The Met Office winter forecast lie is finally nailed

And heads must roll.

With compliments to Katabasis whose FOI request has been dealt with more quickly than mine… The information in the FOI response he has received today and written up in a detailed blog post goes into much more detail than Bishop Hill’s release from the Quarmby audit team.

A look at the information makes clear there is nowhere left for the Met Office to hide.  The Met Office has been caught ‘cold’ lying about its winter forecast in a disgraceful attempt to salvage its reputation.  Its claim that it forecast the cold start to the winter lays in tatters thanks to an exchange of emails between the department and the Cabinet Office.

As a result the Met Office is completely discredited.  Also utterly discredited is the BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin, who on the Met Office’s behalf used a column in the Radio Times (later carried in the Telegraph and the Daily Mail) to state 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.

(My emphasis in bold italic above and below) Harrabin went on to say in his piece that:

Why didn’t the Met Office tell us that Greenland was about to swap weather with Godalming? 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. “The reason? The Met Office no longer publishes its seasonal forecasts because of the ridicule it suffered for predicting a barbecue summer in 2009 – the summer that campers floated around in their tents.

The email exchange in the screenshot below proves this is a lie. The Cabinet Office civil servant (bottom message) confirms the weather outlook supplied by the Met Office earlier that day is what the government will use in its ‘Forward Look’.  The Met Office employee (top message) agrees with it.

The all important sentence is the first.  ‘The Met Office seasonal outlook for the period November to January is showing no clear signals for the winter’.  The Met Office knew this was the case when it sent Harrabin scurrying off to spin its lie that the Met Office did suspect we were in for an exceptionally cold early winter, and told the Cabinet Office so in October‘.  The briefing to the Cabinet Office contains no such warning – and vindicates the parliamentary answer given by Francis Maude when questioned about the forecast the government received from the Met Office.

What is worse is that the Met Office knew this, yet with its claim tried to place responsibility for the lack of prepareness for an extremely cold start to the winter on government inaction.  Harrabin added to this by saying he had put in a FOI to the government (referenced in this post) to discover what they were told, the insinuation being it was the government that had something to hide.  This is very dangerous ground that leans towards the possibility of the Met Office and a BBC reporter engaging in a joint effort to undermine the government’s credibility.

This leads us to ask a serious question that must be answered: How is it possible that Roger Harrabin could claim the Met Office line he was retailing was the ‘truth’ with such certainty?

  • If Harrabin had seen the evidence and still spun his line then he has knowingly lied to the public
  • If he spun his line without seeing the evidence then he is utterly incompetent and the public can have no faith in the stories he broadcasts and publishes on the BBC

Either way Roger Harrabin’s position is now untenable and in addition to resigning he must make a full public apology.  As for the Met Office, the buck stops with the Chief Executive, John Hirst, who has looked on as this false narrative was constructed and insinuations were made to deflect criticism from his department, yet did nothing to correct it.

We now have the truth.  It is what many people have suspected since the story materialised.  It’s now time for those who are funded by taxpayers’ money and who engineered the deception, and those who allowed it to happen, to pay the price for their actions.  Over to the executive board of the Met Office and the trustees of the BBC…

>>  The story from the beginning as it developed  <<


74 Responses to “The Met Office winter forecast lie is finally nailed”

  1. 1 David Spurgeon 29/01/2011 at 12:22 am

    Idiots all!!

  2. 2 Alpha Tango 29/01/2011 at 12:57 am

    This is disgraceful behaviour from both the Met Office and Roger Harrabin, well done for outing them.

  3. 3 Rick Bradford 29/01/2011 at 2:13 am

    … “no clear signals” … “less certain” … “roughly equal signals” …. “some indications”

    How much did that supercomputer cost?

  4. 4 Lesley 29/01/2011 at 6:12 am

    Be sure that your sins will find you out. Well at least some of them will!!

  5. 5 Lynne 29/01/2011 at 8:36 am

    Your research into this debacle is first class. Your reporting is also first class. If there is any justice in this world the lies and deceit of the Met Office and the BBC will finally be dragged into the light.

  6. 6 Dave Johnson 29/01/2011 at 8:36 am

    The BBC seeks to make political points against a Conservative government The Met. Office becomes an AGW advocacy group. I am so saddened by what has happened to these two great UK institutions

  7. 7 Philip 29/01/2011 at 8:41 am

    Well done! Let’s hope they now conclude it is better to play the facts honestly.

  8. 8 John 29/01/2011 at 9:37 am

    Don’t get me wrong – I have great contempt for the warmist theologising of the Met Office and the BBC – but isn’t there some support for their position in the summary; “..there is a slightly increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season,..”?

  9. 9 Autonomous Mind 29/01/2011 at 10:34 am

    No John, there isn’t. It bears no relation to their claim of forecasting an ‘extremely cold’ start to the winter. Their own graphs show their definition of cold and wintry puts the temperature prediction at around -1C.

  10. 10 Autonomous Mind 29/01/2011 at 10:35 am

    Thanks Lynne, for your very kind comment.

