The Shipping Forecast

The Shipping Forecast provides weather bulletins and storm warnings for the seas around the British Isles. Maritime weather forecasts were started by Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy of the Royal Navy in 1861. Originally a telegraphic messaging system, the Shipping Forecast was first broadcast by radio in 1924 and is the longest running continuous forecast in the world.

This infographic marks the 100th anniversary of the first radio broadcast by illustrating the names that the Forecast uses in its bulletins to identify the different sea zones, which are called ‘shipping areas’.

Click on the infographic to enlarge it.

the shipping forecast infographic

Robert FitzRoy 1805-1865

As well as being a serving officer in the Royal Navy, Robert FitzRoy was also a scientist. In 1831 he captained HMS Beagle on a scientific voyage around South America, with Charles Darwin famously on board. In 1854, he established a scientific weather forecasting system that would later become the Met Office.

Shortly after, in 1859, a severe storm off the coast of Wales claimed the lives of 800 people, with the sinking of 133 ships. This prompted FitzRoy to develop a new service to issue storm warnings, which began in 1861 and has now become the Shipping Forecast. Originally, the warnings were sent over a telegraphic messaging system. The bulletin was first broadcast on the radio on 1st January 1924, and this has evolved into the Shipping Forecast of today.

In 2002, the shipping area ‘Finisterre’, off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula, was renamed ‘FitzRoy’ in recognition of his pioneering work in meteorology.

The Forecast

Back in 1924, the radio broadcast provided a 24-hour forecast for 13 named maritime areas. These areas have since been added to and subdivided into the current 31 shipping areas. The bulletin is always read out in the same order, starting with ‘Viking’ off the coast of Norway, and continuing in a clockwise direction around Great Britain. Each bulletin is limited to a maximum of 370 words. The forecast for each area gives the wind direction first, followed by its strength using the Beaufort Scale, the precipitation if any, and lastly visibility.

Infographic design

The design uses a limited colour palette of shades of blue that references the maritime nature of the Forecast. Only the outline of the shipping areas is shown, with the surrounding adjacent land and sea being part of the white background, thus making the shipping areas themselves more prominent. The infographic fills each shipping area with the corresponding name, giving the design a feeling that it has been ‘typeset’, as if for printing in a 1920s newspaper – which tomorrow will be wrapping paper for fish and chips!


This infographic appeared in JONO Design e-news. The e-news is published once every couple of months and each issue contains a specially designed infographic.

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