In parallel to the improvements to forecast data accuracy, the equipment used by the TV forecasters has also changed enormously from that used by George Cowling in 1954.
Weather map from 1968
On Monday 18th February 1985, magnetic rubber made way for new technology as the latest innovations in computer graphics created by an in-house BBC computer graphics department was launched.
The forecast computers at the Met Office were linked directly to a graphics computer system at Television Centre. Here forecasters used desktop terminals to produce a sequence of visual images. These included moving satellite pictures, pressure and rainfall displays and league tables of temperatures, rainfall and sunshine in various parts of the country.
A major development in weather graphics came on Monday 30th May 1988 when a colourful new batch of displays were introduced. These paid particular attention to the strength and direction of both wind and rainfall.
Ian McCaskill infront of synoptic chart
Developed by the BBC's Computer Graphics team, they included a radar display showing the distribution and intensity of rainfall over the British Isles. Radar scanners sent data from around the country to the Met Office where the computer forwarded a composite picture to the forecasters at Television Centre.
This enabled them to prepare a moving sequence showing where and how hard the rain had been falling and where it was going next. In addition, rain-bearing clouds shown in satellite pictures were changed from white to black.
New wind graphics
A new wind display was also introduced using white arrows whose length and breadth show wind direction and strength. When run as a sequence the graphics showed how the wind would develop over time.
Other new graphics included a full global weather picture obtained from the Meteosat satellite 36,000 kilometres above the equator and others orbiting 800 kilometres above the ground from pole to pole.
Air temperatures, meanwhile, were illustrated by bands of colour with deep blue indicating extreme cold through to red for very warm.
Weather map in 1996 with topography
Adding topography to maps
In September 1996, the computer graphics were updated further. Background maps were redrawn to show greater topographical definition and land shadings were made more natural, with deserts appearing in yellow and ice caps in white. More powerful graphics computers meant that charts were produced more quickly and this allowed for greater use of animated sequences.
Bespoke graphics created
In November 1997 BBC News 24 (now the BBC News Channel) launched. The BBC wanted the weather graphics used on the new channel to look different to those seen on other BBC output. Charts with a predominantly blue and orange colour scheme were introduced. The computer system was upgraded to produce charts in two different colour schemes and in widescreen format for the News Channel. The colour schemes were brought back in line in 2000 with the Weather 2000 relaunch.
Alex Deakin presenting a tour around the UK in 2005
Virtual reality technology
In May 2005, BBC Weather launched the latest redesign across all of its output, from television broadcasts and the website, to digital text services. A brand new graphics system was designed by Metra Information Ltd specifically for the BBC. Virtual reality technology is used to present constantly updated weather data and give real time forecasting on all platforms and across the BBC Nations and Regions.
The look of the graphics used to present the forecast also changed. The 3D technology enables the forecaster to take a virtual tour around the UK or other areas of the world to show the current weather situation or the forecast for the next five days. It is also possible to show rain and snow falling from clouds. Forecasters can combine different weather graphics to present the forecast as clearly as possible.
In 1993, the BBC Weather Centre won the Royal Television Society's award for Technical Innovation in operational systems. Further to this, in 2006 the BBC Weather team were awarded a silver BDA for News In-house Information Graphics.
Both broadcasting and computer technology are continually being developed to allow BBC Weather to deliver the clearest forecasts we can.