BBC weatherman tries to clear Met Office but digs deeper hole

BBC – Met Office, Met Office – BBC.  Sometimes it’s difficult to know which of the 58 weather forecasters who appear on TV screens around the country are Met Office employees or BBC ones. The 24 who appear on national TV are Met Office people and the rest who appear on regional BBC channels are BBC people. So, for the sake of clarity, Paul Hudson appears on BBC Look North (having previously worked for the Met Office) is a BBC employee. Clear? Good.

Hudson writes a BBC hosted blog and late this afternoon weighed in to the warmer than average/colder than average Met Office forecast fiasco with a very matter of fact post.  It is such an interesting post it’s worthy of comment.  After reading this analysis you could be forgiven for thinking the Met Office will probably wish Hudson had stayed out of this…

There’s been much in the news over the last week or so, regarding the issue of whether or not the Met Office did forecast a cold winter, and if so was this communicated to the government. You can read one version of events in the Independent newspaper by clicking here.

OK, that’s fine. We know this part of the story backwards by now.

Readers of this blog will know that on October 1st last year I wrote an article, called ‘Another cold winter ahead?’ which you can read by clicking here.

In it I commented ‘The Met Office don’t issue their seasonal forecast to the general public anymore, using them for internal research purposes only, but as I understand it, their forecast also suggests that the probability of a cold winter is higher than normal.’

Interesting. The Met Office don’t issue seasonal forecasts to the public any more, but Hudson at the BBC was led to understand in October that the probability of a cold winter was higher than normal. Perhaps this was chatter between old colleagues or professional courtesy. But it wasn’t something being doled out for public consumption. What is noteworthy is that Hudson was saying this on his blog at the same time as this, now widely retailed, ‘scorchio’ probability map (below) was published on the Met Office website.

It is also worth noting that Hudson’s assertion that the Met Office uses seasonal forecasts ‘for internal research purposes only’ is not true. The Met Office issues seasonal forecasts to “‘Intelligent’ customers [who] find probabilistic forecasts helpful in planning their resource deployment.’. Moving on…

On the 5th October I followed up this article with an update that you can read by clicking here.

In it I say ‘Having seen computer model output from the 3 main centres – the Met Office, the European Centre for Medium Range Forecasting (ECMWF) and the American centre (NCEP) – the conclusion is that this winter is likely on average to be dominated by High pressure, with below average rainfall and temperatures colder than average. Moreover a mild and wet winter, with West or Southwest winds, which have been such a feature of our climate for much of the last 20 years, again seems unlikely.’

So having seen the computer model output Hudson made his own forecast as a meterologist. On his BBC blog. It was not a Met Office forecast and was not, with respect to Hudson, published at a prominent location for national consumption. This is merely confirmation that the Met Office had data suggesting a colder than average winter but still made the map above visible on its website at the same time. Questions remain unanswered.

The colour map below shows the actual forecast that I obtained at the time and wrote about. It’s a Met Office winter temperature profile, and there can be no doubt that it does show that the UK and Europe could expect a cold winter.

Eagle-eyed readers will note there is a slight difference between this probabilistic map (above) ‘obtained’ by Hudson from the Met Office and the  ‘scorchio’ version accessible to all on the Met Office website.  Trust me, there is.  Now this keeps the Met Office can of worms wide open because they have to explain why during October 2010 two dramatically conflicting probabilisitic temperature maps were being circulated.  Far from doing the Met Office a favour, Hudson has just undermined them with confirmation that they tried to have the best of both worlds.

This should put an end to the ongoing discussion as to whether the Met Office forecasted a cold winter or not.

Yes it does, because no they didn’t.

Paul Hudson of the BBC forecasted a cold winter using Met Office material and other sources that he had access to.  The Met Office did not put this information into the public domain.  It may be this was the information shared with the Cabinet Office, as per Met Office claims, but that does not get them off the hook for failing to share this information with the public.

