The saga of the ‘private’ Met Office forecast to the Cabinet Office for early winter has taken a new twist.
Many people have submitted Freedom of Information requests concerning the Met Office forecast supplied to the Cabinet Office in October 2010, looking ahead to the winter, after the Met Office published temperature probability maps showing they believed the winter would be warmer than average. The Met Office, via Roger Harrabin, put out its side of the story just after New Year with Harrabin stating 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.
However, this claim seems overblown when compared with the Cabinet Office’s view of the forecast. The Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, has responded to a Parliamentary question about the forecast with a written answer published on Friday. The question and answer read:
Chris Heaton-Harris: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what account his Department took of the October 2010 Met Office forecast of a mild winter in preparations across Government for the winter of 2010.
Mr Maude: The Met Office provide the Government with regular updates throughout the year to inform short, medium and longer term planning. In late October, the Met Office advised that temperatures during November and December were likely to be average or colder. This information was shared with Departments as part of a wider review of winter preparedness.
‘…were likely to be average or colder.’ That in no way reflects the Harrabin claim that the Met Office predicted it was likely Britain would face ‘an extremely cold winter’.
The Freedom of Information responses to the public and the media are still pending. But the parliamentary answer shows the government and the Met Office are peddling different stories and that only the full release of the unredacted forecast will determine who is telling the truth. In the meantime, get comfy and reach for the popcorn while the rats scuffle in their sack.