Met Office spins itself deeper into the hole

This story really gets to the heart of the Met Office’s desperation to rewrite history. As has been mentioned on several blogs elsewhere, Steve Connor writing in the Independent today, tries to hold the line against those who have circulated the now infamous article written by Charles Onians and published by the Independent in 2000 titled: ‘Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past’.

Connor has published a piece titled: ‘Don’t believe the hype over climate headlines’ and neatly sums up the story so far:

A story published 10 years ago in The Independent ( has gone viral on the internet.

Climate contrarians have been making much of an article published on 20 March 2000 – the last day of winter – with the headline: “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.”

Self evidently, snow has not become a thing of the past, judging from the amount that fell in Britain in December. Contrarians who dismiss the scientific evidence for climate change have been busy copying the article far and wide in an attempt to expose the “hype” of global warming.

Connor focuses very carefully on the comments of Dr David Viner.  Rigidly so.  Amusingly Connor’s defence of Viner – and key mention of Viner’s assessment that we could really be caught out by snow, which could cause chaos in 20 years time – requires him to undermine mainstream media journalists and editors the world over by demonstrating how they sex up articles to make them saleable. In other words, Connor as a mainstream media journalist is saying we cannot take at face value anything we are told by mainstream journalists.  Connor also retails the hypocritical stance of warmists who, despite repeatedly pointing to damaging or severe weather events and claiming them to be evidence of climate change caused by global warming, tell us when it suits them that:

Just as one swallow does not make a spring, one hot summer or cold winter does not prove or disprove climate change. Climate is what we expect over a long period – often too long to be retained by human memory – whereas weather is what we get from one day to the next.

The irony is staggering. Anyway, Connor then rambles on about Russia, permafrost, Arctic Ice, computer modelling and Vladimir Putin before arriving at his desired destination where he opines:

So a headline saying that “snowfalls are now just a thing of the past” is not a scientific prediction or statement. It is a newspaper headline, and should be treated as an invitation to read the entire story, which in this case clearly pointed out that snowfalls are becoming less frequent in Britain. This is still the case even with the experience of having two snowy winters on the run.

Pure semantics. Now the story gets interesting because the Met Office, via their own blog, have jumped in with both feet to heartily endorse Connor’s article in a piece titled: ‘Don’t believe all the climate headlines’. It lauds Connor for making:

… some fine points about the difficulty for scientists and science journalists to find a balance between writing interesting stories that catch the eye of the reader (the fundamental job of a good journalist) and the difficulties and conveying all the tiny caveats and nuances that go with science stories, especially those about climate science.

The case Steve refers to is about the likely chances of snowfall in the future under climate change. The headline used 10 years ago was “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”, but I can assure you that no self respecting climate scientist would ever make such a bold statement, not today or ten years ago.

The reason for this is quite simple – that kind of statement is just not true when taken out of context of the whole article that deals with all those caveats and nuances that can be so hard to understand.

Sadly for the Met Office, as we are about to see, Viner’s underlying point was not misrepresented at all. Viner did indeed say that heavy snow ‘will return occasionally’ but that is not the same as saying ‘snowfalls are becoming less frequent’. To return they would have to have departed. If asked to define ‘occasionally’ no reasonable person would suggest that three bitter, snowy winters on the trot fits the definition. What we are seeing is not an occasional return of snow, but an emerging pattern of colder winters, which runs contrary to what Viner and the Met Office have predicted over the last decade.

The only entity taking the 2000 article out of context is the Met Office, which like Connor, is also attempting to airbrush from the record the comment attributed to David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire. who said that:

… ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow. Via the internet, they might wonder at polar scenes – or eventually “feel” virtual cold.

That is not a newspaper sub editor’s headline. That is not a suggestion of snow becoming less frequent. That is a prediction that we will hardly ever see snow. There are no caveats and not much nuance there. So is the Met Office saying that Parker’s assertion is just not true, or that he is not a self respecting climate scientist? Either way, what is clear is that Parker’s comment does demonstrate that Viner’s comment was not taken out of context at all. The whole thrust of the article was warmer winters to come and snow become a rare – even virtual – event. Connor is actually doing what he warned us newspapers do, and sexing up his story to support the warmists. He is trying to make his story a big rebuttal piece – by spinning.

Perhaps that is why neither Connor (‘Steve’ as the Met Office blogger calls him) nor the Met Office make any reference to Parker. Crucially the Met Office and Connor both seem to have also forgotten the recent spin that colder winters and increased snow are actually by-products of global warming – which is a clear contradiction of Viner’s and Parker’s points. In trying to redefine Viner (and Parker) and suggest (wrongly) they have been taken out of context, the Met Office has actually undone itself again in its own desperation to spin, by not thinking their argument through and contradicting their own stance.

