Why issue them in the first place?

A reader, D Sanders, has emailed me with a link to a Met Office article on their website that appears to have been published at the end of October 2010. Mr (Mrs?) Sanders asks whether this backs up the Met Office’s claim that it did not predict above average temperatures for this winter. The article is reproduced below (just click to enlarge):

The answer to that question is no. There is nothing ‘selective’ about the probability map issued by the Met Office in October that clearly shows the it believed November, December and January had an 80% probability of being warmer than average in Scotland and southern England and a 60-80% probability of being warmer than average in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. There is no other possible manner of interpreting the information.

If the probability maps are not to be taken as a ‘guide to the coming winter’ as it was in October, then what purpose do they serve and why issue them in the first place? You can be sure that if the probability become the reality the Met Office would have used the map as supporting evidence of their predictive accuracy. It cannot simply be discounted because the Met Office’s view of this winter was way off target.

The Met Office is trying to have it both ways and playing a game of semantics. By not having the word ‘forecast’ on the map they believe that gives them immunity from standing by what they believed the winter would be like. It is like writing on a piece of paper that you intend to punch your next door neighbour, but writing below it that this does not constitute a threat.

But the real icing on the cake (pardon the pun) is that the disclaimer article published in case the forecast was as wrong as previous ones even has the file name ‘probability-forecast’. One wonders just how stupid they can get.

2 Responses to “Why issue them in the first place?”

  1. 1 Barry 05/01/2011 at 7:50 pm

    “Mr (Mrs?) Sanders”


    The probability map is easy enough to interpret. What they ought to have done when that forecast became widely reported was simply say ‘We’re barely into winter. Come back in March’. Yet if they had indeed told the Cabinet Office the winter would be cold I can understand why they wouldn’t want to stand by the probability forecast in case the cold prediction came true.

    Perhaps the game is actually as it appears for once – say both hot and cold, dry and wet to different people and then highlight the one that turns out correct.

    Or worse, the retreat from transparent public seasonal forecasts is a cynical ploy to strengthen the Met’s claim that they need more money. Anyone know how long they have been doing seasonal forecast before they stopped and if they have been declining in accuracy or have always been duff? They only got their current super computer a couple of years ago so the new equipment isn’t the issue. Why should we be expected to believe even more new equipment will solve it?

  2. 2 Tom 06/01/2011 at 10:34 am


    only a thought, but did the Met Office tell the UK heating oil suppliers about the freeze and their customers about the warmest winter and daffodils in February?

    Coz, heating oil in November 48p or so and in late December 79p a litre? (possibly from the same tank?)

    Simply coincidental of course :-)

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