  11. 11 Avril 29/01/2011 at 10:42 am

    The Met Office and Roger Harrabin are two cheeks of the same ****, of which the BBC is that bit right in the middle!
    People must stop passively supporting the BBC with their money and the government should close down the Met Office.

  12. 12 Henry Galt 29/01/2011 at 10:45 am

    We live in a Rupertocracy. Murdoch rules UK.

    This will be whitewashed, as all such has, will and must be. All journalists have their pension hopes pinned on renewables and carbon trading. Most of the main players in politics are neck deep in peddling the same. This has been in train for decades and has an inertia beyond imagining.

    No-one capable of rocking the boat, let alone exposing this whole charade, will do so. Every now and again an example is made, very publicly – such as the Andy Gray affair this very week.

    If you don’t line up you join the dole queue.

    I have been following this for a long time and apologise for seeming negative. I would love nothing more than a solution.

  13. 13 mat 29/01/2011 at 10:48 am

    Makes one wish there was a better way to hold these idiots to public account for their lies ! but I fear not the BBC will never give up Harrabin and as they own 39% of the media in this once fine country they will just close the comments down and stop him bloging, fill the news up with ‘tapping ‘ and ‘Tory baby killers’ stories and then when a few weeks have slipped by quietly issue a report in the back of the website that he is totally right and us lot are all wrong as per!

  14. 14 Anoneumouse 29/01/2011 at 10:53 am

    Title: Fraud
    Offence: Obtaining a Pecuniary Advantage by Deception
    Legislation: Section 16 Theft Act 1968

  15. 15 rukidding 29/01/2011 at 11:14 am

    I know I am not good at maths but how can you have a 70 per cent chance of one thing happening but a 60 per cent chance of something else.
    So going on the above there was a 130 per cent chance of things being near average with a 70 per cent chance of being colder and a 60 per cent chance of it being milder.
    Don’t know about a new super computer maybe a good calculator would be a start.

  16. 16 Autonomous Mind 29/01/2011 at 11:45 am

    Rukidding, they’ve added the colder and average together for the 70% and the warmer and average together for the 60%, as in the diagram below…

    Forecast probabilities

  17. 17 Peter Whale 29/01/2011 at 12:54 pm

    Great post AM keep up the clinical disintegration of their obfuscation and keep exposing their agenda and lies.

  18. 18 Dave L. 29/01/2011 at 1:44 pm

    I fear that “manipulation” of the truth and “manipulation” of the data have become the ethical gold standards of the AGW climate community. Politics and its money-funding have corrupted the science. Is there any wonder why the general public no longer trusts climatologists?

  19. 19 Mervyn Sullivan 29/01/2011 at 1:52 pm

    It is simply disgraceful how those in charge of organizations that were once so highly regarded, have managed to lose all sense of objectivity by engaging in bias and politics, thereby resulting in such organizations losing their integrity and credibility in the eyes of the public.

    At the top of the pile is The Royal Society … the BBC … the UK Met Office … various once prestigious universities … media organizations … and even Parliament.

    How did it come to this? How could such organizations think they could fool so many people by trying to maintain their lies in supporting the pseudo-science behind the IPCC’s man-made global warming mantra?

    That the UK Met Office would lie about having provided the government with that weather forecast, when it didn’t, is in line with the pattern of lies it has pushed in relation to promoting catastrophic man-made global warming. It comes as no surprise.

    But will anything be done about it? Don’t hold your breath. Such is the state of ‘Green Britain’!

  20. 20 Cthulhu 29/01/2011 at 1:57 pm

    ““..there is a slightly increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season,..”?”

    Well there we go. They weren’t predicting a mild winter after-all.

    That’s the real story if this goes to the papers – why skeptics were claiming the Met had forecast a mild winter when quite clearly from the emails they never did.

  21. 21 Autonomous Mind 29/01/2011 at 2:13 pm

    Cthulhu, a nice try at spin but you are simply wrong. You need to understand what their definition of ‘cold’ equates to (see page 2 of the file). You also need to understand that the Met Office’s own October outlook on their temperature probability map clearly reflected a 60-80% probability of warmer than average temperatures.

    The 40% probability of colder than average and 30% probability of warmer than average temperatures in no way supports their claim to have told the Cabinet Office that their forecast was for an ‘extremely cold’ start to the winter. The government has clearly stated the Met Office advice was that the temperatures ‘were likely to be average or colder’. In the Met Office’s own words the seasonal outlook was ‘showing no clear signals for the winter’.

    The facts simply rubbish their claim to have privately forecast an extremely cold start to winter. If you want to believe something other than that, then that’s up to you, but any reasonable person reading the evidence can comprehend the significant difference. The words ‘extreme’ or ‘extremely’ do not appear at all and the percentages are all hedging of bets showing they had no clear idea of what was to come.

