BBC Weather

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BBC Weather
TypeBBC department
Industry Broadcasting
Headquarters Broadcasting House, ,
Area served
United Kingdom
Rest of the world
ProductsBBC Radio
BBC Television
BBC Online
Owner BBC
Website BBC Weather

BBC Weather is the department of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) responsible for both the preparation and the broadcasting of weather forecasts.


On 6 February 2018, BBC Weather changed supplier from the government Met Office to MeteoGroup, after being required to put its weather services out to tender. [1] Previously, the government Met Office had been the provider of weather information for 94 years. [2] [3]


George Cowling presented the first in-vision forecast on 11 January 1954. BBC - George Cowling weather forecast.jpg
George Cowling presented the first in-vision forecast on 11 January 1954.

The first BBC weather forecast was a shipping forecast, broadcast on the radio on behalf of the Met Office on 14 November 1922, and the first daily weather forecast was broadcast on 26 March 1923.

In 1936, the BBC experimented with the world's first televised weather maps, brought into practice in 1949 after World War II. The map filled the entire screen, with an off-screen announcer reading the next day's weather.

Advancement of technology

On 11 January 1954, the first in-vision weather forecast was broadcast, presented by George Cowling. In an in-vision the narrator stands in front of the map. At that point, the maps were drawn by hand in the London Weather Centre, before being couriered across London. [4] [5] The forecasts were presented by the same person who had composed them, and had relatively low accuracy. The London Weather Centre which opened in 1959 took the responsibility for the national radio weather broadcasts. Radio forecasters were chosen by a BBC audition from the forecasters at the London Weather Centre. [5] [6]

In 1962, the installation of a fax machine and an electronic computer in the Met Office led to more accurate and quicker forecasting.

Satellite photography was available from 1964, but was of a poor quality and was given on paper, with the coastline etched in felt-tip pen. This did not change until 1973 with the installation of a new computer, increasing processing power of the Weather Centre greatly, leading to forecasts twice as accurate as earlier ones.

Graphical technology

Michael Fish presents a weather forecast in 1974. BBC - Michael Fish weather forecast 1974.jpg
Michael Fish presents a weather forecast in 1974.

As computational capability improved, so did graphics technology. Early hand-drawn maps gave way to magnetic symbols, which in turn gave way to bluescreen (CSO) computer-generated imagery technology, each of which allowed the presenter greater control over the information displayed.

Early magnetic symbols tended to adhere poorly to the maps, and occasional spelling errors (such as the presenter writing 'GOF' instead of 'FOG') marred some broadcasts, but allowed the presenter to show how weather would change over time. The symbols were designed to be 'self-explicit', allowing the viewer to understand the map without a key or legend.

On 18 February 1985, computer graphics were introduced although the basic design of symbols was kept the same. [7] These forecasts were widely acclaimed for their simplicity, winning an award from the Royal Television Society in 1993. [8]

On 2 October 2000, BBC Weather underwent a more significant change. Whilst there was not much change to the existing weather symbols new symbols giving information on pollen and sun levels were introduced. A new more detailed map of Britain was used based on satellite data.

Great Storm of 1987 controversy

Possibly the most famous of the forecasters is the now semi-retired Michael Fish. Famous for his informal manner and eccentric dress sense (he once wore a blue and green blazer emblazoned with all the weather symbols), he was a viewer favourite despite an unfortunate comment before the Great Storm of 1987.

During a weather forecast some hours before the storm, Michael Fish started his forecast with the now infamous line "Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't". Although he was factually correct, as it is impossible for a proper hurricane to reach the UK latitudes, and he was actually referring to a Florida hurricane (Floyd), and he went on to accurately forecast stormy conditions over the south of England, the statement has gone down in popular culture as one of the worst mistakes made so publicly. [9]

Weatherscape XT Graphics (2005–2018)

Alex Deakin presents a 2013 weather forecast from New Broadcasting House BBC weather forecast from Broadcasting House newsroom.jpg
Alex Deakin presents a 2013 weather forecast from New Broadcasting House

