Met Office forecast colour scales
The Met Office forecast uses colour scales to show wind speed, rainfall amounts and temperatures.
The scale for displaying temperatures in Met Office forecasts is static. This means the same sliding scale is used no matter the time of year or region on screen. It provides a consistent view of temperatures through the year and makes it easier to make comparisons in conditions across the Earth or between seasons.
The scale covers temperatures from -55 °C to +55 °C and remains consistent throughout the year. This means 20 °C will be shown in the same colour no matter when or where it occurs.
The colours viewers are most used to seeing on our UK forecasts generally range from freezing to around 25 °C. We use the lightest shade of yellow for the lower temperatures in that scale and get progressively darker with warmer conditions, transitioning from shades of yellow to shades of orange and red.
We do exactly the same thing with cold temperatures, with a light blue for temperatures near freezing, and progressively darker shades the colder it goes.
Why shades of colour?
Accessibility is in mind with how the Met Office produces forecasts. As the UK’s national weather provider, we have a responsibility to make sure as many people as possible are able to understand the weather forecast.
Those who are colour blind can find it difficult to differentiate between different colours, but often find different shades easier to understand. This is why darker shades of yellow and orange are used for higher temperatures, with lighter shades for slight levels of warmth. It’s the exact same system for cool temperatures, with darker shades of blue representing the coldest temperatures in the scale.
The Met Office always looks to take steps to improve how forecasts are understood and makes amendments as needed to stay up-to-date with the latest accessibility guidelines.
The misinformation you may encounter
The Met Office is using alarmist colours to scare people about the weather
Our response: This isn’t true. The Met Office scale for temperature is static. It isn’t adjusted for individual forecasts to highlight or exaggerate certain conditions. People in the UK are most used to seeing temperature colours from around freezing to 25 °C. If a temperature colour appears extreme, it’s likely because the temperature is extreme. Seeing colours that represent 35 °C or 40 °C might seem extreme as they’re not often viewed, but that’s reflective of the fact that those temperatures aren’t often experienced.
The Met Office has adjusted its colours to exaggerate climate change
Our response: This isn’t true. The Met Office frequently reviews how forecasts are presented to make sure as many people as possible can understand the weather. The most recent change to the temperature colour scale was for accessibility reasons; helping those who are colour blind to understand the forecast. This means that more shades of light and dark are used rather than lots of different colours, which can be hard for those who are colour blind to fully understand.
The Met Office has changed how it reads temperatures to produce higher figures
Our response: This isn't true. Temperatures that appear in Met Office forecasts on screen are always air temperatures. This is the reading of a temperature inside a Stevenson screen at a height of 1.25m to 2m above the surface.
Find out more about how we observe the weather.