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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 May, 2004, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Brazil's weather: Rain or shine
By Steve Kingstone
BBC correspondent, Brazil

Despite its varied terrain and enormous size, Brazil it seems, has only two types of weather. But that has not prevented the country's best known TV weather presenter becoming a national celebrity.

Rio
Brazil is South America's biggest and most influential country

Many visitors to Brazil are surprised by the diversity of the place.

Beyond the obvious images of beach, carnival, football and rainforest, there are subtle shades of national life. For instance, in the contrasting landscapes, the music, and the colour of people's skin.

That diversity is encapsulated here in a suitably mysterious phrase: "There are many Brazils."

But what there are not, are many Brazilian weather forecasts. In fact, there are only two.

Forecast number one: "Tomorrow will be a day of sun across most of Brazil." And forecast number two: "Tomorrow will be a day of rain across most of Brazil."

In the seven months I have been here, every single bulletin has offered a variation on one of those themes.

I think this is very interesting. Not just because I come from weather-obsessed Britain. But also because of the sheer size of Brazil.

'Red or black'
Wherever you are and whatever is going on, tomorrow will always either be a day of sun or a day of rain

In area it is almost the same as the United States, and 35 times the size of Britain. It spans four time zones and stretches practically the length and breadth of South America.

And yet there are only two weather forecasts.

This is not to say there is no weather in Brazil.

According to the government here there are five climatic regions: equatorial, semi-arid, tropical, subtropical and highland tropical.

Turning on the weather forecast is not unlike the thrill of betting on red or black in roulette

Nor is it to say that the weather here is unimportant. "Cold-snap in Brazil causes fall in global coffee price," is a typical headline from the world's financial pages during winter here.

Brazil's weather certainly travels.

But wherever you are and whatever is going on, tomorrow will always either be a "day of sun" or a "day of rain" across most of Brazil.

Turning on the nightly news to find out which, is not unlike the thrill of betting on red or black in roulette.

Warm front

Fabiana Scaranzi
Fabiana suggests British weather forecasting is a little less stylish (Photo: TVGLOBO)

The delivery of the two forecasts has been turned into an art form by Brazil's most famous weather presenter.

Her name is Fabiana Scaranzi, a former model and ballerina who for the past seven years has been the face of sun and rain across most of Brazil.

Fabiana's forecasts are impeccably choreographed. First, she gives it to you straight; it is either sun... or rain.

Next, there is "the walk", very deliberate and always three steps, at which point she stops to take in the satellite picture.

Three steps back and Fabiana finishes in front of a map of Brazil to give us the temperatures for tomorrow.

The duration of the forecast? Always 30 seconds. No more, no less.

Concerned that my theory was perhaps missing some Brazilian subtleties, I had to meet Fabiana.

Her bosses at Globo - Brazil's heavyweight television channel - agreed, and under the supervision of a public relations assistant I was allowed to watch a broadcast.

Fabiana was warm and welcoming. Tall, with brown hair and green eyes, she wore a crisp, white trouser suit, black shoes and dangling heart-shaped earrings.

Her surname, Scaranzi, is Italian. Like many people of Italian heritage here, she spoke Portuguese with a sing-song accent and her conversation was punctuated with dramatic gestures.

Michael Fish
Michael Fish has fed the British obsession with weather for 33 years

We talked about the weather. And about talking about the weather. Fabiana agreed this was a British obsession.

She gently suggested that, although technically more advanced, weather-forecasting in Britain was perhaps a little less stylish than in Brazil.

I searched for a counter-argument, but having grown up with Michael Fish and Bill Giles, said nothing.

Lights, camera, action

Fabiana explained that, in Brazil, anyone on television acquires celebrity status.

She complained about the paparazzi photographing her son and listed various unwanted admirers, including a man who once appeared from the boot of her car while she was driving.

Many of her most loyal fans, she added, are prisoners. Some have proposed marriage. Again, not an easy comparison with Michael Fish.

And so to the broadcast. Like most weather forecasters today, Fabiana was filmed against a plain blue background. The various maps are superimposed later.

She showed me the four strategically-placed teleprompters - each containing exactly 30 seconds of script - and pointed out the marks on the floor indicating the start and finish of her customary three-step walk.

The very moment I had made it into the studio, my two-forecast-theory was in danger of being disproved

The movement, she said, distinguished the weather on the main news from the static forecasts on earlier programmes.

"Fabi, we're ready", said a technician.

She smiled back and the red recording light came on.

But something was worrying me. On the teleprompter I had caught a brief reference to a tropical cyclone that was fast approaching the coast of southern Brazil.

High winds, torrential rain and flooding were predicted for the coming days.

Nowhere in my two-forecast-theory did a tropical cyclone appear. At the very moment I had made it into the studio with Fabiana, it was in danger of being disproved.

I held my breath, waited, and finally sighed with relief as Fabiana Scaranzi turned serenely to the camera and said: "Tomorrow will be a day of heavy rain across most of Brazil."


From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 8 May, 2004 at 1130 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.



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