Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weather forecasting

click photo to enlarge
The ease or difficulty of weather forecasting depends a great deal on location.The weather of continental areas in the centres of large land masses is, by and large, reasonably predictable. The weather forecast of a western maritime location, such as that of the British Isles, is much harder to get right. The Gulf Steam together with pressure systems and their associated winds and precipitation make accurate forecasting a challenge. It also helps to account for the frequency with which the weather is a topic of conversation in these islands!

Given that, I'm at a loss to understand why the UK's Meteorological Office publishes forecasts that aim to be accurate for any three hours at locations that may be only a dozen or so miles apart, based on recording stations that are spread much more thinly. Not surprisingly these detailed forecasts are often wrong. Equally unsurprisingly they are updated regularly during the day reducing their value as longer term forecasts.

In my experience some parts of the UK's forecasts are better than others. Wind direction seems to be the most reliable element followed by wind strength. The extent of cloud cover and whether or not the sun will shine is less accurate. However, in my part of the world the forecast for precipitation is often abysmal. Or perhaps, living in one of England's drier areas, during a year when we have had very low rainfall, it just seems that way. The main point I want to make is that I would be less critical of the forecasts and would actually find them more useful if they dispensed with their spurious accuracy, were less detailed, and better reflected the uncertainty that is inherent in weather forecasting in the UK. The fact is that if you see the weather will be sunshine and cloud at 1.00pm with light rain at 4.00pm, then this doesn't transpire exactly as forecast, and you've made arrangements based on the prediction, then you are more likely to notice (and be critical) than if the forecast was for "changeable" (sun/clouds/occasional light rain) for the whole period of the afternoon.

Today's photograph was taken on a day when the forecasters promised rain but delivered none. The sky certainly looked like it would produce rain with thin, watery clouds and intermittent denser patches veiling the sun. Passing a wind farm I thought it might be an opportunity to try a shot with my widest lens at 17mm, and compare it with an earlier version of this subject when the widest lens at my disposal was 22mm (35mm equivalent).

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/640
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On