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Subject: Storm over weather forecast

Written By: Philip Eno on 05/29/09 at 1:56 pm

A storm is brewing in Bournemouth, with local officials slating the Met Office over "inaccurate and overcautious" weather forecasts that kept visitors away on Bank Holiday Monday.

While the forecasters predicted rain and thundery storms, the sun came out and the holiday ended up as the hottest day of the year so far.

Mark Smith, of the local tourism department, told the Daily Telegraph that around 25,000 visitors cancelled their trip to the town because of the grim forecast, costing businesses over £1m.

Tourism officials across the country are angry about what they call the "Michael Fish effect", where forecasters present the worst-case scenario in order to prevent later embarrassment.

The phenomenon is named after hapless BBC weatherman Michael Fish, who dismissed rumours of a hurricane in 1987 before a severe storm wreaked havoc on southern England.

The Tourism Alliance has already complained to the Met Office, claiming that unnecessarily gloomy forecasts damage British business and reinforce inaccurate stereotypes.

However, while Helen Chivers of the Met Office admitted that they'd got it wrong on Monday, she denied that they were overcautious with their forecasts.

"We get observations from satellites and local stations and all of that goes into the computers, and you take the best guidance out of that", she commented. "We try and give the most accurate forecast that we can."

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