The difference between probable and possible

Courtesy UKMO

The Met Office have been very busy this morning issuing warnings right, left and centre. They seem unfazed by the failure of their amber warning for heavy snow for Scotland overnight, because this morning they just cancelled it, and reissued a slightly reworded version of it that’s valid from 15 UTC today. The latest clutch of warnings include another amber warning of heavy snow for the extreme southeast on Sunday. Let’s hope the much heralded colder air will have arrived by then and they have more luck with this one. I notice that in comparing the two warnings the one for the southeast says 5 to 10 cm of snow are probable, whilst the one for Scotland says that 10 to 15 cm of snow is possible. I obviously should have read the small print because of course they mean completely different things, silly me. If you look more closely at these two warnings they are full of word such as:

  • Expected
  • Likely
  • Could
  • Probable
  • Possible
  • May
  • Some
  • Potentially
  • Should

The two warnings are totally different in style, the one for the southeast being much more forthright that the one for Scotland, which is couched in likelies and possiblies. It does make me wonder if you could develop a word checking algorithm to produce some kind of ‘definitive’ index for warnings and forecasts. I did say that I was mad about the weather.

Courtesy Google
Courtesy UKMO
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