language in our forecasts?
If you're about to hang out your washing, wouldn't you rather know that the forecast is for "One or two showers but nothing significant" rather than "Scattered showers"?
Going back to that wind term - fresh. It's an old sea term which means nothing in this day and age. Ask most people and they'll think it means "cold and strong". It simply relates to the strength and has nothing to do with the temperature.
I prefer to use the terms we use on a day to day basis. Eg: "Sou'westers a little gusty at times" ..."westerlies maybe a little breezy". Or long range, it might just be "Wet and windy"- rather than "Scattered showers, moderate easterlies".
Language is very important and can make such a difference with just a few tweaks. That's why we've started including wind chill and humidex readings to our weather news stories and the weather forecasts currently on trial on our Auckland radio stations Easy Mix and Flava. Windchill and Humidex - both known as the "Feels like" temperature, gives you a better idea of how the day will feel.
For example, a cold southerly along with a high of 10 degrees may feel more like 2 degrees in the wind. That is more relevant than the actual air temperature. In Summer, the humidity can play a big part. If the high is 26 but the humidex says it feels more like 35 - that's going to explain why you didn't get any sleep last and why you broke out in a sweat walking to your mailbox!!
In fact, I challenge the whole system of having a day time high. Put it this way - it's winter and the high is 15 - you think that's not too cold so you dress accordingly. What you don't realise is the cloud cover means it's going to be 10 or 11 all day - and not until 3pm will it touch 15 degrees for just a few minutes, then drop back down again.
How relevant was knowing that high? Or how about those who live in Christchurch? Eg, today's high is 26 degrees - at 10am it hits 26 before the cold front rolls through then for the rest of the day it's more like 16. Perhaps the days "Average Temperature" might be more appropriate?
I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on this. Can we improve? What are your ideas? Is it fine as it is? Post your comments here or send me an email at the Weather Watch Centre.
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