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'Abysmal' forecasting and 'embarrassing' alerts: The complaints sent to Met Éireann in 2019

Some people took offence that the North isn’t included in forecasts, while others hit out at the new website.

Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann Evelyn Cusack
Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann Evelyn Cusack
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

‘RIDICULOUS’ WEATHER WARNINGS, a lack of Northern Irish coverage and inaccurate forecasts were among the issues raised among hundreds of complaints sent to Met Éireann in 2019. 

It was a slightly less eventful year for Irish forecasters this year, compared to 2018 and 2017, as there were no standout storms that left the entire country on standstill. 

Nonetheless, transcripts of complaints released to TheJournal.ie reveal that, just like in previous years, the public had hundreds of issues to raise with Ireland’s meteorological service in the last 12 months. 

Complaints ranged from problems with Met Éireann’s predictions, to how the forecaster set alerts for certain weather events, to issues with the new website design. 

In one complaint in January, one person took issue with a weather warning being issued for what they described as “normal weather for this time of year”. 

“Please stop issuing ridiculous warnings, this week you have issued a warning for normal weather for this time of year, warning that the weather will be normal,” the person said, adding that it “brings into disrepute” any future warnings Met Éireann may issue. 

winter-weather-march-3rd-2019 Traffic in snowy conditions on the N7 in Dublin during Storm Freya Source: PA Archive/PA Images

According to Met Éireann, warnings are issued during severe weather to save lives and protect the livelihoods of Irish citizens, as well as to mitigate damage to property and disturbance to economic activity.

Warnings are issued across three colour codes – yellow (least severe), orange and red (most severe) - whenever weather conditions meeting certain thresholds are anticipated within a 48-hour period.

Hazards for which the forecaster issues the warnings include wind, rain, snow, low temperatures, high temperatures, fog, thunderstorms and coastal wind warnings.

Earlier this week, Met Éireann defended its weather warning system after many questioned the speed of the organisation’s response to Storm Elsa on Wednesday night, which caused flooding and damage in the west and south of the country. 

Joan Blackburn, a meteorologist in Met Éireann, said that warnings were issued long before the storm hit. 

“You must bear in mind that warnings can be updated at any hour,” she said. 

“There was a warning in place for a full 24 hours from the day before,” Blackburn added. “It specifically said that in coast areas of the south and the west that winds could be higher.”

Storm warnings

In early March, Storm Freya hit the UK with gusts of up to 128km/h. Ireland avoided its strongest winds, but a Status Yellow wind warning was put in place for a number of counties, followed by a Status Yellow snow-ice warning for the entire country a few days later. 

On 4 March, one person complained to Met Éireann over the “short notice” snow and ice warning that was issued the previous day. 

“We travelled by car from west Clare to Dublin yesterday afternoon and had to endure dangerous and very difficult driving conditions in snow and hail,” they said. 

They added that they had checked the forecast the two days, which outlined there would be “heavy rain due to Storm Freya”. 

“Had longer notice been given about this snowfall we would not have travelled,” they said.

3363 Storms_90581758 Waves bouncing of the rocks at Dun Laoghaire pier in Dublin Source: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

In early October, a number of complaints were received by Met Éireann following Storm Lorenzo.

Prior to the storm making landfall in Ireland, a Status Orange wind warning was issued for six counties in the west of the country, with a Status Yellow rainfall warning being issued nationwide. 

While the storm caused power outages and substantial flooding in the west and north-west of Ireland, many areas of the country were left largely unaffected.

One person accused the forecaster of “panicking people into unnecessary precautions”, while another person said the weather warning was “making people afraid”. 

Not for the first time your alarming forecasts have not materialised and you have panicked people into unnecessary precautions.

“I am a taxi driver in Shannon and my takings are down about €150 for tonight. You have overreacted again.” 

Another person said the weather warning was “making people afraid”, while one person said the yellow warning for Dublin was “embarrassing”. 

Following on from this, last month that Met Éireann accused the media of over-sensationalising the potential impact of Storm Lorenzo and contributing to the fear some people already had in the run-up to the event.

rain 965_90565588 People running through the a heavy downpour on Grafton street in Dublin Source: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

Northern Ireland

Other complaints throughout the year reveal that it wasn’t just people from the Republic taking issue with Met Éireann, but those in the North, too. 

Northern Ireland’s weather forecasts are covered by the UK Met Office, while Met Éireann covers forecasts for the Republic of Ireland only.

In a complaint in March, one person questioned why some of Met Éireann’s maps do not include the six counties of Northern Ireland. 

“The wind doesn’t stop blowing a gale at Strabane or Derry,” the complainant said, adding that “a lot of people in the North use both RTÉ and Met Éireann as their primary source for both news and weather information”. 

“We are in Ireland, too,” they said. 

Capture The six counties in Northern Ireland are not included in Met Éireann's weather warnings Source: Met.ie

Another person said: “[I] would like to make a complaint about the content of your forecasting, specifically with regard to the absence of a report for the remaining six counties that you have neglected in the north of the county … Do clouds and precipitation really recognise borders?” 

Keeping it politically neutral, Met Éireann uses both Londonderry and Derry to describe the county. This was something that was questioned by one complainant, who said the use of Londonderry was “an absolute disgrace and a shambe by an Irish service”. 

‘Abysmal’

Unsurprisingly, Met Éireann also received a large number of complaints regarding its weather predictions, with some people unhappy with what they claimed were inaccurate forecasts.

In January, someone complained that the rainfall radar showed that it was no raining in Cork despite the fact that it had been raining and had been “getting heavier for the past two hours”. 

Another person complained that, based on the forecast, they had planned a barbeque for their granddaughter who had been sick. However, they said: “It has been overcast and cool with a stiff breeze all day. How could you get it so wrong. We have abandoned the bbq and my granddaughter is heartbroken.” 

Met Éireann’s forecasting was also deemed “absolutely abysmal” by another complainant. 

Meanwhile, a significant number of complaints received by Met Éireann over the last 12 months related to the forecaster’s new website and app, which were launched back in April 2018

Using an interactive tool on the homepage, you can now pick a spot anywhere in the country and get a detailed forecast.

The site and app also now deliver updated weather warnings so you can be updated about the risks in your area. 

However, it has now become evident that people are still facing difficulties with the new layout, with it being described as a “disaster” by one person. 

Another person added:

The new site is cumbersome and slow to operate, even on excellent broadband.

A number of people complained that the new temperature forecast maps are difficult to read. 

“The old five-day forecast is far superior to the ridiculous new animation you have up in its place,” one complainant said. 

Another complaint read:

I loved the previous website, easy to use and informative. The new one is an abomination.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie at Met Éireann’s Glasnevin HQ earlier this month for an upcoming episode of our podcast The Explainer, head of forecasting Evelyn Cusack responded to the criticism regarding the new website and app. 

Cusack said she understands that “some people have a great nostalgia” and that people liked Met Éireann’s website. 

“They really don’t want to move to the newfangled one,” she said. 

Cusack noted that there are still a number of charts that haven’t been added to the new website, such as ones showing winds across the Atlantic. However, she said that Met Éireann are working on adding them in the new year. 

Details of the complaints received by Met Éireann this year were released to TheJournal.ie under the Freedom of Information Act.

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