Haven’t the Foggiest

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A VoYS campaign to challenge the misleading use of meteorological terms and rise of crazy weather stories. Take the weather quiz on Buzzfeed.

There is certainly no shortage of weather-related stories – it seems every winter will be “the coldest winter for 100 years”, headlines proclaim it will be “hotter than” somewhere like Africa, Australia, or Athens and we often hear warnings of hurricanes hitting the UK. But VoYS members have become frustrated by the way weather is often presented in the media and in public discussion, and are concerned that misleading use of terms and exaggerated weather stories could be undermining public trust in meteorology.

VoYS launched a short online quiz on Buzzfeed in January 2016 to challenge everyone to test their weather know-how and arm themselves with the facts to decipher what the next stream of weather stories really means.


“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.” — Andrew Barrett, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading and VoYS member

“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.” — Chloe Moore, Interim Public Engagement Programme Manager, The Royal Meteorological Society

“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.” — Georgina Glaser, School of Biology, University of St Andrews and VoYS member

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

“I’m really glad that VoYS are addressing misconceptions about meteorology in this campaign. Meteorology is a fascinating science that is now not only relevant to our small talk in the pub but links to wider global social and economic issues. I think it’s really important that we all understand where our weather forecasts come from and, in particular, that we understand the uncertainties involved.” —  Hana Pearce, Institute of Atmospheric Science, University of Leeds and VoYS member

“The weather forecast is an important decision maker for many people day to day, sometimes life changing decisions are made as a result of weather forecasts and associated warnings. But informing those decisions requires forecasts that are trusted by their audience, the use of unclear and misleading terms, or disreputable forecasts “muddy the waters”, making people less likely to react to serious and reputable warnings to make vital, potentially lifesaving decisions.” — Rob Thompson, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading and VoYS member

Select coverage

Do YOU know what a ‘willy-willy’ is? Take this test and see if you can tell the difference between real and bogus weather terms, the Mail Online (5 February 2016)

Untangling fact from fiction in media warnings of extreme weather, Carbon Brief (14 January 2016)

Rony Robinson interview with VoYS member Hana Pearce, BBC Radio Sheffield (14 January 2016)

Published: 14 September 2016