BBC Weather celebrates 100 year anniversary – here are 10 standout moments


BBC Weather is celebrating its centenary and to mark this milestone here are 10 of the standout moments from its 100 year history from its first forecast in 1922 to the hottest day on record

Michael Fish during his notorious October 15, 1987 broadcast
Michael Fish during his notorious October 15, 1987, broadcast

first forecast

BBC Weather made its auspicious debut with a radio broadcast on November 14, 1922, and by March 26
of the following year it had become a daily event.

Although the weather report made a brief TV appearance in November 1936, the pre-war audience was tiny as so few homes had a television set.

However, it made its return to TV in 1949, using a map with captions to illustrate the forecast.

magnetic symbols

The magnetic symbols used for many years will always have a place in some people’s hearts.

Although they were designed to give a more precise indication of what to expect and where, they frequently went wonky or fell off maps during broadcasts.

By 1985 the symbols were replaced when the world’s most advanced computerized weather display system came into operation at the BBC.

A weather chart from 1936

1st weatherman

Former RAF forecaster George Cowling was the first forecaster to appear in vision standing before a map.

On January 11, 1954, the 33-year-old set the tone for his five-minute broadcasts, which aimed to stress continuity. He also believed that he should deliver one that “the man in the street” would understand.

During his debut, he introduced a personal touch, saying tomorrow would be good for drying washing.

George left the BBC in 1957 and died in 2009.

Former RAF forecaster George Cowling

britain paralyzed

The amount of snow that blanketed the country in 1947 was the last thing people needed while trying to recover from the Second World War.

The BBC reported drifts 10ft deep which paralyzed the nation. Roads and railways were blocked. Workers, including miners, were trapped at home and at one point London had less than a week’s worth of coal left in its stocks.

Meanwhile, farmers were unable to reach their livestock and animals starved to death. When the thaw finally came in March it created floods.

Great storm of 1987

The massive storm was described by the Met Office as a “once in 200-year” event. With winds gusting up to 100mph, it was estimated that well over
15 million trees were blown down across England and Wales, including six of the giant trees in Sevenoaks that gave the town its name.

Radio and TV weather forecasts were limited then but lessons were certainly learned on how to improve and communicate a forecast. To this day, people still talk about the storm and refer to it as the “Michael Fish hurricane”, largely because the night before the event the BBC weatherman, left, had promised the nation there would not be a hurricane.

The storm also brought about the inception of weather warnings, to help deliver the forecast of dangerous conditions more clearly.

To this day, people still talk about the storm and refer to it as the “Michael Fish hurricane”
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Image:

expresspictures.com)

hot test day

July 25, 2019, was a scorcher. In fact, it was the hottest day ever recorded in the UK.

The BBC told how the weather station at the University of Cambridge Botanic Garden recorded 38.7C, beating the UK record of 38.5C set in Faversham, Kent, in 2003.

Staff working at the garden tweeted: “No wonder we all felt as if we’d melted.”

First female broadcaster

Barbara Edwards was the first female forecaster on BBC TV.

She made her small screen debut in 1974 and fronted broadcasts until 1978.

As a qualified meteorologist, who had joined the Met Office in 1957, Barbara blazed a trail.

But she found the level of scrutiny about her tough appearance and later said: “Privacy just goes out the window. I just couldn’t accept that.”

In 2014, she revealed that she had been working part-time in a university library.

Barbara Edwards was the first female forecaster on BBC TV

Social media

In 2010 the BBC Weather Twitter account was launched.

Since then, there have been more than 106,000 tweets on subjects as diverse as warnings about winter storms to the latest edition of special program Climate Check.

In October 2020, BBC Weather joined Instagram.

Pictures from the photo-sharing community BBC Weather Watchers (below) are regularly featured on social media platforms.

You can join the more than 290,000 people who have already signed up at bbc.co.uk/weatherwatchers.

Michael Fish making his now famous weather broadcast on October 1987
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Image:

Youtube)

Snowmageddon

In 1963, the coldest winter in living memory gripped the nation.

It seemed relentless and dragged on for more than three months.

Temperatures were so low that rivers, lakes and even parts of the sea froze over.

On February 25, 1963, a record low of -21C was recorded and BBC News reported: “By the time this blizzard had finally blown itself out, 200 main roads were impassable and 95,000 miles of road were snowbound.”

In 1963, the coldest winter in living memory gripped the nation.
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Image:

SSPL via Getty Images)

name that storm

You might remember the 2013 St Jude storm but, in fact, the name was not given by the Met Office. It was coined by the media. The names given to it by EU meteorological institutions were Christian or Carmen.

However, in September 2015 the Met Office, along with their Irish counterparts Met Éireann, began naming storms
– and the BBC quickly adopted the convention.

In September 2015 the Met Office, along with their Irish counterparts Met Éireann, began naming storms

The first storm that year was Abigail on November 12-13, and a total of 11 were named over the 2015-2016 season. Later, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute decided to adopt the same system and now joins the UK and Ireland to help name storms.

It has raised awareness of severe weather in the UK, prompting people to take action to prevent harm to themselves or their property.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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