Just in, says the release written to catch the eye of the busy New Zealand Herald newsdesk.

"Following WeatherWatch.co.nz's prediction late this morning of possible tornado activity in the upper North Island on Friday afternoon and evening, MetService has this afternoon updated their thunderstorm outlook to include a moderate risk of small tornadoes tomorrow."

This is weather one-upmanship. The message was sent on Thursday afternoon by the new(ish) weather kid on the block, Philip Duncan, whose goal is to provide the best weather service in town and who somewhat immodestly claims to often be faster and more accurate than the state forecaster, MetService.

Duncan's email to the newsdesk arrived two days after the deadly tornado in Albany - which no one had predicted, though the 33-year-old believes he came closest by sending out a warning to newsrooms of thunder storms and heavy rain for Albany and north.

Not bad for a former radio ad man with no formal qualifications in weather but who now runs his own weather business and has been in hot demand by media seeking to understand how a tornado suddenly descended on Auckland with such force, caused mayhem then almost as quickly disappeared.

Duncan, who nowadays also writes about the weather for the Herald Online, and has a column in the Herald On Sunday, says being taken seriously as a weather analyst has been slow coming but if he wasn't accurate, people wouldn't use him.

A Herald colleague mentioned that in the early days of Duncan getting his Weather Watch website off the ground (initially set up with The Radio Network but now all his own), his emails were persistent to the point of peskiness.

He's not offended. Anyone will tell you that, he grins from the Te Atatu Peninsula home he shares with Harry the bouncy golden retriever and Elliott the cat. And anyway, the persistence is paying off.

When we met him on the Wednesday after the Albany tornado he was waiting for a call from Jim Mora on Radio New Zealand, had been on television on Campbell Live the night before and was fielding calls from media in this country and abroad.

Is he cocky? Perhaps a bit, but he's a sunny and likeable character, too, and when you meet him the passion for the weather is plain to see, blasting from him like a windy day.

He's not a scientist, he says, but his radio background and love and understanding of people means he has a gift of communicating in a way that scientists often can't.

He has studied and loved the weather since forever and, yes, he's probably, in the way of weather fanatics, a little nutty.

You've got to be a little bit out there to live and breathe weather, he says.

"Weather people are really, what's the word I'm looking for? They're passionate and some of them are just not quite all there."

Who, exactly, does he mean? Surely not any of the MetService meteorologists?

"We're all different," he laughs.

"But the difference with me is I'm not a scientist. I've spoken to scientists who say they love data, they're really passionate about data, whereas I'm really passionate about people and communicating. "

If it's surprising that a weather analyst can have no qualifications in weather, Duncan's ability to explain complex weather events to the layman puts paid to any qualms.

He remembers being about 5 when he read his first weather book.

His father was the principal of Te Ranga Primary School in Te Puke, a tiny school of about 20 students.

The family lived in the school house and there was a little library where he discovered a book about how to read clouds.

"I used to just walk around with this book and point clouds out."

He also remembers ringing a friend who lived several kilometres away up a hill to see if it was raining, then he'd write a weather report and give it to his parents.

"I'd go, 'Here guys, it's going to rain in a minute.' And it did rain. I wasn't a bad little forecaster at 5 years old."

Of course, these days he bases his forecasts on scientific information and computer modelling which he buys in - but just like he used to ring his friend, he also has what he calls weather watchers dotted around the country who tell him what's happening.

These are not nutty weather folk with windchimes on the porch but mainly sensible people from his radio days.

It's important to have weather watchers despite the sophisticated data available these days - an aeroplane can land itself, he says, but it's comforting to have a pilot there too looking out the window.

Someone asked him the other day, he says, whether he worried that so many people relied on the forecasts put out by Weather Watch yet he and sidekick Richard Green in Christchurch were not meteorologists, and he said "no, not at all".

The worry is, he says, that they are so accurate in Auckland and are not meteorologists.

