For several years now, a chap called Nathan Rao has been publishing preposterous weather stories in The Daily Express, an alleged newspaper.
Winter ‘forecasts’ in recent years have included the following shocking headlines that have also been lifted into other tabloids such as The Sun and The Star.
To create these wild stories, Nathan Rao needs a source who is prepared to go beyond preposterous to offer him enough to get the click-bait and newspaper sales his bosses are demanding of him.
Enter, James Madden, and a company called Exacta weather. I have often wondered who Exacta Weather are, whether they are genuine meteorologists and what makes them a credible source for Nathan Rao and The Daily Express.
Fortunately, I stumbled across an article in The Guardian newspaper last week written by George Monibot. Monibot is obviously equally as intrigued as I am, but is probably a better writer (you can say that I am better than him if you like).
Monibot wrote to James Madden of Exacta and asked the following questions:
- Could you explain the basis on which you made these forecasts?
- What are your qualifications as a weather forecaster?
- How do you respond to the charge that you are engaging in “stopped clock forecasting”: making the same predictions again and again in the hope that they will occasionally be proved right, allowing you to claim vindication?
- How do you respond to the claim that your “accuracy” record [published on the Exacta website] is highly selective and misleading?
- Are you deceiving potential purchasers of your service by offering this misleading account?
- Why do you not publish an independent audit of your forecasting accuracy?
As you might expect, Monibot received a note that consisted of bullshit and a threat of legal action.
Here is how Madden responded:
“I remember the last time you tried dragging me into an unfair article involving only PWS [Positive Weather Solutions], for which I still have a dated response and video to yourself, which was shown to all my clients.”
“The previous also highlights you in previous statements/articles about weather being the weather, and sometimes forecasts will be wrong (in defence of the Met Office). No surprises there!”
“After seeking advice, I will not hesitate to make an official complaint to the press complaints commission about the previous article, as I also will for any future articles that are misleading. I will also make people aware of this via the site, and your personal vendetta against myself, and your clear defensive nature of anything Met Office related.
“An explanation and detailed review of my winter forecast will be posted to subscribers and via the site shortly, and in my own time and not at deadline requests from yourself.”
Monibot replied saying he had no vendetta against him (I think he does really, don’t you?) offering him another chance to respond. Madden replied (apparently less aggressively this time) but all he could offer was an attempt at stating he had a better forecasting record than the “A stopped clock is right twice a day” comparison used by Monibot.
“May I also remind you that a broken clock is right twice in a day out of 24 hours, 1,440 minutes and 86,400 seconds. Have you ever thought of it that way or are you sticking to a more simplistic approach to prove some kind of point? My overall success rate is much higher than the simplistic comparison you tried to make there (with proof in various media articles and past forecasts via Exacta Weather).”
Wow, did you read that? Exacta are more accurate than a stopped clock!!!
I’m no Poirot but I reckon Monibot was by now, enjoying himself immensely. However, sadly for him Madden was unable to send any evidence suggesting his “overall success rate” was more accurate than a fucked clock. Apparently, he wasn’t very well, so he couldn’t respond to any more queries that might suggest he is unqualified as a meteorologist.
Now, it could be argued that Monibot would be better off chasing down real news, rather than a couple of jokers making up fantasy weather forecasts for click-bait. However, there is a more serious side to this story and that is why it really pisses off the likes of Liam Dutton, the Channel 4 Met Office weather presenter.
Many people, especially the old and vulnerable (not to mention the stupid) associate these forecasts with the met office, which is still, by far and away the best weather forecasting service in the UK.
By reading these forecasts, two things are happening. Firstly, elderly people get frightened and if they are hamstrung by tight fiscal budgets, they will live in fear of increased heating bills and the inability to get out and about on public transport.
Secondly, those who have grown tired of these “Killer Vortex” tales and have learnt to ridicule weather forecasts can face ‘Cry Wolf’ syndrome and get caught out by rare blasts of extreme weather, as with ‘The Beast from the East’ late last winter.
Also, as Monibot points out, there is also the responsibility of national media groups not to deliberately attempt to mislead their customer base with stories that have no substance.
However, we are talking about The Daily Express here, a newspaper that attracts its readers (when not talking about a Polar Vortex) by claiming an Alzheimer’s cure is imminent, new evidence surrounding the death of Diana and that Maddie McCann is about to be found safe and well.
With regards to the weather, basically, if the source of the article is not the Met Office, it is probably not true.
If it comes from Nathan Rao of The Express and James Madden of Exacta and you believe it, I wouldn’t mind betting you believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy too.