Connor (let’s call him Steve because it’s so chummy) is clearly attempting to have journalism take one for the warmist team to aid the Met Office, but all he has done is open a can of worms about how the Met Office appears to be engaged in the selective briefing of ‘on message’ journalists like himself and Roger Harrabin to write supportive puff pieces in an attempt to spin the Met Office out of trouble and play down predictions that were at no time rejected until after the weather confounded them. The concept of stopping digging when in a hole has not registered at the Ministry.

Update: Dr Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation kindly directs me to the comments of the Met Office’s Dr Peter Stott (contained within the link), who in February 2009 said:

Despite the cold winter this year, the trend to milder and wetter winters is expected to continue, with snow and frost becoming less of a feature in the future.

The famously cold winter of 1962/63 is now expected to occur about once every 1,000 years or more, compared with approximately every 100 to 200 years before 1850.

Not much by way of caveat and nuance there either. The trend in the two winters since, as mentioned above, has been for increasingly old and snowy winters – and 2010 as a whole has also be confirmed as the 12th coldest year in the UK in the 100 years since national records began.

16 Responses to “Met Office spins itself deeper into the hole”

  1. 1 WitteringWitney 11/01/2011 at 12:21 am

    Superb article, as always, AM. Well written and well argued. Congrats!

  2. 3 rogerthesurf 11/01/2011 at 3:19 am

    Here is what I think we are doing to ourselves.

    I think that we are in the grip of the biggest and most insane hoax in history, and unless the public get wise to it soon, we will all be parted from what wealth we have.

    Lets take a simple economic view of what is likely to happen.

    In the absence of sufficient alternative solutions/technologies, the only way western countries can ever attain the IPCC demands of CO2 emissions reduced to 40% below 1990 levels, (thats about 60% below todays) is to machine restrictions on the use of fossil fuels. Emission Trading schemes are an example.

    As the use of fossil fuels is roughly linear with anthropogenic CO2 emissions, to attain a 60% reduction of emissions , means about the same proportion of reduction of fossil fuel usage, including petrol, diesel, heating oil, not to mention coal and other types including propane etc.

    No matter how a restriction on the use of these is implemented, even a 10% decrease will make the price of petrol go sky high. In otherwords, (and petrol is just one example) we can expect, if the IPCC has its way, a price rise on petrol of greater than 500%.
    First of all, for all normal people, this will make the family car impossible to use. Worse than that though, the transport industry will also have to deal with this as well and they will need to pass the cost on to the consumer. Simple things like food will get prohibitively expensive. Manufacturers who need fossil energy to produce will either pass the cost on to the consumer or go out of business. If you live further than walking distance from work, you will be in trouble.
    All this leads to an economic crash of terrible proportions as unemployment rises and poverty spreads.
    I believe that this will be the effect of bowing to the IPCC and the AGW lobby. AND as AGW is a hoax it will be all in vain. The world will continue to do what it has always done while normal people starve and others at the top (including energy/oil companies and emission traders) will enjoy the high prices.

    Neither this scenario nor any analysis of the cost of CO2 emission reductions is included in IPCC literature, and the Stern report which claims economic expansion is simply not obeying economic logic as it is known in todays academic world.

    The fact that the emission reduction cost issue is not discussed, leads me to believe that there is a deliberate cover up of this issue. Fairly obviously the possibility of starvation will hardly appeal to the masses.

    AGW is baloney anyway!



  3. 4 right_writes 11/01/2011 at 8:56 am

    Good article AM…

    If only the MET Office would understand that it is not supposed to be in the forecasting business but rather in the recording business.

    We might have a little respect for them, if they provided shipping reports for our fishermen (oh no , they’ve all been run out of town by the CFP)!

    Still, they could devote a little more energy to providing information for the Civil Aviation people…

    Oh no, we have nearly completed the move to something called “the European Sky”!

    On reflection, shut it down!

  4. 5 Span Ows 11/01/2011 at 9:55 am

    Happy New Year AM. Another good post (along with several others I have read, catching up a bit). Their lies will increase as their desperation increases. You’ll note the “deny climate change” phrase as they try to move the goalposts: NOBODY is denying climate change, NOBODY thinks the climate won’t/isn’t/hasn’t changed.

  5. 6 Calvin Ball 11/01/2011 at 10:18 am

    Excellent article AM. Another reason why I’m glad I joined the blogging community.

    I especially liked the insight at the end as the piece has effectively twisted itself in knots by trying to run two opposing arguments to prove it’s case. Hope you don’t mind if I use this as the basis for my next post (with appropriate hat tip of course)

    Rogerthesurf is correct that the public need to wise up fast as the detachment from reality around all of this issue is now starting to parallel a psychotic episode.