"I think that's because we have really good data we buy from met-eorologists - we're not making it up.

"We subscribe to the same scientific beliefs that the meteorologists believe, we're not some crazy sort of alternative wave.

"What we do is we buy the weather data and then we interpret it the way we think is the most accurate way of interpreting it."

Which in a roundabout way brings us back to MetService.

In press releases and news reports on his website, Duncan refers to the agency not by name but as "the government forecaster".

He doesn't think they like him very much, which is a shame because he'd love to work closely with them.

Despite what people might think, Duncan says he has huge admiration for the meteorologists there, and he loves their weather ambassador, Bob McDavitt, whose white hair reminds him of clouds.

He says the MetService thunderstorm warnings and outlooks are brilliant and their land warnings are pretty good too.

But here's his gripe. MetService, he says, despite being government-owned, are a commercial organisation first and foremost and as such do not provide enough access to their rain radar - and there are public safety issues at stake here.

The rain radar is a moving weather map which shows rain as it traverses the country.

Unlike many other countries, MetService only makes available to the public hourly updates and if you want more than that you have to pay for it.

Once an hour is simply not that helpful, says Duncan.

"The best analogy I can think of is it's like a rugby game and the commentator gives you an update once an hour."

With the Albany tornado you could see it arriving and then going but you couldn't see it when it was right overhead.

In America, he says, people can flick on the weather channel and watch a live, moving radar then make decisions about what to do next.

Duncan's dream is for people here to access this sort of information all the time.

Take the Mangatepopo Gorge canyoning disaster in 2008 where seven died in a flash flood, he says.

"If a rain radar service had been free and animated it might not have made any difference to that outcome - but it might have."

He doesn't want to scaremonger, either, and sat on his storm warning on Tuesday for 15 minutes before deciding it had to go out.

"What we really want to do is tell people look, there's something nasty coming, just stay inside for a while."

We go outside so Duncan can look at the weather and he suddenly shares his anxious side.

Even cheery weather men can get low fronts.

Harry, who's been shoving a chewed tennis ball at his master throughout the interview indoors, is now dashing in mad circles around the lawn.

"He nearly died a few years ago," Duncan volunteers.

"He swallowed my anti-anxiety pills, it was very, very touch and go."

The younger Duncan was anxious because he was going through a marriage break-up, but the weather is an anxious job anyway, he says.

You can forecast thunderstorms which arrive in one part of Auckland but completely miss another part and cop a lot of flak.

It's stomach-churning, too, watching the kind of weather roll in which you know may hurt people.

Duncan says he's developing a thicker skin and is fine now, and so is Harry.

He looks up at the sky, which is a blanket of grey with no wind.

This gloomy, bland weather is his least favourite, he says.

"I like heavy rainstorms. When everyone else is going 'the weather is crap' I'm going this is the best weather ever.

"I love the storms, I love the rain, but I love the big sunny spells, too. I want the sun to come back out now 'cause I've had enough of this stuff.

"I like the turbulent nature of the weather and the fact it changes all the time, and I like the fact we can't 100 per cent predict it so there's still an element of surprise."

Harry calms down from his mad circles and Duncan says that when he brought him back from the vet, "and this is one of the nicest stories I've got about him", it was spring and the dog sat on the lawn and looked around at the flowers and the bees and the clouds and it was a magic moment.

"It was like the only time I've ever seen a pet after a near-death experience appreciating life and nature."

Duncan was raised Christian but says nature is his religion now.

"I know that sounds strange but ..." and he tells how he went to Atlanta in 2009 to check out the Weather Channel and headed to Nebraska.

It still had snow in the carpark from one of the biggest snowstorms ever, yet when he was there it was one of the hottest days on record.

"That's what I love. America has the best weather in the world.

"I love [it] because no matter how much behind the scenes work you do, the weather's still the boss and it still surprises us and keeps us on our toes. How boring would it be if we always knew what was going to happen ..."