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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 04:56 GMT 05:56 UK
Met Office seeks simple forecasts
BBC weather map
Thousands complained when the BBC changed its weather maps
Television weather forecasters may soon use simpler terms for their predictions, the Met Office has said.

The move follows an internal review in which Met Office staff gave their views on how best to portray the weather.

Suggestions include using "patchy rain" rather than "showery outbreaks", and "warm for most", rather than "chilly in isolated areas".

The Met Office - which trains BBC forecasters - said the idea was to make forecasts "clearer and more relevant".

Dumbing down?

As well as moving away from scientific language, forecasters are being invited to avoid putting their own "spin" on the language they use.

This is not an attempt to dumb down the weather or to portray the weather in a more positive light
Met Office spokesman

Proposed guidelines also suggest that forecasters do not "over-dramatise" by focusing on bad weather if it is due in the middle of the night, or start a forecast with a bleak outlook if the majority of the country will be fine.

"This is not an attempt to dumb down the weather or to portray the weather in a more positive light," said the Met Office spokesman.

"One of the problems is understanding what a weather forecaster is trying to tell you."

He said: "High temperatures for most are a good thing, but for farmers, for example, who need rain they may not be.

"So forecasters should just give the temperatures, and say if they are above or below the yearly average, and let the public decide if they are good or bad."

The launch of a new BBC weather map prompted complaints earlier this year.

In May, Scottish nationalists hit out over the three-dimensional map, claiming it made Scotland appear far smaller than England.

And others said they disliked the brown colouring of the map and its use of moving graphics.

Should TV weather forecasters use simpler terms for their predictions? Will it make forecasts clearer and more relevant? Or will it dumb down the weather?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

How about a dumbed-down forecasts on BBC One, leave them alone on BBC Two and News24 and have a weather report "for grown-ups" on BBC Four ?
Graeme Mulvaney, Coventry, UK

The meteorology hobbyist may be interested in which weather front is heading where and which band of high or low pressure is stretching across which part of which country, but all I want to know is, is it going to rain, be sunny or snow tomorrow?
Darryl LeCount, Paderborn, Germany

They have already dumbed the forecast down far enough. No isobars, no Atlantic chart, no more fronts with universal standard symbols. The new graphics are extremely easy to view, with the exception of the sunny parts. All they need to do is make the light brown brighter and more yellow, like the Sun! There is no need to talk to viewers as though they are children, the majority who bother to watch the news and weather are generally intelligent enough to cope with multi-syllable words.
Graeme, England

The Met office seems to be responding to the falling standards in education by assuming that people don't have the intelligence to follow a forecast. The BBC set the trend with their silly maps that I still can't understand - I gave up and now watch Channel 4 instead. Only if people hear good English in use with good grammar, and presented properly, will people start to understand better.
Brian, Farnham UK

Shouldn't the Met Office be conducting external reviews to find out what the people want, rather than internal reviews based on what the Met Office staff themselves think? Some of us wish for more technical forecasts to try and understand what's going on and how the weather works, rather than making things even more basic and simple. Forecasts are hardly difficult for most people to understand at the moment.
Wayne, Manchester, UK

I can't understand the weather forecasts at all! The presenters either are keen to describe the weather that has already happened, or go into too much technical language. I just want a brief and to the point forecast. Having pretty presenters is also very distracting!
Marcus Knight, Tiverton, Devon

I would like to see a return to the stick-on clouds. Even when I was a small child I had no trouble figuring out the meanings of the weather forecasts. At the rate we are dumbing down we may as well have the Tellytubbies presenting it.
Ray, Sheffield

It's about time something was done with the terminology. "Bits and pieces of rain", "well-broken skies" (should be well-broken cloud) and fronts dragging their rain are all too sloppy for an organization with the reputation of the British Met Office. There used to be a Met Office manual that listed words that should and should not be used. Did it get shredded when they moved from Bracknell? Whatever path is chosen I and many others do not want weather forecasters talking down to us. There are many more people with a sound knowledge of meteorology not employed by the Met Office.
Keith, Reading, England

If people cannot understand 'showers', 'storms' and 'sunny' then they should not be allowed out the house anyway to be subject to the weather. Tell you what, accurate forecasts would be better and not so much emphasis on England too.
DM, Glasgow

About time too. I have given up with BBC forecasts, particularly on the radio. It is far too negative and the language meaningless for real life. I often work outdoors and I have given up counting the times when forecasters say its going to be a rainy day when in fact it is bright until 2 or 3pm; a cold day when they mean a beautiful sunny autumn day or a dull, cloudy day in winter when it is warm enough to take your shirt off. All I need to know (unless I am travelling far) is how today is going to be different to yesterday. Is that too difficult?
David, Oxford, England

They should give much more information and be more technical, not less; they should also try to be a bit more specific and less general, if possible. Most people understand explanations, like describing about cold fronts and what the little shapes (isobars, etc) mean and so forth, so they should give us more information, not less anyway, sometimes they give so little information, that it is almost meaningless, and an insult to anybody.
Penny Simpson, Peterborough

If people do not understand words such as 'isolated' or 'outbreaks' the onus should be on them to educate themselves. Pandering to the ill-informed only stops them trying to learn.
James, Sheffield, UK

Dumbing down the weather? I wasn't aware there were many people who would not be able to understand the meaning of a large black cloud directly over their part of the country.
Ben, Horley, UK

Changing the map colour from brown to green would make forecasts less depressing at a stroke. It's odd to live in a green and pleasant land whilst the map makes it look like a dead pot plant.
Al, W'Ton, UK

No. TV channels should presume that the viewer at least has some intelligence. Anything else just leads to more lowest common denominator, dumbed down programming.
Joe Baldwin, Chesham, Bucks

I see no reason for changing the language used, despite their claims this sounds like dumbing down to me. What I would like to see is a change from the London-centric nature of the forecasts, I am tired of being told that the weather tomorrow will bright and sunny everywhere except for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the north of England.
Gary Heron, Falkirk, UK

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