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Philip Duncan – Why I love the weather

It’s 6:50am…my cellphone beeps…. it’s a text message. “What’s the weather going to be like today?”. Welcome to my life. I have a really interesting job… because no matter where I am on the planet, so long as I’m around people who speak English, people can straight away have a conversation with me. The minute I describe what I do there is no shortage of conversation. This is because the weather is such a universal topic that we all basically understand.

No awkward rides up the lift at work for me. “Ohhh it’s windy out there today Phil”. “When’s summer going to end?”. “Gee it was hot last night”.

To be honest, I never get tired of talking about the weather. Some people hate their jobs coming home with them at night… or being woken up early in the morning by a text message to do with work. I love it though.

Over the years I’ve developed a thicker skin. I can take criticism as well as give it. I get fiercely defensive of my accuracy when it’s attacked but am always open to being proven wrong. We need to defend our predictions but at the same time admit when we get them wrong… which from time to time we do.

No one can perfectly predict the weather… and those that claim to get it right 95 per cent of the time are perhaps living in a dream world.

It’s a weird skill – being able to predict the weather. Ask me to fix your computer? No help. Ask me to fix your car? No help. Ask me to build a kit set BBQ. No help. Ask me about the weather tomorrow? I can help.

New Zealanders are especially passionate about the weather… we love to read weather news stories – they always cause spikes in ratings on news websites. I love that I can help… it’s good for the soul to know you can help people. For some people it’s knowing how to fix a car, or put together a BBQ… for me it’s being able to help people choose what to wear to work or to help plan an outdoor party.

I take it very badly when I get a forecast wrong. It’s never the big things… We (WeatherWatch) are actually very conservative when it comes to predicting thunderstorms or gales… as we love storms and we don’t want to get other storm lovers excited about something when it may not happen. We actually have a very high accuracy rate for the big weather events because we don’t jump to predict thunderstorms etc… but it’s the small events that stress us out.

You know the little weather icon we have on our forecasts? THAT stresses me out. My friends think I’m insane. We’ll be going out to have lunch and I’ll go “Oh no, there are clouds” (pointing to 3 puffy clouds over the CBD). “Our weather icon has a sun and no clouds”. Stunned silence from my friends… then they continue talking as if I’m not even there. Then I’ll spend the next few minutes debating about whether or not I should change it.

Richard Green and other forecasters talk of the same frustration. We want our forecasts to be perfect!

Another thing that stresses me out is the daily high. I get really angry when we get it wrong….by 1 degree. Which is ridiculous I know…especially considering Auckland is huge and there could be a 3 or 4 degree range across the entire city.

So … there we have it. A little insight in to my life…and my oddities.

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