What Hudson also fails to take into account is that at no time in October did the Met Office refute assessments in the media of the probable winter weather, after the ‘scorchio’ map had been seen and referenced by journalists as a prediction of a warmer than average winter. In fact, far from refuting the warmer than average reports stemming from the ‘scorchio’ map, such as this report in the Daily Express covered by this blog:

The latest data comes in the form of a December to February temperature map on the Met Office’s website.

The eastern half of England, Cornwall, Scotland and Northern Ireland is in for temperatures above the 3.7C (38.6F) average, more than 2C warmer than last winter.

The map also shows a 40 per cent to 60 per cent probability that western England and Wales will be warmer than 3.7C (38.6F), with a much smaller chance of average or below-average temperatures.

this is what was reported by Nathan Reo, the Daily Express journalist:

Helen Chivers, Met Office forecaster, insisted the temperature map takes into account the influence of climate factors such as El Nino and La Nina – five-yearly climatic patterns that affect the weather – but admits this is only a “start point” for a seasonal forecast. She said: “The map shows probabilities of temperatures in months ahead compared to average temperatures over a 30-year period.

So you see, even with the information and maps Hudson had to hand and reported on his blog, and even with private forecasts being lodged with the Cabinet Office, the Met Office (not the BBC employee Hudson) was standing by the warmer than average winter forecast in public. This is a flat contradiction.

But before we go, Hudson rounds off his post by saying this:

It is worth stressing that this is an average temperature profile across winter – December, January and February. It suggests that the winter would be cold, but it doesn’t by definition give any clue as to the severity of the weather that we experienced in December – nor would it since seasonal forecasts are just that – an average for the season

With this final comment Hudson again does the Met Office no favours. Readers will recall from this blog post that the energetic Roger Harrabin reported in the Radio Times that:

In October the forecaster privately warned the Government – with whom it has a contract – that Britain was likely to face an extremely cold winter.

It kept the prediction secret, however, after facing severe criticism over the accuracy of its long-term forecasts.

Harrabin twice undermines Hudson assertions. First to fall is Hudson’s attempt to suggest the public were warned about a colder than average winter, Harrbin confirms it was kept secret (also borne out by Dave Britton the Met Office’s chief press officer);  and second to collapse is the temperature map ‘obtained’ by Hudson, because while he says the Met Office was retailing an average temperature profile across winter, the Met Office – as Harrabin states – was saying privately to the Cabinet Office that Britain was likely to face an extremely cold winter.

While some commenters on Hudson’s blog may find his post reassuring and a welcome exoneration of the Met Office and a good bit of work by the BBC, I think this analysis demonstrates it is anything but.

—————

The story so far: (in chronological order)

Met Office accuracy review

Met Office: memory or honesty deficiency?

That Met Office global long range probability map

Met Office severe weather warning ignored in Northern Ireland

What supercomputers do Bastardi and Corbyn use?

Bastardi and Corbyn reply

BBC spins that Met Office got winter right, just kept it secret from public

Why issue them in the first place?

Met Office continues to hide inconvenient facts

Far from being the warmest year on record

Met Office spins itself deeper into the hole

Met Office: smokescreen, confusion or conspiracy?

What is Roger Harrabin doing?

30 Responses to “BBC weatherman tries to clear Met Office but digs deeper hole”


  1. 1 Green Sand 12/01/2011 at 11:49 pm

    Hi, well done please stick with this it needs a resolution.

  2. 2 13th spitfire 13/01/2011 at 12:05 am

    Great post, keep up the good work.

  3. 3 David A. Evans 13/01/2011 at 12:17 am

    I think Paul Hudson is between a rock & a hard place. I also think he’s one of the good guys so ease up on him a bit please.
    There’s serious crap flying around here I think. He’s got a career to think about and I think he’s told you as much as he can.

    DaveE.

