BBC Weather

A brief history of the BBC weather forecast.

On 11th January 1954 George Cowling became the BBC's first in-vision weather presenter. In the early days the weather charts were drawn by hand with wax crayons.

By the late 60s weather symbols had been introduced, which were based on international standards, eg dots for rain, asterisk for snow, an upside-down triangle for showers etc. Seen here is the long-serving forecaster Bert Foord.

The familiar weather symbols were introduced on 16th August 1975. They were the creation of college student and graphic designer Mark Allen, who designed them to be more viewer-friendly. They also had a tendency to fall off the map. Barbara Edwards and Michael Fish are seen here displaying the latest seventies fashions.

The magnetic symbols dropped off the map permanently on 18th February 1985, when computer generated maps were introduced, the same day as the new BBC1 globe.

On the afternoon of 15th October 1987, Michael Fish reassured viewers that there wouldn't be a hurricane... (Though, technically, he was correct!)

BBC News 24 launched in 1997 - its weather maps were the same, only the colour scheme was different - orange land and dark blue sea. News 24 reverted to the more familiar blue and green style in September 1999.

The advent of digital television in 1998 meant the introduction of widescreen weather forecasts, meaning digital viewers now got to see the weather in Denmark.

The weather forecast underwent a minor facelift in October 2000, which saw the introduction of beautifully detailed maps, which were produced from a montage of satellite photographs.

The longest serving weather presenter of all-time, Michael Fish, bowed out with his final forecast on 6th October 2004 after thirty years of television broadcasts. He got out just in time, because the BBC weather forecast was soon to undergo its biggest change ever...

16th May 2005 was the first day of the controversial new graphics package, which apparently spelt the sad end of the famous BBC weather symbols after 30 years on air. The tilted map prompted a barrage of complaints from viewers in the northern half of Britain, leading the BBC to change the angle less than two weeks later. Unfortunately the country still resembled a barren desert.

However it wasn't long before a rebellious David Braine was spotted reinstating the symbols, but only for viewers to Spotlight, the BBC's news programme in the South West. The famous symbols continued to be used on the BBC's weather website until disappearing in a 2008 redesign, only for them to be reinstated in the next redesign in 2011.

In 2016 it was announced that MeteoGroup had won a tendering process to provide the BBC with weather forecasts, ending a 94 year relationship with the Met Office (though they would continue to broadcast Met Office weather warnings). After some delays, MeteoGroup took over compilation of the television forecasts on 6th February 2018, launching new graphics which saw the return of a green, untilted map. Criticism this time around centered largely on the British Isles appearing smaller than what viewers were used to, and that the place names obscure the map and make it appear cluttered.


From our YouTube channel, BBC Weather forecasts preceding and following the introduction of new graphics in October 2000, and again in May 2005.


BBC Weather official site
BBC Weather Wikipedia entry

Text copyright © Robert Williams, images and video copyright © British Broadcasting Corporation