The Weather Forecast

Wednesday, May 31, 2000 by

Serving a small but useful function we often take The Weather Forecast for granted.

Tonight Helen Young did the honours and took us on a whistle stop tour of the British Isles just before the Techno-wizardry of Terminator 2 on BBC1. Each forecast has a different format during the week, ranging from the black magic prophesy of the Farming Outlook at Sunday lunchtime to the carefree holiday-minded Friday evening look at the hotspots of Europe. On Wednesdays we are treated to the weekend outlook. Dressed a little clumsily in a blue jacket and red skirt Helen enthusiastically explained about rain sweeping in from the west and the likelihood of another wet weekend to enjoy. The terminology is achingly familiar and almost as poetic as its more technical sister The Shipping Forecast. The terms “Cold Front” and “Low Pressure” slipped comfortably acknowledged into our subconscious. We need not know precisely what they mean but we understand the message: Rain. The map in the background held the British Isles laid bare to the symbolic elements sinisterly appearing at the press of the magic button.

There is little time to digress into the strange microclimates that exist, and a broad sweep of the hand sees the relentless marching of another band of rain across the country. No region is forgotten yet no location is mentioned; as the constraints of time prevent us from learning how bad it will be in Rotherham, that is left to the local soothsayers of the regional news.

Helen must have lingered far too long on the spur of rain that will affect Cornwall tomorrow as her last few sentences were fast and almost gushing, a race against time to avoid being cut off mid-sentence, one which tonight she wins and we are left with her sweet Cheshire cat smile before cutting to a trailer.

This is one of the last bastions of live broadcasting remaining; the very nature of the weather keeps the presenters on their toes – they must continually change their script in a battle of wits for which they know they cannot win, only match. The fear of getting it wrong was once lighthearted, but since that fateful October when the hurricane hit the south of England there is more pressure to be correct.

The job done, message conveyed it’s time again to watch for the minutest change in their many charts and satellite photos. The Weather Forecast is a will o’ the wisp, ever-changing, amorphous: something we can never fully grasp. And it is something that will never be kept and treasured like the latest costume drama or held up for scrutiny and regard like a serious documentary. The weather is the appendix to the news, forgotten by most, but fulfilling its role in the great order of things.


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