  4. 4 Autonomous Mind 13/01/2011 at 12:29 am

    I think you make a fair point Dave. This is not personal in any way. I don’t know the guy.

    However regardless of Hudson’s likeability he has chosen to speak out on this subject and what he has said paints an inaccurate or misleading picture for his readers. As such it is only right to challenge it fairly.

  5. 5 Jonathan Stuart-Brown 13/01/2011 at 12:44 am

    Before the internet, very many bloggers (who write daily) would have turned to novels : spy thrillers, whodunnits, whatever. Within these parameters they would have included some of the type of research in this post and similar blogs and posts. Some of these novels would become best sellers, TV and films. They would thus get some material out to a wide audience.
    Many excellent bloggers should consider trying novels as a vehicle to get their valuable material to a much wider public…outflanking BBC TV and other msn gatekeepers of information.
    Many novels would also be excellent reads as many bloggers have great passion, writing skill and sense of vocation.
    http://www.savethebritishfilmindustry.com/

  6. 6 David A. Evans 13/01/2011 at 12:57 am

    I think what Paul is telling is that he knew, in code he’s telling you the Met weren’t telling you or didn’t know

    DaveE.

  7. 7 Autonomous Mind 13/01/2011 at 1:01 am

    I think the title of his post gives a slightly different impression to that Dave.

  8. 8 Bishop Hill 13/01/2011 at 5:47 am

    I’m not sure about your closing remarks.

    “First to fall is Hudson’s attempt to suggest the public were warned about a colder than average winter, Harrbin confirms it was kept secret.”

    I can’t see anywhere where Hudson suggests that the forecast was issued to the public.

    “second to collapse is the temperature map ‘obtained’ by Hudson, because while he says the Met Office was retailing an average temperature profile across winter, the Met Office – as Harrabin states – was saying privately to the Cabinet Office that Britain was likely to face an extremely cold winter.”

    I think you are misunderstanding Hudson here. He is not saying that temperatures were forecast to be average. He is saying that what they issued to the government was a forecast of the average temperature for the winter season.

  9. 9 Autonomous Mind 13/01/2011 at 7:46 am

    BH, I’ve thought about your comment some more and I will look at it again. Think of your input as peer review :)

  10. 10 Derek Reynolds 13/01/2011 at 8:42 am

    Jonathan Stuart-Brown is correct in one sense: That many who blog and comment today would have once read books – fiction and no-fiction. However, their ability or otherwise to have learnt to be a detective therefrom is open to question. Today’s political and social environment has been blown apart by the internet. Suddenly we are awakening to the ‘truth’, and some would want/wish we had been kept from it.

    It is indeed a welcome escape at times to delve into fiction. Yet how often do we find that within those fictional stories we find comparable instances and sequences that are being enacted in real life. At times that is indeed a worry, as suspicion then turns from ‘Whodunnit’ to the realisation ‘Theydidit’.

    Animal Farm
    1984
    Brave New World
    Dr. Strangelove

  11. 11 ScientistForTruth 13/01/2011 at 10:43 am

    Simple: the ‘scorchio’ forecast was the Met Office’s own, according to their own models. The ‘Winter Forecast 2010-11 with all predictors’ was the consensus view of ‘all predictors’, i.e. an assemblage and weighted average of what all the weather forecasters around the world, including US and European. The ‘scorchio’ forecast is diluted down by all the other forecasts that predicted near normal or colder than normal (most predicted colder than normal), so pretty much reflected the consensus view, with the MO’s own view being a small minority.

    So, the ‘scorchio’ was the MO’s own work, and the ‘all predictors’ was pretty much everyone else’s.

    So the Met Office forecast a milder than average winter (all our own work, honest gov) and produced a piece of paper with their logo own representing something completely different (mostly other agencies’ work) that forecast a colder than average winter. So, whatever happened they could say they were right.