  22. 22 Hobo 29/01/2011 at 2:42 pm

    Even their definitions of mild, normal, and cold have so much overlap that the 30/30/40 prediction is even more meaningless. Departures from long term average…

    30% mild = -0.1 to +1.3 C
    30% aver = -0.5 to +0.6 C
    40% cold = -1.5 to +0.4 C

    So if it was 0.0 C, they could claim mild, average, or cold…LOL. Of course they would claim mild winter when it was all said and done.

    Not knowing, but my guess is that the UK was way below the cold lower limit since it has been claimed to be the coldest in thermometer history, and 1976 in the report shows a temp of -1.6C departure from the long term average.

  23. 23 Green Sand 29/01/2011 at 3:22 pm

    Any clues yet as to how and why Paul Hudson got his version? Did it only go to him, has anybody else produced it?

  24. 24 Toby 29/01/2011 at 4:50 pm

    Thank you very much for uncovering the facts. Please stay on top of this story to see what happens next. Its nice to see the truth does indeed eventually come out for millions to see.

  25. 25 Barry 29/01/2011 at 5:05 pm


    Nice spot. That is an atrocious way to be forecasting anything.

  26. 26 Cthulhu 29/01/2011 at 5:34 pm

    “You need to understand what their definition of ‘cold’ equates to (see page 2 of the file)”

    It’s not that they got it right, just that they didn’t get it anywhere near as wrong as has been claimed. The fact that they emphasized cold rather than mild is in flat contradiction to all the claims that they forecast a mild winter. Roger Harrabin’s interpretation is obviously wrong – there is no exceptional cold predicted in the FOIed document at least. But he seems closer to the truth than the people who claimed the Met Office were predicting a mild winter.

    The table on page 2 is given as an approximate range of temperatures experienced in the UK Nov-Jan when Northern Europe has a cold winters in the past. They list the lower limit as -1.5C. In comparison the actual average for Nov-Jan 2010/2011 is probably going to be something like -2.5C. So actual average temperature for will be about 1C below the lowest limit of their range.

    “You also need to understand that the Met Office’s own October outlook on their temperature probability map clearly reflected a 60-80% probability of warmer than average temperatures.”

    That temperature map was labeled explicitly saying not to use it as a forecast. The Met Office even released a news notice in October quite strongly condemning those who had interpreted it as a forecast (the media) and telling people not to accept it as such. But still we were told that the Met Office had predicted a mild winter because that chart said so.

    If Harrabin goes then so should all the journalists and others who kept citing that temperature map on the Met Office website and claiming that the Met Office were forecasting a mild winter.

    If the FOIed document sets the tables straight then not only is Harrabin’s “exceptional” cold forecast not supported but certainly the claims that the Met were forecasting a mild winter are not supported. The document not only doesn’t predict a mild winter, in fact quite the opposite it states on page 1 as the summary (which is emphasized in bold) that: “there is a slightly increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season”.

    So if anything the “mild winter” meme was more incorrect than anything Harrabin said.

  27. 27 Autonomous Mind 29/01/2011 at 5:48 pm

    Desperate stuff. Sorry. You have still been unable to square their claims of predicting an ‘extremely cold’ winter with the forecast information in the FOI response. So yes, they did get it very wrong indeed. If the temperature map is not a prediction then what is it?

    Your attempt to misrepresent the information is almost as bad as the MO’s attempt to misrepresent their forecast.

  28. 28 Cthulhu 29/01/2011 at 6:09 pm

    I am not trying to “square their claims of predicting an ‘extremely cold’ winter with the forecast information in the FOI response”

    What I am trying to square are the claims that the Met Office had predicted a mild winter.

    The evidence being cited that they had was just that map which they had disowned as a prediction before winter even began. The FOIed document now proves they didn’t predict a mild winter.

    “If the temperature map is not a prediction then what is it?”

    The Met Office outright stated it was not a prediction before the cold spell even happened. So if we know nothing else, we know it was not a prediction. We might not know what it is, but we know it’s not a prediction the Met Office made about UK winter.

    So time to condemn articles like this:

    Which even ends with the Met telling them not to use the map and even gives a hint about what they were actually predicting (cold):

    “A spokesman for the Met Office said: “This is not an official forecast, it’s data that would form part of a longer term prediction.

    “If you look at the whole picture across north west Europe, there’s a higher chance of a cold winter than a warm one.””

    If heads should roll, they should roll at the Telegraph

  29. 29 Autonomous Mind 29/01/2011 at 6:53 pm

    Your argument is ludicrous. How can they disown their own map? They said it was not a seasonal forecast, but it clearly was. They researched and produced it. Even Helen Chivers said it took into account La Nina and other factors when questioned about it.

    The MO was trying to have it every which way. Even the data they sent to the Cabinet Office had it as a 60% probability of an average or warmer than average winter. And, as you are determined to avoid at all costs there was no mention at all of an extremely cold start to the winter. They lied, plain and simple when they said that is what they had forecast. The document proves it.

    The real cheesecake here is Paul Hudson’s claim that the MO appear to have amalgamated data from international sources to arrive at their non commital forecast. Perhaps the October map was entirely their own work which is why they are reluctant to call it what it is, a forecast.

