Pessimistic forecasting, an urban focus, and too many weather warnings are among the most frequent complaints from members of the public to Met Éireann. Transcripts of complaints sent to the national forecaster released under a freedom of information request show that a wide range of issues was raised by the public throughout 2018.
Some of these related to how the forecasts were delivered, including complaints about the redesign of the Met Éireann website and where forecasters stand during television broadcasts, but the majority were motivated by specific weather events, including Storm Emma in March. Much of the correspondence focused on the frequency of colour-coded weather warnings, with some suggesting that their impact is reduced by issuing warnings too often.
A complaint submitted on February 6, 2018, read: “I would like to know why there are a huge amount of weather warnings of late — sometimes 3/4 all in the one day. What is the purpose of this consistent ‘warning’ drive of Met Éireann? Most of the time there is absolutely no reason for a ‘warning’.”
On February 8, a comment read: “We are an island in the north Atlantic. We know we have to deal with bad weather.”
Dozens of messages were received between February 26 and March 2 relating to Storm Emma. The blizzard conditions left Ireland covered in snow for days. However, some were not convinced by the forecasted red warning.
One correspondent said: “You have helped to create a sense of crisis in the country by overestimating the effect of the forecast weather so far. My research indicates we will have snow but it won’t be as bad as you have forecast. The recent forecasts follow a pattern of overly pessimistic forecasts in my opinion leading to an inflated sense of crisis.”
Several others raised the opposite concern though, claiming the warnings weren’t comprehensive enough.
A Westmeath resident said they were dealing with 11in of snow: “I feel as though the larger cities such as Dublin, Cork and Waterford are being prioritised and catered for in terms of weather alerts.”
The warnings have come in for criticism from business owners, who claim they can have a detrimental impact on trade.
On November 28, an irate trader hit out at Met Éireann for costing business in Galway, describing the forecaster as “snake oil salesmen”. They said: “Do you have any idea how much trade is lost in my shop thanks to you f**kers hyping up yourselfs.”
A similar email was sent on December 15: “The forecasts broadcast last night and this morning contained dramatic use of language and confusing yellow/orange levels for wind and rainfall which has led directly to the loss of approx €6,000 for the park today in comparison to other years. For small to medium businesses like ourselves, this can be the difference in survival.