Weather forecasting

Many UK SOTA activators (especially in GM, The Lakes and Pennines) will have used the Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS). This has provided accurate, area specific, weather forecasts for the main Northern mountain areas and now it is threatened because its funding is under threat. The option of using the Met Office forecasts is not an alternative as they are both very broad brush and are not compiled by somebody with in-depth knowledge of mountain weather.

There is a petition underway to try to influence the “powers that be” and it might help if those of us who have relied on this service were to sign it. There is no overt political stance in this; I, for one, would be greatly disadvantaged when activating in high mountain areas of Scotland if this service disappeared.


Signed and face booked too


I’ve signed it, of course, but I think you exaggerate a little, Barry! When I started exploring Scotland outside the main tourist areas, back in the 60’s, the only weather forecasts available were a few words at the end of the BBC news on a small transistor radio, and north of Kintail you often couldn’t receive that! We got books on weather forecasting and learned to read the sky, and got on quite well. It doesn’t take much nous to look up and see cirrostratus with a south wind and know that rain is coming and it will be windy and showery tomorrow! I hope the service continues, but if it doesn’t all it means is that mountaineers will have to learn the skills that their fathers had!


I think the devil is in the detail Brian. MWIS provide a far more accurate forecast. Paul and I use them in preference to the BBC / Met Office. The input data may well be the same, but what is presented is the issue. The problem is that few people now know what to look for in terms of impending weather as they spend most of their waking hours indoors. Even kids don’t play out like we used to do. In general people trust and rely on officialdom and what the BBC / Met Office say “must” be right - right?. Hmm, well isn’t that often proved to be incorrect, so much so that I regularly remark to the XYL that they have actually got it right for once!

73, Gerald G4OIG

I think you are too hard on the forecasters, Gerald!

My interest in weather forecasting goes back to single-channel black and white TVs in the 1950’s, when the forecast after the early evening news opened with a synoptic chart and went on to a forecast chart. I used to do a quick sketch of the forecast chart and next day compared it with the synoptic chart, and often there was little comparison! Nowadays the web has the analysis chart and forecast charts at twelve hour intervals for the next three or four days, and usually the +72 or +96 hour forecast charts are very similar to the analysis days later. A huge, even titanic improvement over 60 years ago! Its not perfect and likely never will be, after all when a front with its associated rain fails to turn up on time (with the associated muttering from the customers!) the position of it may only be twenty or thirty miles from its forecast position, but that is still a time difference of over an hour! If you want more accuracy you can get the weather radar on your computer or mobile phone and I notice in the last few days they have started giving the radar image at five minute intervals instead of 15 minute (and a few years ago it was 30 minutes!) You can scroll back and forth and estimate to a few minutes accuracy when the rain will start. So in short, the forecasting accuracy has improved beyond all recognition in my lifetime and we have nowcasts at our fingertips - and the site includes satellite images at fifteen minute intervals which helps guess when low cloud will burn off, and lightning maps (I had fun yesterday watching a large thunderstorm approach!) It is safe to say that we have never had so much quality information at our fingertips. Its up to us how we use it, but it is relatively easy to learn how to read a sky and once you can do that the lack of a weather forecast becomes nothing more than a minor irritation.


Agreed; they are almost always right. The problem they face is that we only remember when they get it wrong because it has inconvenienced us I some way. Is Michael Fish likely to be remembered for many years of good forecasts …?

Unfortunately they are not in my experience of living in the heart of the Cairngorms. Generally the locals (farmers in the main) considered that the Met Office forecast was about 24 hours out of sync with what happened at higher altitudes (lee of the mountains etc.) .
MWIS concentrated on the behaviour of the weather at high level and Geoff Monk took into consideration the effects of local topology on the local weather. The upshot of this was that the MWIS forecast was, generally, accurate for a specific limited area; the Met Office forecast would cover not only mountains but also lower levels and the coastal plains and, as such was a compromise result.

I spent a lot of my time at school studying weather forecasting and still take a great interest when I can find synoptic mapping - no longer available on the main broadcasters’ TV channels though (and you should see the absolutely ghastly presentation on STV - dark blue sea, dark green land and miniscule yellow arrows to illustrate wind; mapping usually defocussed to illustrate cloud cover. You don’t need to have any form of colour blindness to find that a mess!)

MWIS normally gives accurate reports in mountains and MetOffice gives accurate reports for low levels. I’ve found significant improvement in MetOffice lowlevel and general accuracy over the last year. But that’s not the same when you’re at 800+m. MWIS is generally on the ball. Anyone going walking in GM who doesn’t give the site a quick butcher’s is being silly.

The BBC have gone with some other mob now instead of MetOffice but as you cannot use the BBC’s weather site since they made it “tablet compatible” the fact they wont be with the MetOffice is no loss to me.

MWIS vanishing will be no loss to Brian, he doesn’t need it. For those of us who do need it however… well I have signed up as have my walking buddies in the office.

As indeed I signed it myself and hope all UK activators will do the same. The fact that we all did without it once (and still could) doesn’t make it any less useful.


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I’ll remember that when I am next caught out in bad conditions having based what should have been a decent day in the hills on a BBC / Met Office forecast. Quite a number of times Paul and I have found fairly major differences between the forecast and reality, principally with regards to timings. Of course we have equally gone prepared for a soaking and not seen a sign of rain all day!

As Andy says, the Met Office forecast seems to be more accurate for lower areas. Therefore when we are activating those lowly lumps up north, we look at what they have to say and try to read between the lines. :wink:

73, Gerald G4OIG

I’ve used the MWIS site for quite a number of years now, I’ve always found the forecasts to be much better than from other sources.

For general weather forecasts , I prefer Yr

Would be a shame to lose MWIS


I’ve been using MWIS for more than 10 years, way before they were funded officially. Geoff Monk started it as a “hobby” and then “monitised” it through advertising. Sports Scotland decided they needed a proper mountain weather service about 7 years ago and went to tender. Amazingly the “back bedroom” boys beat the Met Office.

Built by mountaineers for mountaineers the MWIS forecasts just seem to hit the spot. Nothing fancy about their presentation, just plain simple to read content that (as others have said) seems to be more accurate than other forecasts, including the Met Office Mountain forecasts.

On training courses I have pushed the use of these forecasts over others. The nice thing is that you can get proper synoptic charts through their site too.

I hope the MWIS forecasts continue. However, I am aware that there is a bit more to this than meets the eye. Others have commented that Mr. Monk can be an “interesting” person to do business with - although I have no experience of this.

As usual there are two sides to every story.

I’ll be watching carefully how this pans out.

I’ve signed the petition anyway.

Yes, lifted directly from Surface Pressure Charts - Met Office (Except I prefer the colour option!)


Perversely I prefer it in B/W… I know, I’m odd.

Financing by SportScotland for the next three years has just been agreed. It appears that pressure from interested parties does work :smiley:


Excellent news! I have never used the service myself but signed the petition anyway.

73 Andrew G4AFI

A multitude of climbing clubs were up in arms for a start!