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Weather Test prepares for take-off

A rainbow is seen over Wimbledon during day nine of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships

By Roger Harrabin
BBC Environment Analyst

After a year's deliberations the BBC Weather Test - designed to assess the reliability of weather forecasters - is nearing take-off.

The steering group has prepared a draft protocol under which the forecasters' results will be tested.

It will be available on the Weather Club website, and will be discussed at a public meeting at the Royal Institution in London on Monday between 7 and 8pm.

The Weather Test, backed by the Today programme, is a unique and ambitious collaboration between BBC News, the Royal Meteorological Society , the Royal Statistical Society , the Royal Astronomical Society and independent academics and weather forecasters.

The aim is to show the public how far they can rely on the accuracy of different weather forecasters over periods from a day to a season.

If the weathergirl says you should take a brolly today, should you reach into the cupboard? If the weatherman says you're probably in for a hot summer, should you cancel plans for the Costa del Sunny?

The project has been made more salient by the controversies over weather forecasting during the winter.

There have been long technical debates through the year over the rules of the test.

One forecaster, for instance, objected to being asked to forecast rain over a set number of weather stations in the UK on the grounds that it was very hard to forecast rain on any single spot. It was a better test of skill, the forecaster suggested, to predict rain in a certain grid square, allowing the possibility that a band of heavy rain might narrowly miss the weather station being tested.

The protocol is now going out to public consultation via the web and the public meeting. When the steering group has considered all the responses and agreed on a protocol, they'll invite a selection of forecasters to take part.

The Met Office has agreed provisionally to join the test, depending on the details of the protocol. The maverick forecaster Piers Corbyn also agreed at the last public meeting that he would take part.

The aim is to launch the project by the summer, and publish results over a four-year period.

People wanting to be sure of a place at the open meeting should apply for a (free) ticket via the Royal Institution website, although it is likely that there may be space on the day.


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