Met Office: ‘Not us, it was Harrabin’. But…

Writing in The Register this afternoon, Andrew Orlowski shares a quote received from the Met Office that appears to cut the legs from under BCC environment analyst Roger Harrabin’s claim that:

The truth is it [The Met Office] did suspect we were in for an exceptionally cold early winter, and told the Cabinet Office so in October. But we weren’t let in on the secret.

As pointed out by this blog and Katabasis last Friday, the forecast submitted to the Cabinet Office contained no such warning.  Orlowski explains:

The Met told us:

“The Met Office has never suggested that we warned cabinet office of an ‘exceptionally cold early winter’. The forecasts said that there was ‘an increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season’. The Met Office provided a forecast to the cabinet office that showed that there was an increased risk of an average or cold start to winter over an average or mild winter. This along with a verbal briefing and the text that highlighted a ‘increased risk of a cold start to the winter season’ all provided useful guidance to the cabinet office.”

What does this mean?  The Met Office appears to be suggesting that Harrabin embellished the Met Office forecast, in a way that gave cover to the department, on his own initiative and that the public was mislead with false information.  However the Met Office does not get away with it that easily.  Orlowski’s article also links back to a piece in the Daily Mail on 4th January where the paper quotes a spokeswoman from the Met Office was quoted as saying:

‘We did brief the Cabinet Office in October on what we believed would be an exceptionally cold and long winter,’ she said.

It is said that your lies will find you out.  The Met Office appears to be lurching from lie to lie.  The left hand does not know what the left hand is doing, or there is a concerted effort to create enough confusion to turn people off the story in frustration.  Roger Harrabin has been a friend to the Met Office, but it is hanging him out to dry.

What remains unexplained is the Met Office’s silence since 4th January.  If Harrabin made up the ‘exceptionally cold early winter’ quote why has it taken nearly a month for them to deny it?  Why wait until the FOI was finally made public by a blogger?  Something is very rotten in the upper echelons of the Met Office and John Hirst has a number of searching questions to answer.  It is clear we cannot have confidence in him.

Update: And by happy coincidence (yeah, as if) Roger Harrabin finally uses the BBC space to relay more of his thoughts about the forecast. My bullshitometer has gone off the scale reading this particular passage:

But the Met Office kept quietly doing the forecasts anyway. And they laid their winter prognosis on the government on 25 October.

Finally it’s come my way. The Met Office was forecasting a 40% chance of a cold start to the winter, with a 30% chance of a mild start, and a 30% chance of an average start.

This doesn’t match a more conclusive forecast I gleaned from a Met Office contact in December whilst researching an article for the Radio Times – though it does point in roughly the same direction.

It does no such thing.  He is still shilling for them.  It’s actually now amusing to see Harrabin trying to hold the line while the Met Office tries to put a continental sized distance between it and Harrabin’s reporting from his ‘deepthroat’ contact.  But it’s also interesting to note Harrabin’s determination to corral the government into this when he says:

The government was criticised in the media earlier this month for failing to publish the advice to ordinary folk planning their Christmas holidays. A spokesman for the Cabinet Office told me they had passed the forecast to key stakeholders (“Government departments, local council as appropriate – we don’t have a list”).

The forecast, he said, belonged to the Met Office – so it was up to the Met Office to decide who to share it with.

Something else worthy of note is this gem where Harrabin has spoken with a former BBC weather man, who he performs contortions to describe at every opportunity as ‘independent’.  What this forecaster says is doublespeak plus.  It is too funny for words (emphasis added):

I contacted the independent weatherman Philip Eden at the time and he said the Met Office online map had been mis-understood by journalists and bloggers reporting it.

He told me: “The Met Office are correct: it is not a forecast. It does not even indicate above average temperatures – rather, it suggests an above-average probability of above average temperatures. This would be only one of several outputs that they would consider in putting together a seasonal forecast”.