    For me, this last point has to form the basis of action by Joe Public by rebutting the farce we now see being presented to us.

  6. 7 Autonomous Mind 11/01/2011 at 10:49 am

    Many thanks Calvin. Yes, feel free to use any of the content. Greatly appreciate the hat tip!

  7. 8 Autonomous Mind 11/01/2011 at 10:53 am

    Thanks Span. Moving goalposts and building strawmen is all they can do – unless they admit they have simply got many things wrong and need to look again at the science before peddling assumptions as facts. But there is too much money and too many vested interest reliant on this ‘problem’ remaining a ‘real and present’ danger that needs to be overcome.

    We have to knock this down with evidence and exposure of the falsehoods and by encouraging people to understand and question more.

  8. 9 Tufty 11/01/2011 at 11:11 am

    Good piece AM. This needs hammering home hard because it is so important.

    Everyone knows that Viner’s comment was a scientific prediction based on AGW theory. He devised a simple experiment which could be confirmed or refuted by the passage of time. His prediction turned out to be wrong, so the theory he used to make the prediction is also wrong.

    Richard Feynman puts it as clearly as it can be put here.

  9. 10 Clive Francis 11/01/2011 at 11:16 am

    Could I suggest that Rogerthesurf 11/01/2011 at 3:19 am response to

    “Met Office Spins Itself Deeper into the Hole”

    contains such valuable information and argument that it should be an independent post by itself.

    Clive Francis

  10. 11 Autonomous Mind 11/01/2011 at 11:44 am

    If Roger is happy with that Clive, I would be delighted to add it as a guest post.

  11. 12 feuillet123 11/01/2011 at 1:37 pm

    Very nice analysis, it proves how climate science are not falsifiable and should not be called as science in the first place.

    In my blog have wrote a very badly writtern post about the inportance of falsificationism in science, feel free to comment on it.

  12. 13 Barry 11/01/2011 at 3:18 pm

    Tufty said: “Everyone knows that Viner’s comment was a scientific prediction based on AGW theory. ”

    It is such a poorly defined prediction even a decade of regular variable winters can be waved away as not yet disproving AGW. The ETA of global warming keeps getting pushed back with some scientists such as Kerry Emanuel suggesting it will be centuries before we can discern the fingerprint of man.

    And that’s the problem with AGW. We have climate records that look backwards and climate projections that look forwards. The climate records are not evidence of climate change and neither are the projections. As you say the projections need testing but rather than do that they want wholesale change in our way of life, increasing the authority of the state and less money left in our pockets before we can find out if they are correct.

  13. 14 Autonomous Mind 11/01/2011 at 4:19 pm

    Not sure I agree 100% Barry. The climate records (that have not been skewed and adjusted) do show clear evidence of climate change without any influence from humans. The projections all claim there is evidence that humans are changing the climate, but observation is showing results that were never projected which by their very existance flatly refute the climate models.

    So now we are being asked to trust the climate alarmists that we are changing the planet, and that the proof will show itself in future centuries. So much for all the evidence they claim to have. AGW remains a hypothesis underpinning a belief system of shrill hysterics who told us 30 years ago we were heading for an ice age, then 15 years ago that the planet was warming and would be very different today. Both have proved incorrect. It is junk science.

  14. 15 ThomasJ 11/01/2011 at 6:21 pm

    Please keep in mind the statement of The Council of the Club of Rome from 1991:
    ” In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortage, famine and the like would fit the bill… all these dangers are caused by human intervention… the real enemy, then, is humanity itself.”


  15. 16 Barry 13/01/2011 at 1:53 am

    Autonomous Mind said: “Not sure I agree 100% Barry. The climate records (that have not been skewed and adjusted) do show clear evidence of climate change without any influence from humans. The projections all claim there is evidence that humans are changing the climate, but observation is showing results that were never projected which by their very existance flatly refute the climate models.”

    Yes I take your point. Clumsy use of ‘climate change’ when I should have said AGW or similar.

    The projections have changed over time, presumably due to better knowledge of weather and climate processes and lots more data. eg James Hansen’s early projections were long enough ago that we can now see they *haven’t* come true but nobody is using those projections to advocate for combating AGW any more. The real world invalidating those projections makes no difference to the AGW cause because they have already moved on and will keep doing so.

    The churn of projections themselves are used as (or in place of) evidence due to the apparent urgency of the issue, and, due to the constant renewal of that evidence it is infallible. The accuracy of those projections is as it was when the likes of Hansen and others began making them – immaterial – as the advocacy behind them is never insisting on waiting to see if they are right.

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