  30. 30 Anoneumouse 29/01/2011 at 8:09 pm

    I seem to remember that Harrabin had said or had writen that he had submitted an FOI.

    Did Harrabin submit his FOI as an individual or on behalf of the BBC?

    We need to know!

  31. 31 Green Sand 29/01/2011 at 8:17 pm

    Booker reporting that GWPF are raising questions about the Met Office data showing 2010 as “near record”

    “Is Met Office again playing games with its weather data?”

    “Comparing the actual data for each year, from 2001 to 2010, with that given in the press release shows that for four years the original figure has been adjusted downwards. Only for 2010 was the data revised upwards, by the largest adjustment of all, allowing the Met Office to claim that 2010 was the hottest year of the decade.”

    Read it all at:-

  32. 32 CrisisMaven 29/01/2011 at 8:59 pm

    Anyone who has a turnover in the billions (milliards) has to have his balance sheet audited.
    Anyone who spends billions (milliards) on supercomputers and software using public money to boot is not supervised if these lines of code
    a) even exist, and if,
    b) whether they are worth a dime and are even at all logical.
    I suggest a FOI request in all countries that finance the climate “prediction” software for these programs to be laid bare and be made open source!

  33. 33 Steve 29/01/2011 at 11:35 pm

    If you just believe exactly what the Met Office told you with their mouths then there is no story (except for the one where they didn’t predict the coldest ever December).

    They told you in October to ignore the scorchio graph because the possibility of colder than average weather looked more likely. And that is what the forecast you’ve dug out says.

    The “scorchio” graph is just a monthly product from their seasonal model that covers the whole globe. Within the Met Office they have access to a lot of additional data and models, including more detailed UK and European models. This is used as a benchmark against other seasonal forecasts elsewhere. For example, NOAA put out a weekly El Niño report including ENSO forecasts from 20 different models.

    It appears your excitement at the so-called mild forecast got Harribin excited in the opposite direction.

  34. 34 Autonomous Mind 30/01/2011 at 12:24 am

    No Steve, your friends at the Met Office claimed they forecasted an ‘extremely cold’ start to the winter and the forecast that has been uncovered shows that to be a lie. They were not even close in forecasting the extreme weather as they predicted the probability of warmer than average temperatures was nearly as high as colder.

    The Met Office insinuated the government knew there would be extreme weather but failed to act. Whatever we might think of this government, that was disgraceful. The Met Office forecast that has been uncovered – that was never made public for absurd reasons and as others on WUWT who are of a more mathematical bent have shown – is statistically meaningless. As for the ‘scorchio’ graph it only focused on northern Europe and it demonstrates the MO model is utterly flawed.

    This is what we get for a multi million pound supercomputer and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year. It is not excitement I am feeling, it is anger. As for Harrabin, he spun the line he was given from the Met Office. Nice attempt to put distance between him and the Met Office though, very nice.

  35. 36 Jim 30/01/2011 at 9:58 am

    @Cthulhu: why are the Met Office producing ‘predictions that aren’t predictions’, with my money, publishing them on their website, and then saying ‘Actually, ignore this, its rubbish’? Do you think if the winter had turned out mild they would be disavowing their warm prediction with such vehemence?

    The Met Office is there to predict the weather. If they produce 2 conflicting predictions, are they entitled to just say after the event, ‘Well, we told you it would be cold/warm, just ignore the prediction that was wrong’?

    Apart from the fact the prediction they are now promoting as the ‘real one’ was never made public! And the ‘wrong’ one was! If it was the other way around, you might have a point. As it is its intellectual dishonesty of the highest order.

  36. 37 Chris 30/01/2011 at 10:24 am

    I’m amazed this is their forecast which clients pay thousands to recieve. At the same time were other forecasters so accurate either ? this from Accuweather in October.

    “ Chief Long-Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi is calling for the core of winter in Europe this year to target the southern portion of the continent, while areas from the United Kingdom into Scandinavia that were hit hard last year catch a break.”

    It has a map of the cold weather missing us in the UK.

    Corbyn, according to his December news, nailed it. It would be interesting to see a comparison from the start of October for all forecasters.

  37. 38 Chris Hughes 30/01/2011 at 11:03 am

    Hello Autonomous Mind,

    I originally posted this on Bishop Hill’s blog, but didn’t get an answer, it seems a bit more active over here. So my original post:

    “Following through Katabasis’ blog to the file referenced (, doesn’t the Met Office’s assessment clearly state that the most likely of the three outcomes presented (mild conditions, average conditions and cold conditions) is cold conditions, a third more likely than either of the other two outcomes individually (presuming they are mutually exclusive)? Cold conditions, being an average UK (presumably near-surface air) temperature 1.5 C colder than the long-term average, are not more likely than the other two combined, so the tone of the prepared statement, suggesting a lack of clarity and a ‘slightly increased risk’ for a cold winter doesn’t seem to disingenuous.

    Is a more decisive report really expected? It is known that weather prediction becomes increasingly less accurate the further into the future we go, so to hope for anything more than a probability distribution is surely asking too much?

