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.