Slang words such as 'Baltic', 'sad', 'chucking it down', ‘raining cats and dogs’, ‘pelting it down’ or ‘bucketing’ are used far and wide to describe the weather – but the list is extensive and it is regionally variable, which can therefore make it even more difficult to communicate the weather forecast.
A new initiative by the Met Office is hoping to improve its weather forecasts in order to avoid misinterpretation. They need your help to determine, for example, the most popular slang term (per region) for rain and to understand how the public interpret their weather symbols.
From 1st February, the Met Office invites the public to describe their local weather in 3 words (plus their location) on Twitter using the hashtag #3wordweather. The geotagged data will be shown on a live, interactive map on www.metoffice.gov.uk/3wordweather. This information will be used to inform how the weather forecast is presented in the future.
Pilot research findings from the Met Office:
Top most popular terms for heavy rain:
- Pouring (down)
- Chucking (it)
- Pissing (it down)
- Lashing (down)
- Tipping (it down)
- Bucketing (down)
- Raining cats and dogs
- The heavens have opened
- Properly (raining)
- The term ‘pouring’ is the most widely used word to describe heavy rain nationally.
- Cardiff, Brighton and Liverpool were found to favour ‘pissing it down’ (42%, 38% and 35% respectively).
- Mancunians, meanwhile, were revealed as the most likely to say that rain was ‘lashing it down’
- Half (57%) of people surveyed in the Black Country preferring to say ‘bucketing’.
- The people of Newcastle and Leeds apparently like the term ‘chucking it down’, with 6 in 10 people from Newcastle (60%) and 58% of people in Leeds describing torrential rain this way.
- People from Cambridge and Oxford also favoured the term ‘chucking it’ to describe heavy rain (83% and 57%).
- Glaswegians are most likely to use the term ‘pelting it’
- Londoners prefer to say ‘caning it’.
- The people of Birmingham and Bristol share the use of ‘tipping it down’, with 44% and 41% saying this respectively.
- A fifth (18%) of people in Southampton claim to break into song when it rains heavily, performing renditions of ‘it’s raining, pouring, the old man is snoring’.
Interpretation of weather symbols:
The findings also indicated that many Brits also struggle to identify common weather symbols:
- Nearly half of respondents (48%) were unsure which icon represented intermittent rain
- Only one in 10 (14%) able to identify the symbol for sleet.
- 81% incorrectly thought a grey cloud symbol meant there would be a high potential for rain.
- Only a fifth (22%) correctly identified all symbols for rainfall.
- 53% mistakenly thinking the sun symbol means it will be warm or hot outside, despite it not denoting temperature.
- Two-thirds (65%) misinterpreted the symbol for overcast weather [when almost all of the sky is cloud covered] as being generally cloudy.
- A third (29%) mistakenly thinking that the symbol of a sun, cloud and snowflake indicates a chance of precipitation.