A recent exchange of e-mails between Ezra, a reader of MetricViews in the USA, and Tony, in the UK, suggests that recent years have seen changes for the better in weather reporting in the both the UK and Canada. Do other readers of MetricViews share Tony’s viewpoint?
Ezra wrote on 27 February:
“I just posted this comment to the USMA mailing list. My encounter with Canadian metric weather reports makes me wonder if this is one area (other than road signs) where Canada is ahead of the UK in terms of metrication. Can you enlighten me?
I just happened to check out an article in the Vancouver (Canada) Sun online and noticed the link for the current weather, so I thought I’d have a look.
You can choose many different countries and cities within each country, so I tried where I live (Seattle area): http://www.vancouversun.com/weather/index.html?rg=us&city=seattle
I notice that everything is given in proper SI (except for wind speed, which is in km/h rather than m/s, but I’ll take it anyway, especially since they use the proper syntax instead of some monstrosity like “kph”), including the use of kPa for barometric pressure. And there is no option I could find to switch to Imperial!
I’ve seen Canadian national weather reports on the CBC and the story is the same – not a whisper of Imperial anywhere.”
“As I understand it, Canada uses Celsius only with the exception of the Windsor area (where the US influence is very strong due to many working over the border) and in cooking where F lingers due to old habits/recipes and US influence. Canadian ovens generally dual labelled for sale across N America while ours are Celsius only.
In the UK, Celsius has been used for many years (see UKMA’s YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/UKMetric, for a news clip on Kennedy’s assassination; it starts with a weather report which gives temps in Celsius first, F second, although the term centigrade was used).
So Celsius is well embedded in the UK and is without doubt the principal unit used, but Fahrenheit lingers on as secondary units in certain places, such as papers with a more elderly following. Personally I almost never hear or read any Fahrenheit anywhere as they don’t use it at all in the papers I read or radio stations I listen to, but others may hear more imperial if they read other papers and listen to other radio or TV broadcasts.
Rain is given in mm, and snow generally in cm, although inches also sometimes used for snow in forecasts or news reports. Wind speeds usually quoted in mph, as that’s the only measure of speed most people know due to road signs. Main exception is in sports such as athletics where m/s is used; times only count as records if wind is under 2 m/s so that’s why that measure is used there.
Pressure in kPa rare I think, but used on the Met Office website.”
“I had heard that Celsius was regularly used in the UK for cold weather reports and Fahrenheit in the summer time because the latter numbers are larger! It struck me as a strange and jarring way of doing business, but it sounds like that report is untrue.
If all ovens sold in the UK show Celsius only, then those who have cook books showing just Fahrenheit for baking or oven cooking temperatures need to consult a conversion chart, I presume. (I hope nothing like that comes affixed to the oven, itself!)
If kilopascals are not used for barometric pressure, do you folks use millibars or inches of mercury on television, radio, and in the newspapers?
As for wind speeds in mph, we see once again the pernicious effects of having failed to convert the road signs long ago as originally planned. It is striking how a single decision can have such far-reaching effects down the road (if you’ll pardon the pun!)
Let us hope that the rising concerns for safety (drug dosages, malnutrition in patients, bridge strikes, speeding by lorry drivers from the Continent who have km/h-only speedometers in their vehicles, etc.) can be parlayed into a general recognition on the part of the government that finishing metrication (including conversion of all road signs) should be delayed no longer.”
Tony brought the exchange to a close:
“Regarding Fahrenheit in hot weather, it certainly used to be the case that the media would hype hot temperatures in Fahrenheit in summer just because it sounds more extreme. But such usage has receded significantly in recent years as they have realised that hardly anyone under 50 knew what they were talking about; see these articles on the same topic, from the same newspaper:
From 2003 to 2009 you’ll see that the articles have gone from dual unit (with hyped F headlines) to Celsius only. And there was a front page headline in the same paper which I can’t find (but is mentioned here http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article689454.ece) which quoted the recorded highs of 52C and 47C on London buses and tubes in 2006, so extreme highs are now much more likely to be in Celsius.
Regarding ovens, I have never seen an oven in the UK with Fahrenheit markings, nor a recipe book with only Fahrenheit (though older books tend to have both scales), so the change happened long ago.
On pressure, millibars are used.
Visibility (which I forgot to mention) is given in km; it’s not something used in mainstream forecasts but where it is given I have only ever seen or heard it in km. See here for example:
(Although that site does contradict something else I said in giving wind speed in km/h!)”