TV weather presenters ‘have moral obligation’ to explain climate crisis
Ex-forecaster Francis Wilson says viewers need to be sure presenters are serious experts
Tue 3 Mar 2020 00.01 GMTLast modified on Tue 3 Mar 2020 00.06 GMT
Shares 13 [image: People watch as huge waves hit the sea wall in Porthcawl, South Wales]
The former weather presenter Francis Wilson has said it is now more important than ever for TV forecasters to be serious experts “in a time of floods and fires” caused by global heating.
Wilson, who presented forecasts on BBC Breakfast between 1981 until 1992 and at Sky News from 1993 until 2010, stressed the need to keep audiences engaged and to report accurately as extreme weather becomes more common.
“A report has to be engaging,” he told Radio Times. “A stuffy, pompous forecast, laden with jargon, is a switch-off and that’s self defeating.
“We want people to be engaged with the weather … every weather presenter has an even greater obligation to get the tone right.”
He warned that because of the climate crisis, the UK would now experience more severe weather events such as the floods that have caused catastrophic disruption in the north of England and Wales.
In recent weeks, the UK has been hit by Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge, which have inflicted destruction on homes, businesses and roads. Councils are facing large bills
Wilson referred to the infamous BBC lunchtime report on 15 October 1987 where weatherman Michael Fish “cheerfully dismissed” a viewer’s concerns that “a hurricane was on the way”. [image: Francis Wilson presenting the weather on Thames TV.] Facebook
Later that evening, what is now known as the Great Storm of 1987 happened. Eighteen people were killed and around 15m trees were blown over. Advertisement
“That [Great Storm of 1987] was a once-in-200-years storm but now, thanks to global warming, we have a more energetic atmosphere,” Wilson said.
“We are already seeing this new reality, here in the UK. It’s common sense that lightly dismissing a viewer’s concerns is wildly inappropriate when large areas of Yorkshire, the Midlands and Wales are under water, but we also need to be confident that the presenter knows what they are talking about. It’s a tricky balance.”
Wilson also said there was a “moral obligation” on TV forecasters to tell viewers that the more extreme climate events they are reporting on are caused by global heating.
“We need to tell people to stop warming the atmosphere, to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere,” he said. “That way, viewers won’t lose sight of the fact that they can actually do something about it.
The BBC used the Met Office as its main source for forecasts for 94 years until 2017 when it switched to MeteoGroup. Marco Petagna, a senior operational meteorologist at the Met Office, said it continued to provide “high resolution data and weather warnings” for the BBC.
Petagna added that his organisation currently provided data and presenter briefings for Sky and ITV. The weather bulletins for Channel 5 are presented by Met Office presenters during the week and they provide voiceover scripts and graphics at the weekend. MeteoGroup also provides weather data for Channel 4.
Wilson also referenced the changing intensity of weather events elsewhere around the world. “Across the world, storms will be fiercer, floods will be deeper, droughts will be longer, deserts will be drier and wild fires will be wilder.”