The weather symbols were replaced in May 2005 after 29 years and 9 months on air by a controversial format as the forecast underwent another redesign, with the flat map replaced by a 3D globe, and weather conditions shown by coloured areas. Cloud cover is indicated by the brightness of the map, while rain and snow are indicated by animated blue and white areas respectively. [10] The graphics are provided by Weatherscape XT, which was developed by the commercial arm of the New Zealand Metservice. [11]

The move polarised opinion; some saw it as more accurate and modern, while others disliked the brown colour chosen for the landmass and the presumed high cost of the graphics. The angling of the map, in order to show the curvature of the Earth, led to Scotland appearing little larger than Devon, and Shetland being almost invisible while exaggerating London and the South East. This led to many Scottish commentators accusing the BBC of having a London bias. As a result, the map was realigned, and the moving tour of the UK was lengthened.

The new look won a prestigious Silver Award at the Promax/BDA Awards in 2006. [12] Criticism has continued, however, with some viewers complaining about the colour scheme, and of a lack of detail in the forecast about weather developments beyond 36 hours. There have been continuous developments. In 2006, a rippling effect was introduced to define seas and oceans. [13]

BBC Weather Service switch to MeteoGroup

On 23 August 2015, the BBC announced that the Met Office would lose its contract to provide weather forecasts, the BBC stating that it is legally obliged to ensure that licence fee payers get the best value for money. [14] The BBC said that the on-air presenting team was not expected to change and it would still broadcast warnings from the Met Office National Severe Weather Warning Service and Shipping Forecast issued on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. [15]

A competitive tendering process followed, with MeteoGroup chosen as the new provider in August 2016. On 6 February 2018, the BBC began using the MeteoGroup graphics, [16] which include:

Public feedback in January 2018 regarding the subsequent updates and changes to the BBC Website and associated weather applications for mobile devices were generally critical. [19] [20] Many weather watchers were highly critical of the new design, with widespread criticism voiced across the media. Many used the comments section of the blog [21] written by Michael Burnett, the BBC Executive responsible, to voice their complaints. The blog entry dated 22 January 2018 was originally aimed at positively promoting the changes, but this appeared to have the opposite effect when the blog post generated well over 1000 mostly critical comments in under 10 days [22] include references to the changes as "the opposite of improvements", "utterly laughable", "completely cluttered and confusing" as well as "woefully inaccurate". In response, the BBC appears to have removed the links to Michael Burnett's blog from both the main BBC homepage and the BBC weather homepage, a move that was also criticised openly among many of those commenting.

National forecasters

National forecasters still provide forecasts for local news programmes.



Online forecasts

The BBC Weather website provides outlook weather forecasts for UK and international locations using animated symbols and a format similar in design to that used for the televised broadcasts. The website launched in 1997.

The website also runs frequent special features about seasonal sports, white Christmas, nature, and meteorological science. It also has world weather, UK outlook, and weather news.

BBC Weather apps

On 20 May 2013, the BBC released the BBC Weather App for both iOS devices (although initially not optimised for iPad) [23] and Android devices (via the Google Play Store). [24] Both versions were designed by Media Applications Technologies, and their data source was the Met Office. [25]

See also

Related Research Articles

Weather forecasting Science and technology application

Weather forecasting is the application of science and technology to predict the conditions of the atmosphere for a given location and time. People have attempted to predict the weather informally for millennia and formally since the 19th century. Weather forecasts are made by collecting quantitative data about the current state of the atmosphere, land, and ocean and using meteorology to project how the atmosphere will change at a given place.

The Weather Channel American cable TV channel

The Weather Channel (TWC) is an American pay television channel owned by Weather Group, LLC, a subsidiary of Allen Media Group. The channel's headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia. Launched on May 2, 1982, the channel broadcasts weather forecasts and weather-related news and analysis, along with documentaries and entertainment programming related to weather. A sister network, Weatherscan, is a digital cable and satellite service that offers 24-hour automated local forecasts and radar imagery. The Weather Channel also produces outsourced weathercasts, notably for RFD-TV.

The Shipping Forecast is a BBC Radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the coasts of the British Isles. It is produced by the Met Office and broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The forecasts sent over the Navtex system use a similar format and the same sea areas. The waters around the British Isles are divided into 31 sea areas, also known as weather areas. There are currently four broadcasts per day at the following times:

Met Office United Kingdoms national weather service

The Meteorological Office, abbreviated as the Met Office is the United Kingdom's national weather service. It is an executive agency and trading fund of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy led by CEO Penelope Endersby, who took on the role as Chief Executive in December 2018, is the first woman to do so. The Met Office makes meteorological predictions across all timescales from weather forecasts to climate change.

