What is going on with the weather forecast?

Hunts Post farming column by Anne-Marie Hamilton, of Wood Farm, Hail Weston.

Hunts Post farming column by Anne-Marie Hamilton, of Wood Farm, Hail Weston. - Credit: HUNTS POST

What is going on with our weather forecasters these days? They seem incapable of providing an accurate weather prediction, even a few hours ahead.

Earlier in the month, we were threatened with the worst floods and storms since Noah, only to have a run of perfectly dry days; although a friend in northern France did reap the most terrific hail storm which wrote off his new car, his house roof, and several of his windows.

Whilst I am sure that predicting what the weather will do is never easy, I don’t think that meteorologists have ever fully regained their nerve since the Great Storm of 1987.

These days, they tend to keep hedging their bets, and when we are trying to find a window where we are guaranteed at least five dry days in a row in which to get some hay made, it is really annoying to find that, because of inaccurate forecasts, we have missed them.

When harvesting most crops, decisions are less fraught, as you can see what the weather is doing at that moment, and get on with the job, if it is fit. However, some crops do need a ‘lead-in’ time, and farmers who grow oil seed rape have a similar need to those who grow hay.

It is a difficult crop to ripen evenly, so as harvest draws near, rape is either swathed (using a machine which cuts the crop about one foot off the ground, and then lays the rest of the plant on top of the stalks, which enables the wind to get underneath and blow it dry), or it is desiccated.

Whichever treatment is used, the next few days are anxious ones, because as the crop dries out, it becomes increasing brittle, and it is essential for the weather to stay calm. If the wind gets up, a year’s worth of hard work can be shaken out of the seed pods, and the tiny seeds fall to the ground, where they are impossible to harvest.

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Mind you, I am unsure whether farmers are any better at long-term weather predictions than meteorologists. Put six of them together, and it is almost guaranteed that they will peer at their mobile phones and each one will come up with a different forecast, depending on which company they favour to supply their information!