    I appreciate that there has been some grave-digging since the initial report, I’m just a little perplexed by the analysis of their results – they do seem to have suggested that a cold (start of the) winter is the most likely outcome.”

    Also, wasn’t it Roger Harrabin who claimed that the Met Office had forecast an ‘extremely cold’ winter, not the Met Office themselves?

  38. 39 RCSaumarez 30/01/2011 at 12:28 pm

    I am interested in your Venn diagram. This shows a wide distribution of likely temperatures. I am not certain how this has any predictive ability.

  39. 40 Autonomous Mind 30/01/2011 at 12:29 pm

    Hello Chris. I noticed your post over there. As others with more of a maths grounding than I have said, the 40-30-30 probability is statistically meaningless when you look the the benchmark graphs.

    As I have said elsewhere the forecast is nothing more than a hedge your bets gambit. If the weather was slightly cooler, on trend or slightly warmer the Met Office’s forecast allows them to say they got it right. It’s a nonsense.

    The real issues here are that:

    1. The Met Office spends time and a great deal of public money developing a temperature probability map and puts it into the public arena, then they then tell us to ignore it when it proves inaccurate. The purpose of this map has still not been adequately explained and even organisations like the National Grid relied on it for their gas reserve planning. When the media focused on the map at the end of October, the Met Office did not disown it. Helen Chivers actually defended the map and said it took into account all factors including La Nina.

    2. A more decisive report should be expected of the Met Office and the Met Office has said that is what they delivered to the government (Cabinet Office). The Met Office, under pressure for not telling the public that extreme weather was coming, briefed Roger Harrabin that it did forecast an ‘extremely cold’ start to the winter, but only told the government. The insinuation being the Met Office did its job but the government failed to prepare for the extreme snap. So we asked for a copy of the advice provided.

    3. Now we have the forecast via FOI we can see the Met Office claim is plainly not true. The Met Office dropped the ball and the government said as much in its parliamentary answer to a question on the matter in the House that: ‘In late October, the Met Office advised that temperatures during November and December were likely to be average or colder‘. That is not a forecast of a cold winter. Saying ‘we don’t know’ would have equal weight to that. For all the public money spent on the department and all the supercomputing power it has, this is the best they can do?

    4. A loosely defined forecast that can be read as predicting a slightly increased risk of a colder than average winter bears no relation to the Met Office claims that they predicted an ‘extremely cold’ start to the winter. There is absolutely no mention of an extremely cold anything. Their definition of ‘cold’ came nowhere close to reflecting the conditions we experienced. The Met Office sent its ‘cover all bases forecast’ to the Cabinet Office and the Cabinet Office extracted information from it for the executive summary that the Met Office signed off – namely that: ‘The Met Office seasonal outlook for the period November to January is showing no clear signals for the winter’. The Met Office didn’t reply saying that was inaccurate, or that the summary should state extremely cold weather was expected. This is the ‘smoking gun’ as it were.

    5. Roger Harrabin wrote his piece in the Radio Times after speaking to the Met Office. He was clearly briefed. There is no way he could have written these two extracts without having been told by the Met Office it was their version of events: ‘In October the forecaster privately warned the Government – with whom it has a contract – that Britain was likely to face an extremely cold winter’ and ‘Why didn’t the Met Office tell us that Greenland was about to swap weather with Godalming? The truth is it did suspect we were in for an exceptionally cold early winter, and told the Cabinet Office so in October’. This is the Met Office line, not Harrabin’s. And as I have detailed above and in a series of posts, it is simply not true.

    The only people who are arguing the toss over this are Met Office employees and those who will say black is white to oppose any observation made by someone like myself who believes the hypothesis of man made global warming is flawed and discredited.

  40. 41 Chris Hughes 30/01/2011 at 1:15 pm

    Hi Autonomous Mind, thanks for the reply.

    Do you have any reference for the benchmark graphs? One would be much appreciated, thanks.

    Your point about them hedging their bets is, I feel, a little unfair; I would look at it as their model producing a pretty broad distribution. You are obviously correct about the ability to shoehorn observations into the three categories though. I would just hope that they would have a little more integrity :).

    With respect to your five points:

    1. I accept your concerns here with respect to public information.

    2. This statement ‘briefed Roger Harrabin that it did forecast an ‘extremely cold’ start to the winter’ appears, with all due respect, to be speculation.

    3. When running ensembles, you get a probability distribution. It seems that the model used was (is) inadequate to make any ‘harder’ prediction about the severity of the winter. Whether or not you consider further investment in such models to be an acceptable use of public money is, I would suggest, a matter of political opinion.

    4. With respect to the ‘extremely cold’ claim, I refer to point 2, though as then if there is evidence of them making such a claim (particularly in an official context), then that would be unacceptable.

