Thursday, 30 July 2009

Don't blame the messenger, blame the weathermen

After a week of virtually non-stop rain, I can understand why Michael Fish would want to blame the media for misinterpreting the apparently cautious predictions of his colleagues about a 'barbecue summer'. He would have a point if the phrase had not appeared so baldly in the Met Office's press release along with several other bullish statements. Here are the first three paragraphs from the press release issued on 30 April 2009 in their entirety.

The coming summer is 'odds on for a barbecue summer', according to long-range forecasts. Summer temperatures across the UK are likely to be warmer than average and rainfall near or below average for the three months of summer.

Chief Meteorologist at the Met Office, Ewen McCallum, said: "After two disappointingly-wet summers, the signs are much more promising this year. We can expect times when temperatures will be above 30 °C, something we hardly saw at all last year."

Although the forecast is for a drier and warmer summer than average it does not rule out the chances of seeing some heavy downpours at times. However, a repeat of the wet summers of 2007 and 2008 is unlikely.

As someone who has written more than my fair share of eye-catching press releases, I know that the best way to get a story is by providing a lively phrase or two alongside a few surprising statistics. So nobody could blame the press office for doing that, or the media for picking up on such apparent good news. Those who should take the blame are Fish's former colleagues who allowed the predictions to go out with so few caveats.

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