The Met Office: raining champs

August 24, 2012

Rain clouds: they move across the sky, taunting cyclists by threatening to ruin races and training rides. But amazingly, there is a website that keeps an eye on their whereabouts. And even more amazingly, I know very few cyclists who use it.

This is not the sort of weather forecast that prognosticates in the largely meaningless form of a percentage (if you already suspect it might pour down and are trying to decide whether to go out or not, then knowing that there is, say, a 40 per cent chance of rain won’t be much help). This is a map showing, in half-hour segments, where the rain has been and the direction it is traveling, enabling you to work out for yourself if it is likely to fall upon your helmeted head should you venture out on your bicycle. I am talking about the simple genius of the Met Office rainfall radar.

Over the years, this brilliant little service has enabled me to judge whether or not to stay in and get on the turbo instead of being on the receiving end of a dismal soaking. What I like most about it, though, are the unsophisticated graphics, the bright, shifting blots representing those dark, capricious masses cruising across the sky like an invading force.

The low-tech look has been upgraded, and the old radar page will be shut down later this year. So I just wanted to offer a brief tribute to the site before it vanishes from sight, like a rain cloud.

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