Come rain or shine
His Facebook forecasts attract thousands of followers and have become a trusted source of local weather information. But who is the man behind steel City Skies?
It’s become the trusted source for accurate local weather. Come rain or shine, thousands of Sheffielders are choosing Steel City Skies over the likes of the BBC, Met Office and local media for their forecasts. But who is the man behind the hugely popular weather forecasting page?
That man is Stephen Vincent and he’s not a meteorologist but a teaching assistant at a primary school in the north of the city and also recently qualified as a Forest School practitioner. Weather is his hobby, his passion and Steel City Skies is a service he is happy to continue to provide. You’ll find him on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube delivering daily and weekly forecasts for Sheffield which are, more often than not, right on the money.
Stephen, who also lives in north Sheffield, has been running the page for three years after friends and colleagues at work often asked him what the weather was going to be like for the weekend or the holidays. The rest, they say, is history.
We caught up with the weather enthusiast to find out more and, more importantly, to ask what kind of weather we can expect this summer. Clue: you should be ok to organise that garden party.
Tell us about Steel City Skies.
Steel City Skies is a weather forecasting page specialising in accurate forecasts local to Sheffield. Every morning there’s a forecast for the day, with weekend outlooks on Thursday evenings and week-ahead forecasts published on Sundays. When inclement or interesting weather is in the offing, extra posts are published.
Do you post daily?
Yes! I write up a daily forecast every morning that publishes between 6 and 6.30am. The forecasts follow a text and accompanying graphic format with a photo background. On occasion I credit and share photos that my followers have uploaded to the page - it helps keep a local connection to the page and develops a sense of community. I’m pleased to say those that followed the page from the very beginning are still there!
What qualifies you to forecast the weather?
Almost all of the hobbies I’ve had are ones I dip in and out of - they never truly hold my attention. Weather is the one exception and it has been a constant fascination for me. Though I have no formal meteorological qualifications, I take forecasting very seriously and use high-resolution data from weather models to support the forecasts that I write for Sheffield. I’ve also been a member of online weather communities for over ten years and learnt from some very knowledgeable members.
How would you describe Sheffield’s climate?
Varied would be the best word! We do benefit from the shelter of the Peak District and the southern Pennines so we are not as rainy as Manchester for instance. I’d like to think we have a very balanced climate here, positioned where we are in the UK. We get our fair share of snow in winter but we also tap nicely into summer heat when it comes as well. I’m thankful that we have such amazing scenery on our doorstep to experience it all, too.
Have you ever got it drastically wrong?!
Now, drastically is a strong word! The trickiest element when forecasting for Sheffield is definitely snow. Given the varied topography of the city it is a real challenge to be accurate when forecasting how much snow is going to fall. It is not an exaggeration to say that you can have the city centre with a bit of slush and a more elevated suburb of Sheffield just a mile or two away buried in deep snow! As such, I have learnt to be as specific as possible when forecasting snow. I’ve learnt that the hard way!
Do you get recommendations for forecasts?
Occasionally someone will get in touch and ask for a more specific forecast, such as a holiday forecast or for a significant event. The page seems to be recommended regularly as almost all of the page growth is due to likes, comments and especially shares of my page which is really heartening - I’m grateful for every single engagement.
Do you have any other hobbies?
Alongside my forecasting, I like to storm chase in the summer. That involves travelling to a location where particularly severe storms are forecast and positioning carefully to get the best footage and photos of the storm structure without getting clobbered by it. It’s not quite as lairy as the chasing in America but it’s enough to get my adrenaline going. I also like to walk in the Peak District and photograph wildlife and landscapes. To stay fit and active I play five-a-side football every week.
What are your favourite parts of the city?
I love socialising with friends in the city centre - I can’t wait until we can all mix safely again and breathe life back into the city. Otherwise, I’d have to say the nearby Peak District - I know I’m straying a little outside of Sheffield strictly speaking, but I know it’s a big draw for those who end up moving to Sheffield and if I ever leave the city it’ll be one of the biggest things I’ll miss.
Any favourite places outside of Sheffield?
I studied up in Scarborough so that’s always the first place that springs to mind. It’s so different to Sheffield of course with its gorgeous coastline so it was a really unique experience to live there for four years. I’m hoping to go back there in the near future and visit friends.
Will you be going on holiday this summer?
I’m not planning anything spectacular, thankfully I got my travelling in before the pandemic began. My brother is working up in the Lake District - a stunning part of the world - so I’ll visit him when I can but otherwise it’ll be smaller trips to some of the more local beauty spots. That’s just fine though, I think our economy could do with more staycations this year.
Most importantly, what’s the summer going to be like?
Given the weather’s propensity for heat these days I would expect another above-average summer in terms of temperature. I know I’m not exactly sticking my neck out but I think overall it’ll be a pretty mixed summer with unsettled patterns alternating with spells of potentially significant heat. The way we’ll remember our summer is if any such pattern sticks for a lengthy period of time, as has been the case in recent years (remember the winter Beast from the East?). If a pattern does stick it’ll prove difficult to shift which is when we experience something more notable, whether it be significant rain, storms or heat.
How long will Steel City Skies keep running?
As long as I have a passion for the weather and live in Sheffield there’s no reason for me not to stop as I still really enjoy it. I’ve built up a loyal following who appreciate the straight-talking forecasts, humour and local flavour. I’d like to thank all of those who like and share the page as they keep me going even when the weather tests my patience!
You can follow Steel City Skies on Stephen’s blog - https://steelcityskies.home.blog – or on social media channels Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.