Does the British Public Trust Weather Forecasting?

Smith, Scott (2012) Does the British Public Trust Weather Forecasting? [Dissertation]

[thumbnail of Permission to archive] PDF (Permission to archive) - Supplemental Material
Restricted to Repository staff only

[thumbnail of Dissertation] PDF (Dissertation) - Submitted Version
Restricted to Registered users only



This study, not undertaken by a meteorologist, examines public trust in and understanding of weather forecasting in Britain. Where anecdotal evidence suggests that the British public often criticise the accuracy of weather forecasting, this study sought qualitative and quantative evidence to explore the issue in greater depth. Significant changes have ensued since 1854, when Robert FitzRoy published the first public weather forecast, and notably got it correct.
This research involved 137 questionnaires completed by members of the public in various UK locations. Secondly, there was one focus group, which reviewed the mood that weather forecasting created in a group environment. Additionally, the project held four interviews and numerous emails with various professionals, including Fred Talbot (ITV weather forecaster) and Richard Chapman (BBC weather). Research was also undertaken surrounding the Met Office’s application software for the iPhone, which rose in popularity when there was extreme weather.
The data collected demonstrates that the media creates an impression in the public mind that weather forecasting is a relatively certain science. Some newspapers write extremities as certainties, which in turn reinforces the tendency of the public to home-in on certain key words that validate their expectations of certainty. Conversely, respondents reported that they do not fully digest TV and newspaper forecasts, which suggests they are unlikely to appreciate any complexities.
In contrast to these findings, it was notable that some professionals emphasised the uncertainties of predicting weather in the context of Britain’s Atlantic climate. It is the lack of public understanding and the power of the media that creates an impression that weather forecasting is a certain science, yet the only thing certain is change.

Repository Staff Only: item control page