100 years of weather on the BBC

The story of Met Office forecasts and the BBC

By Margaret Bourke-WhiteLIFE Photo Collection

The first radio weather forecast

The first British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio transmitter 2LO came to life at 17:33 on 14 November 1922. 

Just hours later the script of the very first experimental radio weather forecast was read out by the announcer. 

Daily Weather Report 14 November 1922 data (1922) by Met OfficeMet Office

The weather of the 14 November 1922

The forecast gave the weather for the same day and would have given fairly general details similar to Met Office Daily Weather Report.

Calm or light winds with fair periods and rather cold across England. Slightly windier, occasional rain and mild for Scotland and Ireland. 

The Herring Net (1885) by Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910)The Art Institute of Chicago

Regular radio forecasts for the public

After the success of the initial radio forecast trials more extensive broadcasts for the public became a daily service on 26 March 1923. The forecasts were especially important to the agricultural and coastal fishing communities. 

Shipping Forecast Map 1924 (1924) by Met OfficeMet Office

Attention All Shipping

Now an icon of BBC radio, the first Shipping Forecasts were transmitted by the BBC in 1925. Initially put out on Long Wave they were later moved to the Light Programme to improve reception. 

Experimental televised chart (1936) by Met OfficeMet Office

Weather and BBC Television

BBC Television launched on 2 November 1936 and just the next day the first televised weather charts were shown. The charts were accompanied by a spoken description and a short forecast.

Television, Bbc, Alexandra Palace (1939-02) by William VandivertLIFE Photo Collection

Ahead of their time

Although the new television forecasts were very successful only a tiny number of people owned television sets in the 1930's and so the experiment was paused until the broadcast network had enlarged and more people owned televisions. 

First regular televised weather chart (1949) by Met OfficeMet Office

Regular televised forecasts

By 1949 the BBC network had expanded, as had television ownership. From 29 July 1949 weather charts were shown regularly on BBC television, accompanied by forecast scripts prepared by the Met Office and read by the announcer. 

First Television weather presenters (1954) by Met OfficeMet Office

First in vision forecast 7:55pm 11 January 1954

The first TV weathermen were Meteorologists George Cowling and Tom Clifton. The press named them 'Mr Wet and Mr Dry'. Cowling (right) gave the first forecast. He advised that it would be a good day for drying washing and started the tradition of ending with 'thats it from me'.

TV Met Forecaster Mr Norman Ellis, Princes House, Kingsway (1960/1960) by Met OfficeMet Office

Simple but effective

The first television forecasters used hand drawn charts pinned to a blackboard. They used a pair of dividers to measure isobar spacing for wind speeds and charcoal sticks to show wind direction, areas of rain and movement of fronts. 

Barbara Edwards first female weather presenter (1974) by Met OfficeMet Office

Barbara Edwards, first female on-screen weather presenter

Barbara Edwards joined the Met Office in 1957. From 1970 she presented weather reports on BBC radio before becoming the first female television weather presenter in January 1974.

Sadly due to public criticism of her dress sense Edwards returned to radio forecasting in June 1978.

Ian McCasgill preparing for a television broadcast (1992) by Met OfficeMet Office

Conveying the core message

With time forecasts became more high tech. From colour television, to magnetic weather symbols, to green screen technology and high definition animated graphics the technology has certainly changed, but the core purpose of the forecast remains the same. 

Met Office warnings in Scotland shown via the BBCMet Office

Into the 21st century

Although the BBC now receives weather forecast information from a range of sources and communicates through radio, television and social media channels, their forecasts will always refer to Met Office Weather Warnings when in force.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Met Office
Demystifying the science behind the weather and why it matters
View theme
Google apps