Saturday, December 7, 2013

Winter's tabloid groundhog day.

Photo: JA
About ten days ago we had the first cover of snow here in the north east Wales uplands. Nothing to get excited about. The roads and back lanes remained passable. The livestock was fed, people got to work and school. 24 hours later the snow had gone as quickly as it had arrived. A month before the Daily Express had kick started its annual weather related sensationalist news coverage by predicting a November where...

...the entire country is set for a horror freeze which will bring brutal winds and fierce blizzards.

Temperatures have already started to plunge as a swathe of cold air from the Arctic has swept across the UK in the past few days.

The first long-range forecasts warn of "recordbreaking snowfall" next month.

Well then... November came and went and although Scotland’s uplands experienced its average snowfall for the time of year, North Wales was unusually balmy with night time temperatures often in the mid 40’s f. In fact, frost cover was  virtually nonexistent in the entire month. So much for the ‘horror freeze’ and ‘fierce blizzards’!

That the Daily Express engages in this weather related sensationalism is nothing new. Various commentators from George Monbiot to Alex Hern in the New Statesman have exposed the Express as engaging in weather scare stories based on statements and outlandish claims from some pretty dubious agencies and individuals. In recent months other newspapers have begun to get in on the act, notably The Telegraph who like its conservative counterpart, increasingly puts these scare stories on its front page. Perhaps it’s pandering to the British obsession with the weather or perhaps there are commercial reasons behind it? After all, the more feeble minded amongst us are quite likely to empty the supermarket shelves, fill up their domestic and vehicle fuel tanks and splash out on extreme weather clothing.

Things reached such a head recently after a number of newspapers predicted an extreme ‘Siberian Winter’ that the Met Office were forced to step in and deny that these reports were based on their own forecasts. Adding that they found it difficult to forecast more than two weeks in advance, never mind forecast an entire season. Despite this, anyone perusing the outdoor social network sites cannot fail to discover a number of individuals and organizations wetting themselves over the prospects of a ‘Siberian Winter’. It’s as if the grim reality of tabloid journalism had totally passed them by. Note to said individuals, Mystic Meg cannot predict this week’s lottery numbers, Jonathan Powell and whichever crackpot weather forecasting agency he has invented this week, cannot predict a season’s weather and reindeers cannot fly! I’m sure we’ll get some snow and ice in North Wales this winter but if I were you, I wouldn’t base my plans around Daily Express or Telegraph weather forecasts.

* Since posting, The Express has surpassed itself with its latest slice of sensationalist bilge with yet another Jonathan Powell sourced weather scare story. The Christmas from HELL: Biggest winter storm EVER to wreck holidays for millions in UK. Looks like trolling has finally replaced journalism at the Express!

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