  12. 12 Barry 13/01/2011 at 11:04 am

    If the map forecast the man of many ties, Paul Hudson, has revealed is indeed the Met’s private seasonal forecast (which presumably went to BAA, and BA and the Government and others) why did things become so bad? My guess is that the seasonal forecast predicts an average over 3 months when what mattered most in Nov/Dec was weather on a short term forecast – which the Met underestimated. The more this issue drags on the less relevance I can see in these seasonal forecasts (whether correct or not) for the operation of public services in particular. A correct cold winter forecast makes snow and ice more likely but not certain. A correct mild winter forecast makes snow and ice less likely but not impossible.

    Does the probability map being titled ‘Probability of above average temperature’ betray their default setting?

    Would a probability of above average of 20-40% = average temps?

    Interesting comment there from QuaesoVeritas too, about hemispheric anomalies. A still above average anomaly yet we got cold and snowy weather all over the place. Could what matters be not the absolute temperature but merely the direction it is moving in and at what rate?(ie that it is always trying to achieve equilibrium and can move very quickly, and that temperature is a very clumsy measure of energy?)

  13. 13 Barry 13/01/2011 at 12:42 pm

    ScientistForTruth,

    That makes more sense to me than the Met Office managing to be right and wrong at the same time all by themselves. ‘we said warm, everyone else said cold but didn’t we do a good job of integrating them all’ doesn’t really help the Met’s forecasting credibility.

    It would be a canny approach though. Whatever the weather the Met could claim some level of correctness simply by producing a forecast contrary to the others.

    If the aggregate is more accurate than the Met alone – didn’t we do well. Can we have more money.

    If their own is more accurate than the aggregate – didn’t we do well. Can we have more money.

    They wouldn’t be trying to have their cake and eat it they’d be having two cakes.

  14. 14 KnR 13/01/2011 at 12:43 pm

    Although not realised to the public MET still do long and midterm forecasting, therefore this information, exist.

    All the MET office has to do is release the information on its forecasts covering this period into the public realm. Who sat on it , who decided not to tell the public etc are secondary to the basic question , did the MET office accurately predict the weather seen over this period?

  15. 15 Anoneumouse 13/01/2011 at 1:19 pm

    Isn’t this the same Paul Hudson who was sent the Climategate e-mails on the 12th of October 2009. A whole six weeks before they were first published on the internet?

  16. 16 Mark Wadsworth 13/01/2011 at 2:02 pm

    But it’s the scorchio map that’s the smoking gun, yes?

    I wouldn’t worry too much about “he said that they said” stuff, they were just lying as per usual, a botched cover-up is a side issue.

  17. 17 Peter S 13/01/2011 at 2:08 pm

    I think the Met was trying to position itself in a win-win situation. What would it have done with these two maps had the winter turned out mild? It would have dangled them before the public and said “look – our own forecast was more accurate than all of Europe’s and America’s put together”.

  18. 18 David C 13/01/2011 at 2:27 pm

    If you look back through Paul Hudson’s blogs, it’s clear he is as far off message as it is possible to be within the alarmist corridors of the BBC. You should take that into account in your analysis.

  19. 19 Steve 13/01/2011 at 2:39 pm

    The problem is that the Met Office runs a number of different models, and different experts within the Met Office will defer to different models, observations or their own judgement.

    The “scorchio” graph is, I assume, from their seasonal forecast model which is still somewhat new and experimental, being an attempt to make more use of ocean observations. They cannot not publish the results, warts and all. But that does not mean that the output is the single Met “party line”. This was why the spokesman essentially said that it was wrong back in October.

  20. 20 Barry 13/01/2011 at 3:01 pm

    Anoneumouse,

    Paul Hudson was forwarded just a chain of emails that referred to him in a derisory fashion for appearing to go ‘off message’ as the Mann/CRU gang saw it.

    He used that email chain to verify the data dump that came out a month or so later.(The latest email in the dump is dated 12th November 2009.)

