Haven’t the Foggiest Which Weather Stories to Believe?

Thundersnow, willy-willys and the hottest/coldest seasons on record, there’s certainly no shortage of headlines about the weather. But many meteorological terms we hear are misused, say early career researchers.

Sense About ScienceFrustrated by headlines of hurricanes hitting the UK and claims that any forecast of snow will be a ‘blizzard,’ today, Voice of Young Science members have launched an online quiz. These early career researchers are challenging everyone to test their weather know-how and arm themselves with the facts to decipher what the next round of weather stories really mean.

Take the quiz now — you can get it here — and warm up your wintery small talk. Did you know:
· A monsoon doesn’t just mean some heavy rain, it’s actually a seasonal wind shift that could even cause a drought.
· “London will be hotter than Athens!” often makes the headlines, but this actually happens about once a month.
· Willy willy is a genuine weather term, meaning a vortex of dust formed by wind.
· Headlines told us that 2012, then 2014 were to be the coldest winters in Britain for 100 years. Both were wrong. The coldest winter was actually back in 1962-63.

Voice of Young Science (VoYS) is a growing network of 2,000+ early career researchers, engineers, scientists and medics who play an active role in public discussions about science. VoYS members inspire their peers and connect with the public on scientific issues by calling out bad science, tackling popular misconceptions around controversial issues, challenging pseudoscientific claims, and responding to misinformation in all kinds of media. Read more about VoYS HERE. VoYS is co-ordinated by Sense About Science, a charity that equips people to make sense of science and evidence.


Andrew Barrett, meteorologist and VoYS member:
“There is a near constant stream of newspaper headlines about the weather, often they confuse their meteorological terminology and some significantly exaggerate the impact of upcoming severe weather. Rather than trying to respond to every story as it is published, I felt a need to help readers understand when their lives and property are in danger and when forecasts of extreme weather are being exaggerated.”

Chloe Moore, interim public engagement programme manager, The Royal Meteorological Society:
“Taking the quiz is a great, quick way for people to test their meteorological knowledge, which can sometimes be skewed by how the media portray a weather story.”

Georgina Glaser, VoYS member:
“Before contributing to this quiz, I really hadn’t realised the extent to which weather reporting is misleading. Having heard so many stories about hurricanes, I was particularly surprised to hear that one has never actually hit the UK.”

Joanne Thomas, VoYS co-ordinator:
“Clear and accurate information about weather is important, so it’s fantastic to see early career researchers addressing misleading use of weather terms.”

For further information or comments contact Joanne Thomas at jthomas@senseabotuscience.org or 020 7490 9590/07791 136 306, or Chris Peters, cpeters@senseaboutscience.org or 020 7490 9590/07837 394 957.

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Sense About Science

Sense About Science is a registered charity founded in 2002, to equip people to make sense of science and evidence. We help the public and policy makers in their use of scientific evidence. We tackle misconceptions and respond to public questions on scientific and medical issues. With over 5,000 scientists, from Nobel prize winners to postdocs, we work in partnership with scientific bodies, research publishers, policy makers, the public and the media, to change public discussions about science and evidence. Through award-winning public campaigns, we share the tools of scientific thinking and scrutiny. Our activities and publications are used and shaped by community groups, policy makers, civic bodies, patient organisations, information services, writers, publishers, educators and health services.

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