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Phil’s weekly column: General public helps make forecasts better

Forget flash new weather satellites, weather terminology and official sources – these days the general public have more influence on helping generate more accurate weather forecasts than ever before.

Through the birth and now dominance of social media sites over the past five years weather forecasters all around the world now have access to something of a by gone era – observers in each city, town and region.

Back in the “olden days” governments world wide had weather stations with human beings in them all over the planet.  Many become weather/military sites, like Alert in Canada – the northern most airport in the world and once home to many scientists and meteorologists.

In New Zealand we once had weather experts dotted around the nation and out on some of our most remote islands.  But as computers, better technology and eventually the Internet came in, those positions were made redundant.

From a financial point of view it made sense – but it has never made sense from a weather forecasting point of view.

Nothing beats the human eye and human body when it comes to accurately looking at, and feeling, the current weather.  A weather station can tell you a lot, but it can’t give you a gut instinct.

When I first started back when I was at the Radio Network we wanted to have eyes in every market.  Through our contract with the radio stations we still have those people and they feed through great information regularly, whether it’s Malcolm Gayfer in Southland. Richard Dryden in Manawatu, Grayson Ottaway in Bay of Plenty or Andy Thompson on the West Coast – just to name a few.

But it’s you – our readers and viewers – who contribute the most.

While we focus on the forecasts and latest news, you focus on the current conditions at your place – whether your posting comments here at, on our Facebook page or on our Twitter site – we read them and your information is very helpful. 

Some might argue we aren’t doing our job right if we have to rely on Joe 6 pack to give us an update – but the truth is, no weather forecaster on earth is 100% accurate.  There are still so many things we are trying to understand – and sometimes it’s the most fickle weather that gives us our biggest headaches, so hearing from those on the ground around our regions is so vital to us.

So keep those comments coming in – they are used to help fine tune our forecasts as well as the current conditions…and we read every single comment you send in.

– Homepage image / Craig Thomson

– By head weather analyst Philip Duncan


Andrew on 25/05/2012 8:46pm

Of course all those weather-cams are mighty helpful too.

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