When I used to visit the USA and found myself sitting in a hotel room, not wanting to work, in need of R&R, I would switch on the television and either watch one of the God channels or the 24-hour Weather Channel. The God channel presenters would amuse me for, at most, ten minutes whereas the weather channel would amuse me until sleep took over. How can you create 24 hours of scintillating enthralling television based on forecasting the weather? Watch the Weather Channel and be amazed at the ingenuity of the producers.
Why am I telling you this? Because soon, very soon, like next year, we too will have a 24-hour weather channel on television. Look at the signs.
First, ever since Michael Fish’s notorious denial of an incoming storm in 1987, television weather forecast presenters have become celebrities. They have Wikipedia entries. They appear on reality shows and game shows (Carol Kirkwood, Strictly Come Dancing; Sian Lloyd, I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!, Great Cake Bake, Total Wipeout; Alex Deakin, Celebrity Mastermind, and so on) or in the celebrity media with articles about their love lives, what clothes they wear, weight loss programs… Don’t miss Tomasz Schafernaker, all sculptured pecs and abs on the front cover of January’s 2010 Attitude Active magazine.
Second, have you noticed how superlative verbs and adjectives now rule the forecasts? Seas lash, storms batter, winds are high or gale force, rain is torrential, temperatures plummet or soar, and weather warnings are severe and colour coded for convenience. What happened to the light drizzle, mild winds, blustery showers, and warm day? Have you also noticed the new flashy graphics: animated arrows illustrating wind stream directions, sexy curvy clouds dumping slanting rain over your location, isobars weaving with the grace of a sidewinder snake, snowflakes falling gracefully on high ground – all this while the presenter faces the screen and flashes bright white teeth through an engaging smile and damned if I can see how he or she is incrementing the animation. Must be an eyebrow twitch.
Third, the BBC has recently (August, 2015) ended its 93-year-old contract with the Met Office, an agency within the government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. Next year, the weather forecasts issued by the BBC will come from another weather forecasting service. Speculation is rife.
And finally, this week, we have the naming of bad weather conditions over the British Isles. Storm Abigail is upon us. Traditionally, cyclonic weather conditions originating in the Caribbean (where they are called hurricanes) or the Indian and West Pacific region (where they are called typhoons) have been personalised to avoid confusion. Such tropical weather conditions can last up to ten days and meteorologists (people who study climate, not meteors – that’s a meteoriticist) often need to identify and keep separate one long-term weather condition from another originating in the same region. But, do we need to identify and personalise UK storms? Is Storm Briana on its way with Storm Chloe waiting in the wings?
If you put all these observations together, the forecast is clear: there will be a 24-hour weather channel on UK television by 2016, presented by a raft of celebrities, accompanied by animated graphics to rival those of Pixar, DreamWorks and Disney, featuring the day-by-day antics of a variety of personalised storms, all punctuated occasionally by talent shows, a new comedy series and a host of cooking programs. Mark my words and if you go out today, take an umbrella. It might rain.