Why weather forecasts can affect your prosperity

Spare a thought for the weather forecasters. Taken for granted when they get it right, they are invariably whipping boys when they get things wrong – despite a far better forecasting record than we economists have. They probably have more to contribute to the economy, too.

A recent case in point: Bournemouth’s woes during the bank holiday at the end of May. The Met Office predicted storms, but the beach resort in fact enjoyed the sunniest day of the year. Bournemouth’s tourist office reckons the town missed out on at least 25,000 visitors and more than £1m of revenue as a result. Subtler losses and gains were registered by the would-be tourists, and the lucky ones who enjoyed both a sunny day and a quieter beach.

Tourists have always been vulnerable to the weather, but they may now be more vulnerable to weather forecasters. The internet has made it easy to check the forecast and easy, too, to make late bookings for short breaks – which are self-evidently more responsive to the weather.

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Tim Harford’s blog

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Tim, also known as the Undercover Economist, writes about the economics of everyday life.