As Right As Rain

Forget about fake news. Are you ready for the truth? Here it is:

Met Éireann has never produced its own weather reports.

History will tell you that once the Brits left, the Met Office of the Tan was replaced by the proud Met Éireann of the Irish republic. Well, that much is true. But what do we know about the Irish people that took charge? Ask enough questions in the right circles and it doesn’t take long to find out that the inaugural staff of Met Éireann were, perhaps, the greatest crowd of chancers this fair isle has ever produced. If you’re well-read, dear reader, you’ll appreciate the gravity of that claim. Allow me to put that claim in the proper context. These people applied for and gained employment in Met Éireann without knowing the first thing about forecasting or weather projections or, indeed, meteorological science. In a country where every single individual has an emotional connection to (and nigh-on fanatical regard for) the weather, these people put themselves forward as the experts. Chancers of a mythological stature, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Ordinarily, chancerism of this ilk is rooted out pretty quickly, as it would have been in this case if not for two significant factors: Church and State. First of all, Met Éireann was established under the auspices of the Department of Local Government at a time when a job in the public service was a job for life. Secondly, no right-thinking, God-fearing Irish person would  feign to know the first thing about weather prediction, for fear of finding out too much about how the world worked and upsetting God, or worse, their Parish Priest. Whether public or private citizen, every other Irish person left Met Éireann to their work, not knowing or wanting to know anything about it for reasons of either morality or convenience. So that was that. A bunch of chancers left in complete control of Met Éireann with absolutely no checks or balances and more funding than they knew what to do with. After a few weeks of hard drinking, ensuring that the last bits of relevant training and expertise possessed among the staff were well and truly written off, the new Met Éireann crew formed a plan for how they might keep this sweet thing going without ever having to admit to not knowing what they were doing.

It was simple stuff in the beginning. Most weather reports were put together using the previous year’s reports and some crude guess work. Experience showed that rain could be forecast at any time as a safe call. Either it rained and Met Éireann were correct or it didn’t rain but people had no cause for complaint. Over time, the system developed in nuance and sophistication, along with phone lines to get advance information in from Met Éireann agents strategically dotted around the country. After all, meteorologists don’t need to know all the ins and outs of weather, just more than the average person. Nowadays, in spite of all the isobars and high or low pressure systems that they use to dress it up, Met Éireann’s approach to predicting the weather remains pretty much the same. While the public faces of the service have become household names, those behind the scenes are free to carry on the chancerism of their predecessors. There’s only one woman behind the desk in reception and maybe one or two other staff in the Met Éireann Centre in Glasnevin. Most members of the team took advantage of decentralisation to get relocated while that was a policy. All they have to do is call in, maybe twice a day, and advise what the weather is like where they are and what it might be like there later. Did you ever wonder why we have reports on weather from around the world?

Every now and then, to add that personal touch to the main weather report, the receptionist gets on the phone to a random number from around the country. She chats to them for a bit and naturally the conversation revolves around the weather. The person on the other end of the line will offer their view of the weather, say the breeze has been picking up over the last few days, for example. It’s easy enough to connect the dots from there. A pin goes up on the map and that takes care of another line or two for the report. When both of the other staff in the Met Éireann Centre really could not be bothered, they just pull out the file on the same week from a random year. Either that or go on Google to check the weather. No bother at all that way, sure they’ve got satellites up in space now. It’s a handy number.

All the while, money from the long-suffering Irish taxpayer continues to be pumped into Met Éireann. Why, I hear you ask? Have you not seen the weather reports on television? A normal meteorologist couldn’t afford that glamour without your financial support. So really, it’s no surprise they don’t produce their own weather reports, when they must have to spend so much time out shopping or rooting through the costume department…

What’s that? What will the weather be like? Ah, probably rain, I’d say.

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