BBC Online Brand name and home for the BBCs online service

BBC Online, formerly known as BBCi, is the BBC's online service. It is a large network of websites including such high-profile sites as BBC News and Sport, the on-demand video and radio services co-branded BBC iPlayer, the children's sites CBBC and CBeebies, and learning services such as Bitesize. The BBC has had an online presence supporting its TV and radio programmes and web-only initiatives since April 1994, but did not launch officially until 28 April 1997, following government approval to fund it by TV licence fee revenue as a service in its own right. Throughout its history, the online plans of the BBC have been subject to competition and complaint from its commercial rivals, which has resulted in various public consultations and government reviews to investigate their claims that its large presence and public funding distorts the UK market.

Michael Fish, is a British weather forecaster. From 1974 to 2004 he was a television presenter for BBC Weather.

Great storm of 1987 1987 October storm in Western Europe

The great storm of 1987 was a violent extratropical cyclone that occurred on the night of 15–16 October, with hurricane-force winds causing casualties in the United Kingdom, France, and the Channel Islands as a severe depression in the Bay of Biscay moved northeast. Among the most damaged areas were Greater London, the East Anglian coast, the Home Counties, the west of Brittany, and the Cotentin Peninsula of Normandy, all of which weathered gusts typically with a return period of 1 in 200 years.

Burns Day Storm 1990 January storm in Northwestern Europe

The Burns' Day Storm was an extremely violent windstorm that took place on 25–26 January 1990 over north-western Europe. It is one of the strongest European windstorms on record. This storm has received different names as there is no official list of such events in Europe. Starting on the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns, it caused widespread damage and hurricane-force winds over a wide area. The storm was responsible for 47 deaths, although figures have ranged from 89 to over 100 across Europe.

The Weather Network (TWN) is a Canadian English-language weather information specialty channel. It delivers weather information on television, digital platforms and TV apps. Currently, The Weather Network is available in Canada, the U.S. and the UK. Additionally, The Weather Network has successful weather counterpart brands which include MétéoMédia (French-Canadian), Eltiempo (Spain), Wetter Plus (Germany) and Clima.

PA Media National news agency of the UK and Ireland

PA Media is a multimedia news agency, and the national news agency of the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is part of PA Media Group Limited, a private company with 26 shareholders, most of whom are national and regional newspaper publishers. The biggest shareholders include the Daily Mail and General Trust, News UK, and Informa. PA Media Group also encompasses Globelynx, which provides TV-ready remotely monitored camera systems for corporate clients to connect with TV news broadcasters in the UK and worldwide; TNR, a specialist communications consultancy; Sticky Content, a digital copywriting and content strategy agency; and StreamAMG, a video streaming business. The group's photography arm, PA Images, has a portfolio comprising more than 20 million photographs online and around 10 million in physical archives dating back 150 years.

Weather presenter

A weather presenter is a person who presents the weather forecast daily on radio, television or internet news broadcasts. Using diverse tools, such as projected weather maps, they inform the viewers of the current and future weather conditions, explain the reasons underlying this evolution, and relaying to the public any weather hazards and warnings issued for their region, country or larger areas. There are no basic qualifications to become a weather presenter; depending on the country and the media, it can range from an introduction to meteorology for a television host to a diploma in meteorology from a recognized university. Therefore a weather presenter is not to be confused with a meteorologist, or weather forecaster, the holder of a diploma in meteorology.

TVN Meteo

TVN Meteo was a Polish channel dedicated exclusively to weather forecasts, it launched on May 10, 2003. It was part of the TVN network and is owned by TVN Group. Its programmes aere prepared by the same weather team that presents the forecasts for TVN Meteo's sister channel TVN 24 and the group's flagship channel, TVN. It was available on most Polish cable networks.

Clare Nasir is an English meteorologist, author, and TV presenter.


Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited was established as a state-owned enterprise in 1992. It employs about 300 staff and its headquarters are in Wellington, New Zealand. Prior to becoming an SOE, New Zealand's national meteorological service has existed in a number of forms since the appointment of the country's first Director of Meteorological Stations in August 1861.

