The internet is no stranger to over the top, fear mongering weather forecasts. But today’s UK Daily Express today published the most hyperbolic forecast I’ve encountered.
The headline is click bait to the extreme: SHOCK WEATHER FORECAST: Worst HAILSTORMS in 170 YEARS to hit Britain THIS weekend
Within the story, specifics about the coming weather apocalypse are even more extraordinary and more ridiculous. Excerpt:
The UK is about to be rocked by the most frenzied and chaotic start to summer EVER as monsoons and tornadoes rage in.
Ice stones the ‘size of cricket balls’ will cause devastation across the country in what forecasters fear could be the the worst hailstorms since a deadly ‘supercell’ led to hailstones leaving craters FIVE FEET deep across England 171 years ago.
As if the Express needed more ammunition for its forecast foolery, small tornadoes or funnel clouds were witnessed in Lincolnshire this afternoon, prompting it to run this follow-on gem: “SHOCK PICTURES: Tornadoes rip through BRITAIN as freak weather starts to smash into UK“.
The story’s subhead reads: “TORNADOES began smashing into Britain today amid fresh warnings the country faces a weekend of weather HELL.”
Yes, the weather is a bit volatile in the UK right now. But there’s nothing exceptional about the overall pattern.
A deep area of low pressure southwest the UK is pumping in warm air, destabilizing the atmosphere sufficiently for the chance of thundershowers. The chance of rain will increase into the weekend as the low drifts northeast.
Large low off Ireland this weekend with pressure below 985mb will act as a heat pump for W Europe incl UK. 20-32C pic.twitter.com/Po8x4QnPBl— MarkVoganWeather.com (@MarkVogan) June 3, 2014
And, yes, there’s enough spin in the atmosphere for an isolated tornado or two until this low lifts away.
But the forecast for epic hail is unsupportable. A record event can hardly ever be predicted days in advance, especially for a phenomenon like hail which requires ingredients to come together at a hyper-local level and is subject to the whims of chaos. Furthermore, the quantity of cold air at high altitudes – critical for hail – is not extreme.
Consider the UK Met Office’s forecast for London, Friday through the weekend:
Friday, variable cloud but most parts dry. Saturday, cloudy with showers or longer periods of rain, possibly heavy and thundery, improving late afternoon. Sunday, sunny spells with most parts dry.
The Daily Express has earned a reputation for publishing shoddy weather forecasts. The Guardian’s environmental writer George Monbiot wrote a devastating critique about its predictions in 2012: “The Daily Express continues to suffer outbreaks of dodgy weather reporting“. On several occasions, the UK Met Office has felt compelled to respond to some of its flawed forecasts on its blog.
The U.S. is no stranger to hype-filled forecasts. Recall when The Weather Channel warned a forecast for a below average hurricane season would “shock you.” Its lead story today, headlined: MORE THAN 15 MILLION AT RISK: DESTRUCTIVE WINDS LIKELY is also a bit excessive. Not to be outdone, Gawker’s Dennis Mersereau documented this laughable claim from The Weather Channel’s parent company: NBC Reports a “Gustnado” Threatens Millions, Uses Day-Old Weather Map
But as excited as the U.S. media can get about weather, we’ve got nothing on the UK’s Daily Express, it seems.