We talk about it all the time. We buy large quantities of gear to cope with it. We sometimes enjoy it but we all at sometime or other get completely caught out by it. Well, you’ve guessed by the title that I am talking about the weather. Specifically I am refering to British Weather. You know, that phenomenon we all know exists whereby its fabulously sunny when you leave the house but by the time you start your walk its freezing cold, windy and the sleet is finding ways to scour your face. Of course weather changes depending on if you are on a beach or struggling up a mountain and wishing you were actually back at the beach. Preferably with a large ice-cream. And no seagulls. I hate seagulls. Anyhow, knowing what we know about British weather you would think we would all be experts and that the forecasts available would be incredibly accurate.
No. Nope. Wrong.
Well actually I think weather forecasting has become better in recent years to be fair. Also taking into account the fact that there are approximately 94000 square miles of land to forecast for, its always going to be tough getting it right all the time. Some of the time would be nice mind you.
So, you’ve made your plans for a walk or camping trip. You know where you are going and for how long. Now comes the difficult bit. What gear to take, and in that I mean specifically what clothing? When Crowded House sang “Four Seasons in One Day” I am fairly positive that they must have been thinking about Britain. Some long buried horror memory of a walk in one of our mountain areas in “summer”. Scarred for life. Back to the question though. What gear to take? On a day trip this isnt so much of an issue but on multiday trips its more tricky because of weight and packing restrictions. Unless you carry a 120litre Bergan that is (shudders at the memory of long past Duke of Edinburgh trips). So a good weather forecast would be a good thing right? But which one do you use as there are half a dozen ones that I scan regularly and probably more out there still. Theoretically all forecasts take their data from The Met Office but not necessarily so.
The forecasts I look at on a regular basis are listed below. I have found all to be accurate, some unneringly so, on occasions but not consistently so unfortunately. Rarely do they all agree with each other which is maddening because if they all were roughly the same then you dont mind which you use. If however, and this has happened to me, you pick the “wrong” one and get battered by the weather you will forever mistrust them all to a degree from there on in. You will also dither between forecasts trying to forecast which forecast is the true forecast 🙂
This is probably what most casual observers use for their weather forecast. They’ve recently changed the layout and I dont personally like it (even less now). They used to have the day light hours on the forecast but no longer. It doesnt look at mountain areas specifically so is very much a generalised view of the weather.
Pros – easy to find
Cons – not mountain specific. Layout awkward. Not very much detailed info.
I like this site. Its how the BBC site should be and in fact I guess this site is for the more discerning weather buff. Its got lots of information and you can look at generalised areas or more importantly mountain areas with the major national parks getting their own sections. Its a really good weather site and the one I tend to go for first. The long range forecast for the mountain areas is limited but this is a small niggle
Pros – stacks of useful information and links. good combination of maps, data and levels of detail available. drop down menus. user friendly
Cons – long range mountain forecast is limited
I sometimes use this site as a quick check to see what the long range forecast is going to be. The visual representation of the forecast in terms of time bands is good and the summary at the introduction page of the weather is quite detailed. On the downside, the site often suffers from glitches. Sometimes the weather breakdown doesnt appear and sometimes I cant access the site. Nethertheless not a bad site
Pro – easy to use and well laid out. good detailed weather summary page and breakdown of the weather in time bands
Cons – suffers from software glitches.
This is a site that a lot of people have refered me to. Alot of positive things said about it by a large number of walkers/outdoor people. The site focusses on the mountain areas as you would expect. I like the fact that the forecast is put onto a pdf for printing with todays as well as the next 2 days forecast for the area and some other general information on it. I think its got slightly less info than the Met Office site but still a very handy site indeed
Pros – mountain orientated weather. very handy 3 day weather report on a pdf ready to print. Good summary of weather information required for walking/camping etc
Cons – very minor point of being slightly less detailed than the Met Office site but this is a tiny quibble
Actually I am not sure why I put this on here. I have used it in the past for an overview of the weather and it uses a satellite image to show the conditions of the area you have picked. Its not mountain specific but you can adapt it for this use by entering the closest town to where you are headed. The overview is useful as it populates the satellite image with local observations. Apart from that though it suffers heavily from advertising and cookies
Pros – satellite representation with weather observations pinpointed on the map. Bright and visually attractive
Cons – heavily commercialised with cookies etc, also not mountain specific (but can be used for mountain forecasts)
I actually quite like this site in a quirky way. Again its a little commercialised but not as much as accuweather. I like the fact that you get the map overview as well as the satellite image if you want to switch to that. Local observations feed into the map to give an overall appreciation of current conditions. It is a little clunky and difficult to access sometime though
Pros – visually appealing with map and satellite weather info for your chosen area.
Cons – difficult to navigate to and through sometimes. Commercialised and not mountain specific.
There are of course many more weather sites out there but I think the above represents the main ones and certainly the ones I have used in the past. My favourite is the Met Office site. I think it gives a nice balance of mountain and general weather info as well as short and long range forecasts. The MWIS is a close second for me. I especially like the pdf summary for today and the next 2 days and that fact its mountain specific.
Now I know you will be asking that burning question of how accurate are these sites. To be honest, accuracy is on the eye of the beholder. I have tramped the Brecon Beacons for many a year and I have seen countless examples of weather in one valley or ridge being completely different to the next even though separated by only a few miles. For mountain weather I just dont think you can get to the level of accuracy that everyone craves. However having said that I have found the Met Office forecast to be pretty accurate (probaly a 7/10) for the national park in general.
Anyway, I am sure you all have your favourite weather sites (maybe some of you still sniff the air and feel the breeze before setting out) but I hope this is of passing interest or even assistance