    With respect to severity of the winter, I would refer you to Table 1 in their report. It lists anomaly of the ‘typical lower limit of UK average temperature’ as being 1.5 C colder than the long-term average. This is not an absolute limit, it is the lower end of some (admittedly unquoted) statistical interval. It does not rule out colder temperatures, and must be read in the context of similar intervals, in the same way that any deviation of a mean from a long-term mean can represent important changes. In short, I would urge caution when directly interpreting those numbers.

    With respect to the statement, I do still feel that agreeing with that relatively non-committal statement is not quite as shocking as you and others, but that seems to be a matter of opinion (see note below).

    5. No need to reiterate on the first point, though obviously your quotes are compelling. I feel that the last paragraph (maybe not part of point 5) is a little unfair, but there we go.

    As a final note, I am on the ‘other side’, as it were, so you may consider my opinions to be biased or irrelevant as you will. I do, however, prefer to discuss these things rather than ignore them – I’d like to think I consider a reasonably wide range of opinions and evidence.


  41. 42 Autonomous Mind 30/01/2011 at 1:35 pm

    Chris, if you look at the graphs in the PDF document you can see what the definitions are. You actually refer to them further down.

    If their model is producing a broad distribution then it is basically unfit for purpose. You would hope that integrity would play a part, but people have long argued the Met Office models have an in built warm bias that consistently overstates the warm effect.

    1. Thanks.

    2. Harrabin could not have made any such assertion if the Met Office had not told him it was what they had done. There was nothing in the public domain. Are you suggesting a journalist with contacts at the highest level of the Met Office and almost unfettered access to them simply made up a claim of an extremely cold early winter and told the lie to the public?

    3. Are you a Met Office employee? There are already two in this comment thread, I’m just interested. It seems curious you seem to be referencing Julia Slingo’s appeal for more public money for yet more supercomputing power. The issue is garbage in – garbage out and the Met Office models are loaded to factor in their belief that the climate is warming year on year.

    4. Yes it would be unacceptable. As much as I have a default mistrust of what journalists say, Harrabin’s article did not contain weighted speculation. It contained clear assertions that could only be made if a source told him that was their version of events. There was only a 40% probability stated that temperature could fall 1.5C below the long term average. If the Met Office expected a colder winter – in the event the coldest in the 100 years we have had national records – the probability should have reflected this.

    5. Fine.

    I know you are on the ‘other side’ as you put it. Everyone has a personal bias, but the focus here is on the facts of the matter as they have been presented. On that basis the Met office and Roger Harrabin have a case to answer. This issue all stemmed from the Met Office forecasts in recent years proving inaccurate. Scrutiny of this year’s has again shown failing in the modelling and forecasting. The difference here is that the Met Office has drawn a line in the sand where it is not acceptable for them to be seen to be wrong again. It is their effort to hold the line that has opened this can of worms and called their honesty into question.

  42. 43 Chris Hughes 30/01/2011 at 2:34 pm

    In the interests of disclosure, I am not a Met Office employee, but I do receive funding from them. I am not, however, a climate scientist (for some people’s definition of that term), or any kind of (GC) modeller. I am an oceanographer (not the one at POL), interested in improving models with data. I hope that won’t vilify me too much :).

    I guess my general point was that I disagree with the interpretation of the probabilities presented in this challenge to the Met Office. I can not deny that the information provided is not particularly useful, only saying that if there is uncertainty in the distribution, because of some confounding effect (of which there are many), then that is the kind of result you (I) might expect to see, though I can see how that could just be viewed as an excuse.

    To comment on the funding, more computational power would afford an increase in model resolution, allowing smaller-scale effects to be represented more directly, closer to the physical equations rather than the approximations otherwise necessary (a particular problem in the ocean, where features are smaller). Whether or not you think it is worth the money is, of course, entirely a matter of your political will.

    Thanks for your comments.

  43. 44 Autonomous Mind 30/01/2011 at 2:39 pm

    And thank you for your honesty about your partner relationship with the Met Office.

    I understand your general point Chris. On the supercomputer, the Met Office is already using far more computational power than most other forecasters. The comments of Bastardi and Corbyn (linked in the ‘story so far’ post) demonstrate where the Met Office is going wrong and why huge additional sums of computing power will do nothing to resolve the basic flaws in the forecasting models.

  44. 45 Chris Hughes 30/01/2011 at 3:04 pm

    I read their comments, and a few of the surrounding pieces. I’m moving well outside anything I have concrete knowledge on here, but my reading of their approaches was that they are a kind of pattern analysis, which is obviously a valid approach to forecasting. The whole point of models from a scientific perspective is to synthesise our knowledge about the physical systems that we understand into one model that can provide testable predictions about reality. Obviously one can also use them to try to predict the weather, and make longer term climatic predictions.

    I’m sure you know all this, but it’s just quite frustrating when people talk the whole thing down so much, they *are* a valid way of doing science – just like writing down an equation for the relationship between force, mass an acceleration is. They are a lot more complicated, and certainly a lot more wrong, but they let us see where the gaps in our knowledge are, and at the same time let us make testable predictions, like I said.

    I have seen talks presenting modelling results which seem to me to be full of assumptions, particularly in the palao context, and I don’t buy into those, but at least it’s something to work from, right?

