ABOUT 1,000 years ago, when Adam and I were both small boys, the Air Ministry had dozens of redundant WW2 airfields which were still technically operational.

For example, Dishforth was used to teach pilots who had flown aeroplanes with only one fan in front of them, how to deal with an aircraft which had four.

Each of those airfields had its own Met Office with a full complement of observers and forecasting staff. The small army of little boys such as Adam and I who manned the office 24/7 were designated as Scientific Assistants, and in addition to the forecasters, were all employed by the Air Ministry.

We scanned the sky every thirty minutes, read all the instruments, including the climatological data collectors, and dutifully reported our observations by teleprinter to the Central Forecasting Office. In return they broadcast within the following hour data from all the other outstations, from which our local forecaster was able to draw his chart and produce his own forecast.

All now long gone. All those airfields, and all those civil servants are no more. The Local Area Forecast has been replaced by a quite different animal. We are served, at considerable expense, by remote reading instrument packs, feeding data into an enormous computer data base. On the basis of that huge collection of past observations, the computer predicts what is going to happen next. Unfortunately, like me, the weather is not altogether computer literate. Are the forecasts accurate? Only in the broadest sense; the local versions are not.

Does that perhaps explain why the BBC is now actively recruiting more observers to assist the existing 100,000 Weather Watchers, who have assumed the duties which Adam and I used to perform? I was unaware that Weather Watchers not only contributed their excellent photographs, but also submit report cards giving more details of the actual weather situation at their location.

Can we expect more accurate forecasts, now that the forecaster will be able to utilise better data obtained via that good old fashion technology, the eyeball?

However, as a society, we will derive one benefit this time round.

The 100,000 plus observers are volunteers, which gives them a huge advantage over Adam and I - they don’t have to be paid.

Tony Brennan, Sadberge