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Met Éireann

'Inaccurate' app and 'obvious bias' for Dublin: Complaints sent to Met Éireann in 2021

Some people hit out at Met Éireann’s predictions, while others complained about its weather warnings.

‘ATROCIOUS’ FORECASTS, A ‘terrible’ app and Dublin bias were among the issues raised among hundreds of complaints sent to Met Éireann this year. 

Although many aspects of life in 2021 have been, yet again, quite eventful as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, there were no standout weather events – other than Storm Barra earlier this month – that brought the entire country to a standstill, as there had been in some recent years. 

Nonetheless, transcripts of complaints released to reveal that, just like in previous years, the public had hundreds of issues to raise with Ireland’s meteorological service between 1 January and 20 October. 

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

In one complaint sent on 10 March, one person took issue the timing of a Status Orange wind warning being issued by Met Éireann. 

A Status Orange wind warning kicked in for Cork and Kerry at 8pm on 10 March as winds of up to 80km/h and gusts of up to 120km/h were expected. 

A Status Yellow wind warning had kicked in earlier than afternoon for the rest of Munster, but one person contacted Met Éireann complaining that there had been no advance notice of the Status Orange warning.

“Could you not have predicted that this storm would be worse in Munster in advance … people’s lives depend on the accuracy of your warnings,” they complained. 

Hail shower 003 The aftermath of a shower of hail stones in Dublin 4 in March Sasko Lazarov Sasko Lazarov

According to Met Éireann, warnings are issued during severe weather to save lives and protect the livelihoods of people across the country, 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.

Met Éireann also issues other types warnings, such as various marine warnings and environmental warnings. 

For example, the forecaster issues blight warnings “if a spell of mild and humid weather conditions is forecast to last long enough for potato blight spores to develop and subsequently spread to nearby plants”. 

Those who use the Met Éireann app can subscribe to receive certain types of warnings, such as only warnings for particular counties, or only rain warnings. However, a number of people this year complained they had received warnings they did not want. 

“I like the app but I do not want to get blight warnings. Could you allow multiple selections when choosing what warnings to receive? Or is there a way to get all warnings except blight warnings?” one person wrote to Met Éireann. 

Another person complained:

I do not ever want potato blight or other farming weather warnings! I have never asked for them but get them daily! I do want the real weather warnings, like wind, rain, snow, etc and have subscribed to these.

One person also complained about the lack of a weather warning being issued during a bout of rain in Donegal, which they alleged would have warranted a warning in Dublin. 

“If the amount of, and intensity of, rainfall we have experienced in east Donegal since this morning was in Dublin there would have been a weather warning,” they said. 

Similarly, another person said they would not use Met Éireann’s website “going forward” as they complained its “forecasts are confusing and often very inaccurate, and have an obvious bias for Capital D”. 

4029 Rainy weather People out walking in rain and cold weather on Grafton Street, Dublin in April Leah Farrell Leah Farrell

Weather predictions

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 January, one person had complained that Met Éireann has forecast conditions of as low as -5 degrees overnight, but that they had awoken to no frosty conditions. 

“Please try to get your forecasts accurate. Last night, we had a forecast for deep frost everywhere. -1, -2, -3, -4, -5 all across the map. And we awaken in Wicklow and Arklow to a sunny morning with no frost,” they said. 

Met Éireann had forecast the night in question to be “bitterly cold” with widespread severe frost and ice. “Most areas will be dry with clear spells, but there will be scattered wintry showers of hail, sleet or snow affecting eastern and southeastern counties,” it had forecast. 

On Saturday, 12 June, one person complained of “atrocious forecasting”. 

They said: 

Where is this fantastic weather that you forecasted from Thursday on? Nothing but cloudy skies and slightly windy, albeit warm. No sunshine whatsoever during the day.

Similarly on 13 June, another person complained: “Weather forecast weekend of June 12th and 13th of June… Was it possible to get it more wrong? To predict a heatwave for the weekend and what did we get? Dull overcast and rain we never saw the sun once.

“Absolutely amateurish that’s how bad the forecasts were this weekend! You and your forecasters need to have a long look at yourselves.. resident of Co Cavan.” 

On 9 June, the forecaster had predicted the following few days were to be warm and dry with temperatures up to 23 degrees. 

Heat wave 010 People enjoying the sun on Sandycove Beach in Dublin during the heatwave in July Leah Farrell Leah Farrell

In a statement to The Journal responding to some of the complaints made by members of the public over the past year, Met Éireann said it “provides weather forecasts from a few hours ahead to an outlook of the month ahead, which gives an indication of weather patterns likely to affect Ireland for that month”. 

“It’s important to keep in mind that the further a forecast looks ahead, the less accurate it will be due to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere – small changes over the Atlantic can have direct impacts on our weather in Ireland in a few days’ time,” the forecaster said. 

App issues

Meanwhile, just like the last couple of years, 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.

Despite being launched over three years ago, it’s evident that people are still facing difficulties with the new app layout, with one person simply writing: “Why is your app so bad??”

Another person added: 

“I have been using your app recently to try and plan when to go out as the weather has been awful recently, and I’m finding that your app is consistently providing inaccurate information.”

Met Éireann’s rainfall radar was repeatedly criticised by users throughout 2020. This was the case again this year. 

The radar shows live precipitation and the last 90 minutes of rain over Ireland, updated every five minutes. 

“Can you explain to me why your app is telling me it’s clear and sunny when outside my window it is dull and cloudy?” one person said. 

Someone else complained: “Your weather app is terrible. The maps and rainfall radar never work. Since you changed from the previous format, the app has been just horrible. Can you improve this, please?”

Screenshot 2021-12-08 145021 The rainfall radar on Met Éireann's website

Speaking to 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. 

In its statement regarding this year’s complaints, Met Éireann said: “When you are checking our app or website for a weather forecast a few days ahead, it is useful to check the national and regional forecast text too, as this gives an overview of what’s happening in the broader weather picture across the country.”

Complaints also came in to Met Éireann not just about its website and app, but it’s broadcasts, too.

“I am someone who has less than normal hearing. I have noticed recently that your early morning weather forecast has a background sound playing, as it is read,” one person said. 

“I find it disrupts my ability to listen to the forecast,” they said. 

In a similar complaint, another person said: “I’m wondering why you’ve added some sort of background music during the evening forecast. It makes it very difficult to discern what’s being said.” 

Met Éireann said in its statement to The Journal that “in addition to our forecasts on our website, app and on TV, we provide a range of accessible forecasts and information for those with sight and hearing issues”. 

The forecaster’s website has screen reader access and and “easy to access” text weather forecast. 

It has also recently introduced a new daily audio weather forecast, updated three times a day. 

Details of the complaints received by Met Éireann this year were released to The Journal 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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