    Well off-topic now, I know, but I come back to my original point about predictive capability, and expected outcomes. Maybe those other guys can see a pattern in the weather that allows them to make a good forecast for this period, but their framework (limited to pattern analysis – they may well integrate more information) is inherently limited to observations, so anything which has not been observed is difficult or impossible to predict.

    I have no real feel for the value of the Met Office as a forecasting establishment – I can only cite their long history, however I definitely appreciate the value of their modelling efforts in furthering our understanding of the world.

    Further apologies for such horrendous deviation from the matter at hand. I have never replied to blog posts before, and it’s really hard to not try to get the last word. I’m going to make an effort to stop now :).

  45. 46 Malaga View 30/01/2011 at 4:32 pm

    30% mild = -0.1 to +1.3 C ==>> Range: 1.4 C
    30% aver = -0.5 to +0.6 C ==>> Range: 1.1 C
    40% cold = -1.5 to +0.4 C ==>> Range: 1.9 C

    So we have three overlapping temperature ranges of differing sizes… what sort of insanity designs a forecasting system to produce results in this format… I am absolutely dumbfounded… they have clearly stated an average range so logic would dictate that you design to forecast: below average, average or above average… but no… we have this overlapping ranges… insanity… anything in the range -0.1 to +0.4 is mild and average and cold all at the same time… a mild range that goes below zero… a cold range goes above zero…. this is surely worthy of another HARRY_READ_ME file.

    But it really is worse than that… the cold range has a lower limit… surely that should simply be a less than average test… otherwise a reading of -1.6 would not be classified… amazing… and it is similar situation with the mild upper limit… this is just insanity.

    So lets stand back and look at this forecast from another perspective…. how did the Met Office come up with the 30% – 30% – 40% forecast ratings?

    My guess: they calculated these percentages by establishing the classifications for the last 10 or 20 or 30 years… so that, for example, they found 30% of the winters were mild. So they did not actually make a forecast for 2010/11 – what they calculated was a probability based upon previous records – they just computed the betting odds. Why do I guess this way? Simple – because they have published the upper and lower limits they established from the historical records.

    This all leads me to conclude that the Real Average British Winter actually ranges between -1.5C and +1.3C… just natural variation. The overlapping Met Office classifications of mild, average and cold are just a touch of Mystic Meg and AGW Bias to make it seem like they are doing something… but the bottom line is: THEY HAD NO IDEA – they just guessed the winter would be somewhere within the established Real Average… but they have also been very sneaky because they can claim anything they want if reality falls within that -0.1 to +0.4 overlap range.

    “Alright,” said Deep Thought. “The Answer to the Great Question…”

    “Yes …!”

    “Of Life, the Universe, and Everything …” said Deep Thought.

    “Yes …!”

    “Is …” said Deep Thought, and paused.

    “Yes …!”

    “Is …”

    “Yes …!!!…?”

    “Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.

    “Forty-two percentge chance that the answer is less”

    “Forty-two percentge chance that the answer is more”

    “Forty-two percentge chance that the answer is right”

  46. 47 Malaga View 30/01/2011 at 5:23 pm

    I would also guess:
    1) The models forecast a cold winter (like other forecasters).
    2) AGW Management found the forecast politically unacceptable.
    3) AGW Management gambled the models were wrong.
    4) AGW Management kludged statistics into a meaningless forecast.

  47. 48 Katabasis 30/01/2011 at 5:50 pm


    Unfortunately your ‘predictions that were not predictions’ were used as the National Grid’s basis for planning for the winter period. The top predicted demanded was out by a shocking 4.7 Gigawatts.

    There is something very very wrong here. That kind of underestimate could have led to a major outage.

    And those of you who are apologists for the ‘secret’ forecast – I want you to carry out a thought experiment and report the findings back here:

    If you had access to that document and were planning the winter preparations for the council, or were estimating the winter demand for energy at the National Grid, how would you have proceeded, and why?

  48. 49 Green Sand 30/01/2011 at 6:28 pm

    Malaga View

    Thank you for many good points but especially for Deep Thought.


    Have fun

  49. 50 Cthulhu 30/01/2011 at 6:41 pm

    “@Cthulhu: why are the Met Office producing ‘predictions that aren’t predictions’, with my money, publishing them on their website, and then saying ‘Actually, ignore this, its rubbish’? Do you think if the winter had turned out mild they would be disavowing their warm prediction with such vehemence?”

    Nice conspiracy theory but the fact that they disowned the graph BEFORE winter even happened kind of debunks your entire point.

  50. 51 Dave C 30/01/2011 at 6:48 pm

    They try to disown EVERYTHING in the public domain in case it’s wrong. But they still keep making the graphs and releasing them. So come on tell us what the graphs are for if they’re not predictions? Your sycophantic defence of the indefensible makes you look as stupid as the met office. Are you one of their employees astroturfing on here or just another warmist trying to split hairs with the skeptics?

