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Met Office celebrates 150 years of weather forecasts

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Lucy Verasamy presents the weather forecast

© WENN / ITV

The Met Office has today celebrated 150 years of providing weather forecasts in Britain, from its first report predicting "general weather probable in the next two days" to modern-day technically advanced TV broadcasts.

On August 1, 1861, The Times newspaper published Britain's first ever weather forecast, which was put together by Admiral Robert FitzRoy, who led the meteorological department in the Board of Trade, later renamed the Met Office.

Starting with the line "general weather probable in the next two days", the short piece on page 10 of the newspaper was the start of forecasting as we know it today.

FitzRoy believed that the forecast could give advanced warning to protect life and property, after a storm in 1859 had wrecked the ship Royal Charter and others, killing hundreds of people.

Since then weather forecasting has advanced onto television, as well as the internet and mobile phones using the latest science and technology, making household names of forecasters such as Michael Fish and Sian Lloyd.

Forecasts have also impacted on a range of important events, from advising of a weather window for the D-Day landings to giving advance warning of the 2009 floods in Cumbria.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for the Met Office, as the BBC considered ending its almost 90-year relationship with the forecaster last year after a string of mistakes.

The Met Office was criticised for failing to properly predict three concurrent wet summers or the spate of wintry weather in 2010, while its annual global temperature predictions had been inaccurate for nine of the last ten years.

After a competitive tender, the BBC ultimately opted to renew its weather services contract with the Met Office in July last year, with a new five-year deal covering TV, radio, online and mobile platforms. Alongside the BBC, the Met Office's Media Unit also provides weather forecast services to ITV, Channel 4, Sky, STV and Ulster TV.

To mark the 150th anniversary, the Met Office is launching a photo competition asking the public to submit pictures which define the weather moments of 2011 so far. Details can be found on the Met Office website.

"We're extremely proud of our long heritage and to be marking this landmark anniversary of forecasting for the nation," said John Hirst, the chief executive of the Met Office.

"Ever since our humble beginnings, the Met Office has been a pioneer in the science of meteorology. Forecasting the very variable British weather is always testing but by facing that test every day we have established a reputation around the world as being amongst the very best at what we do.

"Most of all, we're proud to have stayed true to our origins by forecasting what the weather has in store to help safeguard lives and property."

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