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Thursday, 22 September 2011


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What Mr. Fish actually said what that there wasn't a hurricane coming.

That statement is unexceptionable because hurricanes don't - cannot - happen far outside the tropics (and 55N is a long way out of the tropics).

Since he was a real meteorologist (not like the weather-girls of today who are chosen solely for their appearance), he meant what he said, and he was correct.

People chose to confuse the terms, that's all, and that is why he's been laughed at for it ever since.

Unfair really.

Yes, Peter MacFarlane is correct. Fish gave a very clear warning that severe storms were on the way, but his response was to a question about rumours of a hurricane. At the time, the met office in general would not have been able to accurately gauge the severity of the storms, so to expect more from him would be wrong in several respects.

You pose an intriguing set of questions. My take on this issue is that we have a natural need to feel safe, and as large-brained speculative creatures we partly accomplish this by means of prediction. Hitherto, this was (arguably) met by the extremely broad brush-strokes of religion, and with increasing secularisation this burden is now likely to be placed onto scientists and other "experts". Of course, scientists are the first to acknowledge the limits of their predictions - hence the probability stats, which are currently creeping into weather forecasts, health warnings, and the like. But as these deal with the "big picture", and individual punters want to know about what will happen to them. Their needs for certainty are unassuaged, and they will just make up the detail to suit themselves.

Add lawyers and a "compo culture", and stand well back!

You might also want to consider the legal/ethical results of expert pronouncements in, say, economics. Apparently, some Health Authorities have been saddled with huge ongoing debts as a result of Gordon Brown's fondness for PFI. Now who could possibly have forseen that?

"Should we, to put it crudely, have sued the arse of Michael Fish?"

But his arse was guiltless.


I thought it was a different typo, and Mr. Duff was suggesting sewing up poor Michael's orifice as a punishment

DM, what would I do without you and your eagle eyes? I shall not correct it, some typos are too good to alter!

Gentlemen, from Wiki (and therefore with the usual 'health warning'!

"he said during a forecast: "Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way... well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't!". That evening, the worst storm to hit South East England since 1703 caused record damage and killed 18 people." [...]
In later years, Fish claimed that he had been referring to a hurricane in Florida,[2] USA in a link to a news story that preceded the weather bulletin. But he did not mention Florida in his forecast, which was made amid widespread worries about a coming storm: that morning, the Surrey Record had warned of "furious gales", so both his caller and his viewers likely believed he was referring to Britain. Fish did go on to warn of high winds for the UK, warning viewers to "batten down the hatches", although the storm that actually occurred was far stronger than he had predicted (albeit, technically not a hurricane)."

All of that (including my typo) takes me on to the next complexity in this confusing tale - language. (See above, er, when I've written it, that is!)

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