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'Ridiculous' forecasting and 'offensive' lack of Northern Irish coverage: The complaints sent to Met Éireann in 2020

Some people complained about Met Éireann’s predictions while others took issue with the website.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

‘UNRELIABLE’ FORECASTS, ‘abysmal’ weather warnings and a lack of Northern Irish coverage were among the issues raised among hundreds of complaints sent to Met Éireann this year. 

Although many aspects of life in 2020 have been quite eventful as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, there were no standout weather events that brought the entire country to a standstill, as there had been in recent years. 

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 range from problems with Met Éireann’s predictions, to how the forecaster set alerts for certain weather events, to dissatisfaction with the forecaster’s website. 

In one complaint sent in on 4 October, a member of the public in Roscommon questioned why a Status Yellow rainfall warning had not been issued for the county, but had been for almost all the surrounding counties. 

A rainfall warning was in place for bordering counties of Leitrim, Longford, Offaly, Westmeath, Sligo and Mayo. However, Roscommon, which is sandwiched between these counties, was not included in the warning. 

“I usually take a pragmatic approach when looking at your weather warnings for the area. However, today county Roscommon has been left completely surrounded by a sea of yellow,” they wrote. 

“How can a whole county … not be affected in this instant? I know you have to have a system of demarcation but county boundaries does seem to be a crude method in today’s world.”

447 Storm Brendan Dublin Poolbeg lighthouse hit by high waves from Storm Brendan in January Source: RollingNews.ie

Weather warnings

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. Warnings are issued on a county-by-county basis.

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

In mid-January, Storm Brendan battered the country and left thousands without power. In anticipation of the storm, Met Éireann issued a Status Orange weather warning for the entire country on 12 January. 

The previous day, one person wrote to the forecaster complaining that there was only a Status Yellow warning in place at the time. 

“I am lying here with violent winds rocking my house and there is a yellow warning, who makes this stuff up?” they wrote. 

In May, another person complained about Met Éireann’s “abysmal” forecasting and expressed their dissatisfaction with the forecaster’s weather warnings. 

“Just a few words on your abysmal forecasting again,” they said. 

“Today in Enniscrone, we had stronger winds than in any red warnings that you have issued in the last two years, how is that possible?” the person said, adding that there were trees damaged and “branches all over roads”. 

“Very dangerous to drive or be out in,” they said.

weather 09 People walk through Dublin City during heavy rain in August Source: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

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

In May, someone complained that there had been heavy rain in their area for some time, despite the Met Éireann website stating that it would be dry there for the day. 

“Please update your website for the for the Munster region, it’s inaccurate and unreliable,” they said. 

Another person complained that, based on forecast provided, they had travelled to complete outdoor work which would require dry weather.

However, they said: “The forecast was for spots of drizzle to clear for Cavan area with a dry afternoon. Your app is showing no rain at present but it is, in fact, currently drizzling steadily in Cavan and has been all morning.”

They went on to complain that they had “wasted a trip”. 

One person said they had been “misled” by the forecast provided and that the website is “not fit for purpose and cannot be relied upon”. 

Another complainant said the forecast on the Met Éireann app is “so inconsistent it borders on ridiculous”. 

Northern Ireland

Other complaints throughout the year reveal that people took issue with Met Éireann’s coverage of Northern Ireland, as well as the Republic. 

In April, Met Éireann’s head of forecasting Evelyn Cusack confirmed plans to include Northern Ireland on its weather warning maps. The six counties are now included in the forecaster’s weather warnings. 

Prior to this change, when Met Éireann issued a weather warning – Status Yellow, Orange or Red – the affected counties in the Republic appeared in that colour but Northern Ireland was left grey. 

download An old weather warning map from Met Éireann's website which shows the six counties in Northern Ireland excluded from the weather warning system Source: Met.ie

In the early months of this year, before the change was implemented, Met Éireann received numerous strongly-worded complaints regarding the lack of coverage of Northern Irish counties. 

In a complaint in February, one person said: “I am an Irish citizen who lives 100m north of the imaginary border in Ireland. Your weather warning map, which excludes 6 Irish counties, is not only disgraceful, it is insulting and offensive. 

“I’m embarrassed for you. How does the wind know to stop at this imaginary border?”

In the same month, another person called on Met Éireann to “stop ignoring” the six counties. 

“This is not only utterly offensive to all those who watch RTÉ in the North, but it is ridiculous as weather does not stop at the border.” 

Keeping it politically neutral, Met Éireann uses both Londonderry and Derry to describe the city. This was raised by one complainant. 

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“Just realised there is a strange city called Londonderry on your map. Met Éireann, why????” they questioned. 

Another person, writing As Gaeilge, pressed Met Éireann on why its website isn’t available in the Irish language, as well as in English.

New website

Meanwhile, Met Éireann continued to receive a significant number of complaints this year related to its 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’s evident that people are still facing difficulties with the new layout, despite it being launched over two years ago, with one person describing it as “one of the most user unfriendly” websites they have “ever seen”. 

Another person added: 

Your website is terrible on the mobile site and web browser, frequently glitches, never works on my devices, maps not fully visible on [the] mobile are. Really, really terrible website. The previous format you had was much more reliable. 

The website’s rainfall radar was repeatedly criticised throughout the last 12 months. The radar shows live precipitation and the last 90 minutes of rain over Ireland, updated every five minutes. 

In July, one person said that for the week previous, the rainfall radar “had not been accurate”. 

“I’m currently in Leitrim and it is raining, but the radar shows it as having passed 45 minutes ago,” they said. 

Screenshot 2020-11-25 154637 The rainfall radar on Met Éireann's website Source: Met.ie

Another person complimented the new website, but in the same message said the new rainfall radar is “slightly less good” than the previous one. 

“The newer version had a higher time resolution, every five minutes, but only goes back over the last two hours or so. This makes it much harder to use for working out when the rain will pass,” they said.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie at Met Éireann’s Glasnevin HQ in December 2019 for an episode of The Explainer podcast, head of forecasting Evelyn Cusack responded to criticism regarding the website and app. 

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

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

Details of the complaints received by Met Éireann this year were released to TheJournal.ie under the Freedom of Information Act. Names and other identifying details of the complainants were not disclosed, in keeping with policy.  

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