Monday 6 November 2023

Dude you lost me!

To the nearest whole number, I never listen to The News each day on the wireless and we don't have a telly. On the few occasions when I have this radiotainment wash over me, - [like on Thursday 2nd November last, when I was having lunch a) with The Beloved b) at the kitchen table c) at One o'clock] - then my untuned ear has to scrabble to keep up. In among the usual fare of murders, invasions, road deaths, RTE invited Paul Moore from Met Éireann to talk about October and how wet it had been.

Don't we know it. On top of a soppy September, October has seen relentless precipitation. On the Monday (16Oct) before Storm Babet (18Oct) our neighbour got our traditional hay meadows knocked, and the same contractor came back on the Tuesday (17Oct) to bale and wrap the haylage. The tractors did damage to the field surface, especially where it ran steep down by the river, but the worms will turn that over and flatten it out during the next 6 months. But the bales were left in forlorn rows at the top of each field. Tuthree weeks of rain have turned the fields from soft to squelchy. Loading a trailer and drawing the bales off site any time soon will result in a re-enactment of Passchendaele (12 . X . 1914) without the dead soldiers. So those tonnes of animal feed mebbe better written off.

Mais revenons nous à nos meteorologists. Paul Moore was attempting to explain to the plain  people of Ireland just how wet October had been in Cork. Essentially he was reading verbatim from their October Climate Report: "Along with Cork Airport and Roches Point, Moore Park also had its wettest October on record with 250.8 mm (221% of its Long Term Average)" etc. etc. Those central numbers - 250.8 mm (221%) - are hard enough to process in cold print, especially if whirling in a blizzard of similar numbers from Donegal and Wexford. Over the earwaves, they just become screensaver. 

Here's some free advice to public servants on the airwaves: keep it simple, keep it salient. The trailing numbers are the least important but the last thing the reader hears. "recency effect" where an item at the end of a list is easier to recall skews the message in the wrong way. By giving fewer figures you get a more accurate message across. Here 250 mm (220%) is better; 250.8 mm (more than twice normal) is better still. Obvs that .8 mm is important: it is 8 tonnes of extra water falling on some poor bugger's 1 hectare field. With the ground already water-logged, those 8 tonnes will finish up in a drain or a culvert which may thereby back-up or block-off and help flood the local Post Office. The Blob has been in acre-feet land before. But none of that is appropriate <TMI ! TMI> for the National 1 o'clock News. We're all sighing in relief that the eye of Storm Ciarán passed Ireland to the South on Thursday wee hours to deliver its load up La Manche in England and France. Winds 100km/h in Jersey . . . sorry for my pal Dec who lives on the island!

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