War is peace, ignorance is strength etc, etc.  The rats in the sack continue to scrabble around looking for a way out.  But Harrabin continues to show he is still ‘one of them’ as he faithfully relays the current Met Office meme, that they need more supercomputing power:

Well, the Quarmby report for the government into winter preparedness reveals that the Chief Scientist John Beddington “advises me that significant progress is being made by the Met Office in being able to make seasonal projections with more confidence, certainly up to one month and potentially up to three months in advance, and could be incorporated into operational forecasting by winter 2011/12, given sufficient computing resource.”

The spin, fiction and fantasy continues.

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10 Responses to “Met Office: ‘Not us, it was Harrabin’. But…”


  1. 1 Grumpy Old Man 31/01/2011 at 8:52 pm

    The Parliamentary Transport Committee is going to have a great time with this embroglio. Time for the Committee Chair to relive the days of the Late, great, Gwynneth Dunwoody, who would have roasted all concerned slowly over hot coals. Watch the Greenies run for cover.

  2. 2 The Englishman 31/01/2011 at 9:08 pm

    Because he says the big boys did say it then ran away…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12325695

  3. 3 Uncle Badger 31/01/2011 at 9:12 pm

    Something is, indeed, wrong at the Met Office.

    But as bad is the roaring silence from the MSM. Harrabin and/or the Met Office will only be nailed when actually held to account. And right now the media seems to be completely uninterested.

  4. 4 Delphius 31/01/2011 at 10:17 pm

    If the phrase “an above-average probability of above average temperatures” doesn’t mean there are going to be above average temperatures, then surely an above average risk of man made CO2 causing global warming can be dismissed in the same way?

    These people can’t have it all their own way. Either the statistics say one thing or the other, but what the Met Office is trying to do is say two things at once.

    I listened to Roger Harrabin’s bit on Radio 4’s evening news and if its to be believed, the Met Office “forecast” is as useful for planning as a set of runes or tarot cards.

    Fishy forecast aside, the political maneuvering and lies that have come out of the Met Office sounds more like naughty children caught out than a professional organisation.

    What it also starts to show is that probabilistic science isn’t exact science, whether its applied to weather, or climate change.

  5. 5 Cthulhu 31/01/2011 at 11:43 pm

    The only relevant thing to me (you know I don’t accept the seasonal mild map) is the quote from the Daily Mail:

    “‘We did brief the Cabinet Office in October on what we believed would be an exceptionally cold and long winter,’ she said.”

    That does look like a lie to me given all the information.

  6. 6 GP 01/02/2011 at 12:09 am

    ” The left hand does not know what the left hand is doing, or there is a concerted effort to create enough confusion to turn people off the story in frustration.”

    That sounds about right all round.

    If they all bounce up and down and splash the water people will lose interest in the silly game quite quickly – well that’s probably what the MSM are thinking – so not enough to go on to make it worth them getting out of bed.

  7. 7 Dave W 01/02/2011 at 11:10 am

    Roger Harrabin has a letter in today’s Daily Mail – If anyone’s interested I’ve scanned it, and uploaded here:

  8. 8 Autonomous Mind 01/02/2011 at 11:21 am

    That is outrageous. The email trail clearly shows Roger Harrabin went back to Jo Abbess to ask her if she was happy with the changes he had made after her complaint and threat to him. Harrabin again demonstrates he is untrustworthy.

  9. 9 GP 01/02/2011 at 2:32 pm

    The interesting thing is that his statement is plausible in so much as I don’t think he referred to ‘your (Abbess) changes’ from what I recall. So he could indeed claim that the article as it ended up was the result of comments from WMO. Why he did not explain that to Abbess at the time is another matter.

    I would also assume that communication with WMO was by email but were it by telephone the lack of evidence of the advice from WMO would be convenient. If it was eMail or similar presumably one might expect a record of the exchange could be found.


  1. 1 Met Office steps in it again | Watts Up With That? Trackback on 01/02/2011 at 4:43 pm
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