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Shipping Forecast

The Shipping Forecast is a much loved (and sometimes loathed) feature of BBC Radio 4. It is broadcast several times a day and consists of nothing more than reports and forecasts of weather for the seas around Britain's coast.

These are divided into "sea areas": Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher, German Bight (Heligoland until 1956), Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland, Plymouth, Biscay, FitzRoy (Finisterre until Feb 2002), Sole, Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea, Shannon, Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey, Fair Isle, Faeroes, Southeast Iceland.

Following a general synopsis, each area's forecast is read out. Several areas may be combined into a single forecast. For example:

Humber, Thames. Southeast veering Southwest 4 or 5, occasionally 6 later. Thundery showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor
Southeast Iceland. Northeast 3 or 4. Occasional rain. Moderate or good.
etc

With the information provided in the Shipping Forecast it is perfectly possible to compile (and then interpret) a pressure chart for the coasts of North Western Europe.

Part of the shipping forecast's charm is that it is read at dictation speed by a Radio 4 announcer such as Charlotte Green[?]. These ladies and gentlemen have some of the most delightful English speaking voices to be heard anywhere.

The reason for choosing BBC Radio 4 for the Shipping Forecast is not simply because it is a speech-based channel, but also because it broadcasts via longwave as well as FM, and the longwave signal can be received clearly at sea all around the British Isles.

The Shipping Forecast also inspired the song "This Is a Low" on Blur's album Parklife, including lyrics such as:

On the Tyne, Forth and Cromarty
There's a low in the high Forties
And Saturday's locked away on the pier
Not fast enough, dear

Other maritime countries also use sea area maps but with local variations. For instance, the area that the British forecasts call Dover is referred to by the French as Pas-de-Calais.

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