ITV Weather is the national and regional forecast shown on UK terrestrial network ITV, and is provided by the Met Office. Bulletins are usually broadcast after every ITV News and ITV regional bulletin. Jon Mitchell is the longest serving forecaster after 31 years with ITV Weather.

Kirsty McCabe is a Scottish weather forecaster and presenter at Sky News, and was formerly the senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel, based at the UK office in London.

George Cowling was the BBC's first television weatherman. Cowling joined the Met Office in 1939 and worked as a forecaster for the RAF before joining the BBC in 1954. On 11 January 1954, he gave the first televised weather broadcast. He continued to present televised weather broadcasts for the BBC until 1957 when he rejoined the RAF. He later worked at the Met Office College and at Heathrow Airport before retiring from the Met Office in 1981.

MeteoGroup is a private weather forecasting organisation based in Europe, with offices in Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. MeteoGroup provides weather information to markets that include transport, marine, agriculture, energy and the media. MeteoGroup has a portfolio of weather apps: WeatherPro, MeteoEarth and Magical Weather. In 2013, MeteoGroup was acquired by General Atlantic. In 2018 MeteoGroup was acquired by TBG AG.

The Integrated Forecasting System (IFS) is a global numerical weather prediction system jointly developed and maintained by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) based in Reading, England, and Météo-France based in Toulouse. The version of the IFS run at ECMWF is often referred to as the "ECMWF" or the "European model" in North America, to distinguish it from the American GFS. As of 2021, the ECMWF's IFS system is generally considered to be the most accurate weather forecasting model.

The 2017–2018 European windstorm season was the third instance of seasonal European windstorm naming. France, Spain and Portugal took part in winter storm naming for the first time this season.


  1. Howell, Liz (6 February 2018). "BBC Weather has a new look". BBC.
  2. Howell, Liz (6 February 2018). "BBC Weather has a new look". BBC. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  3. "The BBC have dropped the Met Office after 94 years in favour of a private company". 17 August 2016.
  4. BBC – Weather – A history of TV weather forecasts BBC Weather
  5. 1 2 Hunt, Roger, "The end of weather forecasting at Met Office London", Weather, June 2007, v.62, no.6, pp.143–146
  6. "Radio Weather Forecasts", BBC.
  7. BBC Genome Project - BBC1 listings 18 February 1985
  8. BBC – Weather – Weather Graphics over the years BBC Weather
  9. The BBC Weather Forecast – The Weather – Icons of England Archived 6 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine Icons of England
  10. BBC Weather goes 3D Lucy Sheriff, The Register. 23 August 2004
  11. "BBC Launches New Weather Format Using NZ Technology". Metservice. 14 May 2005. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  12. Graphic Design Industry Awards :: BAFTA, RTS, BDA awards for TV Graphics :: Mike Afford Media Mike Afford Media
  13. Weather Graphics :: BBC Weather Maps, symbols, outlook icons :: Mike Afford Media Mike Afford Media
  14. "Met Office loses BBC weather forecasting contract". BBC News. BBC. 23 August 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  15. Boland, Stephanie. "What's going on with the BBC and the Met Office?". Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  16. "BBC weather service replaces Met Office with private company MeteoGroup after 94-year spell". 17 August 2016. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  17. "BBC Weather redesign". BBC News. 6 February 2018.
  18. "BBC Weather has a new look". 6 February 2018.
  19. Sawer, Patrick; Horton, Helena (4 February 2018). "Weather watchers complain new BBC weather website suggests it's raining every day". The Telegraph. ISSN   0307-1235 . Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  20. Perring, Rebecca (4 February 2018). "BBC backlash over new weather website as critics complain it suggests it's ALWAYS raining". Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  21. "Change in the Weather". Internet Blog. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  22. or empty |title= (help)
  23. "BBC Weather". iTunes Store . BBC. 20 May 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  24. "BBC Weather". Google Play . BBC. 20 May 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  25. Howell, Liz (Head of BBC Weather) (19 June 2013). "BBC News – Introducing the new BBC Weather mobile apps". BBC News . Retrieved 12 July 2013.

Further reading