Mixed messages

May 1, 2012

This was last Friday’s weather forecast: ‘Cloudy with patchy light rain’. However, the forecast and the images just don’t match. The lesson here for technical communicators: Make sure your messages are consistent, be they via text or images.

The image on the far left indicates rain, and a fair bit of it (if it’s light rain or occasional showers, they use a different symbol).

But it’s the radar image, which covers the entire south-west of Western Australia, that tells the real story. Lighter green is ‘rain’, darker green is heavier rain. There’s nothing ‘patchy’ or ‘light’ about the radar image.

So, do I trust the forecast, the left image or the radar image? I’ll go with the radar as it’s updated every 10 minutes!

Inconsistent messages between images and text

And yes, that temperature is hot for us for late April when we should be in the middle of autumn and heading into winter; the day before was 29C, which is even hotter.


  1. Interesting Rhonda. in the UK we seem to have adopted a colour coded warning system of weather warnings. Amber, red wind, rain, fog, snow alerts abound. Trouble is, they don’t say what these alerts mean. Add to this the fact that there are so many “warnings” and I for one have stopped paying attention to them! This all came about because their previous system was to prefix just about every alert with the word “severe” – e.g. severe winds. As just about everything was severe, it got me wondering if they should start using “extremely severe” instead :-)

  2. Our fire and weather warnings are the same. We now have a new ‘catastrophic’ bushfire level, and it gets used quite a lot during summer. So much so that we’re in danger of being in the ‘boy who cried wolf’ situation where people become complacent because nothing ‘catastrophic’ happened on that day. Same for ‘severe’ — equally, it has little effect.

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