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Every day we listen to the weather forecast and every day we wonder exactly what it means and why the forecast never quite seems to match up to what actually happens, and all the time the explanation was staring us in the face.

The weather forecast doesn't make sense because it is in code!

Yes, weather forecasters use a private language in which to keep us posted about the weather, a language which is open only to other weather forecasters. But at last the weather code has been cracked, thanks to a weather forecaster who has come over to the other side bringing her secrets with her, and today I can reveal the complete secrets behind the weather waffle.


WHAT THEY SAY:

‘Time for the weather now and here's Joanna Baird to tell us what kind of day we can expect...’

Joanna Baird: ‘Thanks, Jim, and good morning again.’

WHAT THEY MEAN

"I've been sitting around this bloody studio for the two hours, listening to endless waffle about Afghanistan and Jack Straw, and now I've got to speak very fast to cram it all in before the pips, so can I just get on with it and then rush off home to bed?"


WHAT THEY SAY

‘So, Joanna, have you got any better weather for us today?’

‘Not a whole lot better, I'm afraid, Jim.’


WHAT THEY MEAN

"Dear God, if he asks me that question once more, I'll brain him. Anyway, he heard this forecast at 6 am and 7 am, so it's not likely to have changed a lot, is it?"


WHAT THEY SAY

‘Let's start with Scotland today.’


WHAT THEY MEAN

"We've had a lot of letters from the Scots recently, complaining that we always leave Scotland till last in the weather round-up, so we're pandering to them today by putting them first. Not tomorrow, though."


WHAT THEY SAY

‘Meanwhile, a better day for the North...’


WHAT THEY MEAN

“Meanwhile, more sunshine in the north, and we know that sunshine isn't better for everyone because millions of you are praying for rain, but until Judgment Day the weather forecaster will equate sun with good and rain with bad, so you'll have to lump it."

‘Further down in Lincolnshire and East Anglia...’

"Lincolnshire is the one county we mention by name, because people from Lincolnshire were always writing in saying they weren't mentioned on the forecast, until we suddenly realised that Lincolnshire people don't know where the hell they are - they don't admit to being in East Anglia or the East Midlands, or central England, or anywhere, so we have decided to lean over backwards and mention this one county."

‘In the South West...’

"We never define the south west. We never, for instance, mention Wiltshire by name because although nobody knows if Wiltshire is in the south west or not, people in Wiltshire never write in to complain like Lincolnshire people do."

‘Yesterday's pattern is changing today...’

"Yesterday we said it would be wet in the South. Actually it was quite warm and dry. But we never EVER look back at the weather, because that would admit that we got it wrong. And we never admit that we got it wrong. And we always forecast a weather pattern worse than it really will be, because then people are always relieved if it's not that bad."

‘Early mist patches’

"You probably won't see any early mist. There was some early mist. But it was elsewhere. Mist patches always happen elsewhere."

‘Patchy fog.’

Ditto.

"East facing coasts."

"There are no East facing coasts in Britain. Except on the East coast, where they pretty much all face East. It's a meaningless sort of phrase."

‘It will feel colder than it really is.’

"There's another!"

‘Sunshine and showers.’

"Our favourite phrase. It covers everything. You can't go very wrong with sunshine and showers."

‘Clouds spilling from the west.’

"Clouds don't spill, of course, unless you watch lots of speeded up weather footage as we do, when clouds go very fast and do sort of spill along - wow, there goes another !"

‘Typically, 17 degrees in Bristol.’

"Why Bristol? Because we mentioned Cardiff yesterday. Could have been the other way round. Could have been Swindon. That's the way we weather people are - easy come, easy go."


For full glossary, send an SAE and a blank signed cheque.

The Independent Thurs Nov 8 01


© Caroline Kington