  21. 21 AJC 13/01/2011 at 3:07 pm

    @Anoneumouse

    “Isn’t this the same Paul Hudson who was sent the Climategate e-mails on the 12th of October 2009. A whole six weeks before they were first published on the internet?”

    Yes – but it appears to be a myth that PH was sent (all) the “Climategate e-mails” in advance of their “publication”.

    The email chain which referenced Paul Hudson’s blog post in October 2009 which so upset a lot of the main Climategate players is in the full set.

    Some of the other BBC correspondents were involved in the fallout (from that blog post) and apparently Paul Hudson was sent a blind copy by one of those correspondents.

    PH later used the presence of that e-mail in the published set to “validate” the full set.

  22. 22 Quentin 13/01/2011 at 4:45 pm

    How confident are we that Hudson’s blog posts were there when he said they were?

  23. 23 Mr Bean 13/01/2011 at 5:33 pm

    You obviously dont have a lot to do if you are intent on trying to catch out weather forecasters at the BBC, Met Office or wherever! The facts are plain and simple: End of November and Most of December: cold and snowy (I know cos I tkae readings for the Met Office at my climatological station: I dont work for the Met Office)and so far January has been mild and wet.
    Whats the problem you have? The weather forecasts say it will rain and it does: so what? If a forecast says it is going to snow or rain etc in my area and it dosent: so what?
    You are one sad man!!

  24. 24 Autonomous Mind 13/01/2011 at 5:46 pm

    Hahahahahaha. Brilliant! :)

  25. 25 Jonathan Stuart-Brown 13/01/2011 at 7:00 pm

    Derek Reynolds and all,

    My point is that in this topic subject matter weaved into say a thriller (hero who has to do X in Y time to gain or avoid Z, throw in love interest, e.g. naive BBc or weatherman who discovers X and wants to talk to someone who then dies in a strange accident etc, Government Minister then resigns, etc throw in intrigue ) could reach a much broader audience with the info, themes they have unearthed.
    Publishers/agents want a few sample chapters (proof of writing ability) and a synopsis. Not a big workload for prolific bloggers.
    I suggest it as a way to outflank the msn gatekeeper system.
    After all how much of Autonomous Minds material, Dr Richard A E North, Dr Helen Szamuely will reach the millions (BBC News, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, etc) which a successful novel or TV/film adaption can.
    Not EITHER blog OR chase popular outlet outflanking msn news eidors. But perhaps BOTH…AND. Twin attack strategy.
    Lots of bloggers on say global warming scam, quango corruption, are great writers and could do great novels.

  26. 26 dougieh 14/01/2011 at 1:23 am

    great info,thanks.

    this info from the post i find interesting –

    ‘Sometimes it’s difficult to know which of the 58 weather forecasters who appear on TV screens around the country are Met Office employees or BBC ones. The 24 who appear on national TV are Met Office people and the rest who appear on regional BBC channels are BBC people.’

    always wondered about these people.
    because they directly talk & inform (influence) mr/mrs joe public as to our local weather/climate.

    it may be my paranoid/sceptical bent but last year in the lead up to climate talks i’ve seen lots of red/orange severe weather trianges on the BBC weather, but during the harsh weather this winter hardly any?

    are we the public being fed a line?

  27. 27 dougieh 14/01/2011 at 1:33 am

    ps.

    can you tell me who are MET & who are not, or give a link.

    sorry to be a pain.

  28. 28 Autonomous Mind 14/01/2011 at 9:19 am

    Dougieh, the weather presenters who work on national programmes are Met Office employees. The weather presenters on local channels are BBC employees. I saw the information on a post elsewhere about a FOI to the BBC about the amount spent on forecasting – which inevitably was bounced back.

  29. 29 ict558 14/01/2011 at 8:58 pm

    Why ‘scorchio’? The map merely indicates the probability of above average seasonal temperatures.

  30. 30 Autonomous Mind 14/01/2011 at 9:14 pm

    You don’t laugh much, do you?


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