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24 August, 2004

Better weather

The BBC has announced that it is incorporating video gaming technology to improve the realism of its TV forecasts.  Rather than being represented by single abstract icon covering a 200-mile swathe of the country for eight hours, as one might uncharitably describe the current arrangement, the weather forecast for a region will be shown as a more compelling animation, realistic weather conditions overlaying accurate topography.  Rain will be generated in 3D so that it actually looks like real rain, and as clouds sweep over the country, shadows will be cast on the ground.  Very impressive, and there's more worth reading in the article.

The Guardian also reports the development, and includes one thought-provoking section:

The BBC Weather Centre hopes 'weather blindness' - sitting through a bulletin but wondering at the end what the weather is going to be - will finally become a thing of the past.
Distractions such as isobars and warm fronts, or 'graphic clutter' - too many symbols in too small a space - will be replaced by a realistic landscape swept by sunshine, clouds, or the forecasters' favourite, 'a rumble of thunder'.
The forecasters themselves will not be swept off their position as some of TV's best-known icons.

However, for me, the presenters are the most distracting element, and I do find my attention being drawn to the person presenting the forecast at least as much as the weather itself. I don't know whether it's a deliberate policy to choose and develop distinctive 'characters', but in a way, anonymous drones might interpose less between the information and audience; that'd be less entertaining, though, and I suspect that's a major consideration.

A few semi-random thoughts about presenters I notice, in order of distraction. Criticisms are affectionate ;)

Helen Willets - born in the same place as me (we graduated in the same year too, irrelevantly), and I don't like my home accent!
Jo Blythe - the others I'm mentioning are all BBC broadcast meteorologists*; I rarely watch ITV's forecasts, though I will single out Granada's Ms. Blythe as particularly distracting. Ahem. (Digression: is it a bit scary that someone is archiving screenshots of her?)
Alex Deakin - slightly aggressive East Yorkshire accent and manner.
Rob McElwee - just odd (in a good, mildly eccentric way)! Some of his colleagues seem manufactured, but he's genuinely lived.
Carol Kirkwood - smiley to the point of implied mania.
Michael Fish - has been broadcasting weather forecasts for longer than I've lived (since 1971). No-one will ever let him forget that he not only failed to forecast the massively destructive (18 deaths, 15 million trees lost, 1.5 billion in insurance claims) October 1987 'hurricane', he specifically said it wouldn't happen. To be pedantic, he was right - it didn't literally meet the definition of a hurricane.

*: The BBC staff are all fully-qualified meteorologists, not 'merely' presenters, and their forecasts are their own.

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