‘And now, the weather’

Mr Peter Gibbs, Freelance Broadcaster, UK


Peter Gibbs is a former BBC Weather Presenter and enthusiastic amateur gardener with more than 30 years’ experience as a professional Met Office forecaster. He chairs BBC Radio 4’s ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ and is a regular reporter on the Radio 4 environment series ‘Costing the Earth’.

Peter’s first job as a meteorologist was running the weather observation programme at the British Antarctic Survey’s remote Halley research station in Antarctica in the early 1980s, spending two consecutive winters on the ice.

Peter is a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Reading.


Weather forecasts have never been more accurate thanks to the extraordinary scientific and technical effort described by the other speakers at this event. But a perfect prediction has little or no value unless it is communicated effectively to end users and, for a large number of the public, that means the TV weather forecast. Usually unscripted and produced to tight deadlines, ‘the weather’ is a demanding exercise in turning detailed, complex science into a seemingly effortless and understandable narrative.

My notes from the talk (if they don’t make sense then it is entirely my fault)

Peter explained how weather presentation has changed over the years. In the 1970’s the presenter would have a series of magnetic boards with maps on and they would have to dress the board with the required symbols.


Michael Fish (above left) doing the weather forecast for the first time on TV in 1974. He had to place all the weather symbols on the board himself. By the time he retired a new front had appeared on the forecasting horizon in the form of Weatherscape XT.

A favourite ditty from my youth;

John Kettley is a weatherman

A weatherman, a weatherman

John Kettley is a weatherman

And so is Michael Fish

WEATHER SYMBOLS have disappeared from BBC TV forecasts for good, causing a depression to form among fans of the traditional yellow sun and fluffy cloud. R.I.P. Weather symbols 16 May, 2005

His biggest claim to fame was not forecasting the very severe storm of 1987. It was so powerful that the wind blew my bike on to the rails at Bexleyheath railway station (luckily, I was not on it at the time).


The BBC now uses a flat map projection for the regional and UK views. In addition, a realistic globe graphic allows presenters to move around the world, displaying a variety of data from falling snow particles to areas likely to see the aurora or ‘northern lights’. They rely on green screen technology in a small room (when not with the news readers) with just a camera. Looking at the camera is the only way they can actually see the weather maps. Presenters and producers can also customise their forecasts for TV and online – adding different layers of data over the maps to tell the most relevant weather story.

Chroma key compositing, or chroma keying, is a visual effects/post-production technique for compositing (layering) two images or video streams together based on colour hues (chroma range). The technique has been used in many fields to remove a background from the subject of a photo or video – particularly the newscasting, motion picture, and video game industries. A colour range in the foreground footage is made transparent, allowing separately filmed background footage or a static image to be inserted into the scene. The chroma keying technique is commonly used in video production and post-production. This technique is also referred to as colour keying, colour-separation overlay (CSO; primarily by the BBC), or by various terms for specific colour-related variants such as green screen and blue screen; chroma keying can be done with backgrounds of any colour that are uniform and distinct, but green and blue backgrounds are more commonly used because they differ most distinctly in hue from most human skin colours. No part of the subject being filmed or photographed may duplicate the colour used as the backing.

It is commonly used for weather forecast broadcasts, wherein a news presenter is usually seen standing in front of a large CGI map during live television newscasts, though in actuality it is a large blue or green background. When using a blue screen, different weather maps are added on the parts of the image where the colour is blue. If the news presenter wears blue clothes, his or her clothes will also be replaced with the background video.


The presenters have to learn their script. There is no room for autocue.

Up-to-date information about the weather is available 24 hours a day.

Peter then gave us an up-to-date weather report from the 23rd of January to the weekend of the 25th/26th of January.

23rd: High pressure across the UK and particularly high in the SE where some records were broken.

Low pressure usually means cloud but high pressure at this time of year causes more moisture to be stored/trapped. There is a temperature inversion where the atmospheric temperature actually increases with height.

Chilly damp air and cloud with a transition to more unsettled weather at the weekend.

The Met office gives short range guidance. Mostly quiet conditions.

Detail forecast gives messy weather in England and Wales

UKV provides modifications

Confidence is high for main themes

Main uncertainties are due to low cloud



1.5km model B resolves convection explicitly.

Grid files provide a matrix of values covering the whole of the UK.

UK WEATHER forecasts suggested the blustery and unsettled weather of the last two weeks would continue for the rest of January as “Atlantic” fronts batter the country. European forecasts have suggested an added “cold front” could impact the continent before the polar vortex weakens.

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