We Need To Stop Being So Hysterical About Weather

From fog to snow to rain we need to stop being so hysterical about the weather.

This week has seen the first named storm hit the UK and the week before, the country was shrouded in a fog that lasted for nearly 48 hours.

This perfectly normal weather for November sent the country’s media into meltdown. The two-day fog led to Guardian writer Phillip Hoare penning an opinion piece dedicated to the fog. He starts his article by stating: “Fog-bound. Suddenly, we have lost control of our world.”

Performing a very non-scientific Google search, the Guardian published seven articles about the fog on 2nd November. SEVEN! You be forgiven in thinking that this country had never seen fog.

In another article entitled, “Why is it so foggy and how long it will last?”, the writer states: “Common in the winter…”  How strange having fog in November, the month that welcomes in the season of winter! Articles about fog seem to be as common as the fog itself.

Mist and fog is a perfectly normal part of living in the UK. It is for this reason cars have foglights and ships have fog horns. Also, if it was so rare, why does it appear regularly in books set in the UK and written by British authors? From Charles Dickens to Charlotte Bronte, Enid Blyton to J. K. Rowling, mist and fog is a recurring character that appears in many of their books. The reason it appears, apart from it being atmospheric, is because all these writers saw it regularly. There is a reason why most UK based books don’t cite the sun all that often.    

When I lived in Vancouver in 2013, the city was shrouded in a sea fog for two solid weeks. No one started talking about this until at least day 5 or 6. The newspapers of this Canadian city did not write seven articles each after one day. This fog did ground some planes, but it was written about in proportion after it had caused disruption for a few days. Heathrow cancelled 70 flights and this made the national news. On average 1,400 flights a day leave heathrow – that is less than 10% of that day’s flights. This ‘event’ only affected a couple of thousand people and the Guardian live reported it in such a way that you would be forgiven to think that every plane leaving the UK had been grounded.

Hot on the fog’s heels was Storm Abigail, the UK’s first named storm. Abigail was due to bring 70-80 mile an hour winds and lots of lashing rain, and she did. However, if you are a Sun reader, you would have been told in a hysterical headline that “Hurricane Abigail is coming our way TODAY!”. This story is, at best, just factually wrong. Storm Abigail never became a hurricane and wasn’t going to. At worst, the story is a piece of irresponsible journalism that could incite a national panic. Luckily, living in Merseyside means I am spared seeing the Sun’s headlines in the shops.

Strom Abigail did cause some disruption. Ferries were cancelled, schools in Scotland closed and trains were delayed. In all fairness, trains don’t need a storm to be delayed. So, storm or not, that probably did not make much of a difference to commuters.

To me, this panic-reporting and overreaction to what is perfectly normal weather for this time of the year is distorting what we believe is natural, and is removing us more and more from nature. Wind, rain and snow is normal in winter, as is both rain and high temperatures in summer. Changeable and unpredictable weather is why sayings like, “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes” come from the UK, and is probably one of the reasons why the Met Office is a world-leading institution on weather forecasting.

For those of us who live more of our lives outdoors, we know that we are part of nature and that it can affect our lives. We expect the weather to change, for it to do so unpredictably, and are prepared for it. Unlike Hoare, I do not believe that” fog-bound we have lost control of our world.” I see it, and weather in general, as part of our world and a fact of life, like commuting or eating.

Now… where did I put my waterproof winter coat?  

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