  51. 52 Cthulhu 30/01/2011 at 7:22 pm

    Autonomous Mind
    29/01/2011 at 6:53 pm

    “Your argument is ludicrous. How can they disown their own map?”

    They said it wasn’t a forecast. Back in October. It’s that simple. They disowned it (as a forecast).

    “They said it was not a seasonal forecast, but it clearly was.”

    The map on their site even has a big red label above it saying not to use it as a forecast.

    And the the Met Office issued a press release back in October saying the map wasn’t a forecast. The day the media used it as such.

    If it WAS their forecast why did they make a press release saying it wasn’t?

    And now we have the FOI document which doesn’t collaborate the map as well.

    I think it’s rather clear that the map on their site wasn’t a forecast at all.

    “They researched and produced it. Even Helen Chivers said it took into account La Nina and other factors when questioned about it.”

    Did she say it was a seasonal forecast? No. But what about this one from the Telegraph:

    “A spokesman for the Met Office said: “This is not an official forecast, it’s data that would form part of a longer term prediction. If you look at the whole picture across north west Europe, there’s a higher chance of a cold winter than a warm one.”

    That last sentence sounds a lot like the FOIed document.

    “And, as you are determined to avoid at all costs there was no mention at all of an extremely cold start to the winter. They lied, plain and simple when they said that is what they had forecast. The document proves it.”

    There was no mention at all of a mild winter either.

    So on one hand we have Harriban (sp) claiming the met forecast an exceptionally cold winter. The FOI document doesn’t back that up.

    On the otherhand we have others claiming the met forecast a mild winter. The FOI document doesn’t back that up either.

    But apparently the former is important, but the latter is completely irrelevant. Why?

    “The real cheesecake here is Paul Hudson’s claim that the MO appear to have amalgamated data from international sources to arrive at their non commital forecast. Perhaps the October map was entirely their own work which is why they are reluctant to call it what it is, a forecast.”

    FOr something to be a forecast I rather demand the people who are ascribed to making that forecast state it or acknowledge it as such. In this situation we have people ascribing a forecast to the Met Office which the Met Office saying everywhere that it wasn’t. So in my opinion, it wasn’t a forecast, but of course opinions differ.

  52. 53 Autonomous Mind 30/01/2011 at 7:55 pm

    What I find most amusing is that the Met Office page where they said it wasn’t a forecast had the file name ‘probability_forecast’. There is nothing new in what you say and you still pointedly refuse to acknowledge the central issue here – they claimed to have forecast an extremely cold early winter and the evidence now shows this did not.

    You can be certain if there had been a warmer than average winter the Met Office would have seized upon it as evidence of climate change and rolled out that map to tell everyone they saw it coming. They can’t have it both ways.

  53. 54 psi 31/01/2011 at 4:10 am

    Rick Bradford 29/01/2011 at 2:13 am

    … “no clear signals” … “less certain” … “roughly equal signals” …. “some indications”

    How much did that supercomputer cost?

    But, don’t forget that “Rainfall amounts are less certain.”

    Sheesh. George Orwell is turning over in his grave.

  54. 55 Cassandra King 31/01/2011 at 12:07 pm

    The met office super computer, the one they promised us would revolutionize the science of meteorology is not working, the question is this I believe. Is the UKMO super computer wrong because it is running a flawed model or is it wrong because it is coming up with answers the met office find politically unsatisfactory and inducing the met office to either fiddle the input data or create meaningless predictions that have the best statistical chance of being correct?

    The met office promised us the earth when it pitched for the massive investment needed for the super computer, it would hand them almost divine powers of insight into weather and climate they readily promised anyone who would listen but it has clearly not lived up to the hopes and dreams of its champions. Now either the super computer is wrong because it has been fed garbage(GIGO) or it is coming up with answers that the met office cannot publish because it would undermine their fanatical stance on CAGW and so the met office are resorting to publishing forecasts so wide ranging and vague as to be meaningless.

    The new computer was supposed to form the basis of a new and hitherto unheard of climate model that could peer far into the future, that wild claim has been quietly dropped but not before the BBCs Black/Harrabin/Shukman has trumpeted it to the world. The met office is deeply involved with political CAGW theology, it certainly seems to devote more time and effort in pimping this political narrative than actually concentrating on its core responsibilities but the question is why have the met office made the leap from meteorology services to becoming a propaganda outlet for CAGW theory and more importantly of course is who is behind this shift and what are their aims?

    The met office should not have anything to do with with CAGW theory at all, its involvement in CAGW dogma has been a complete and utter disaster for it, before it went into pimping CAGW theology it was the envy of the entire world and it has taken just a few years to destroy that reputation. The met office should have refused to to take part in CAGW propaganda and instead concentrated on meteorology services, it made a choice and it was the wrong choice. The only way out of the cesspit of lies and deceptions is to accept reality and then to give up any thoughts of being involved in the political CAGW narrative in any way shape or form by sacking the ideologues and political fanatics and the theological fantacists. The met office should have one goal and one aim to provide thee most detailed weather forecasts possible.

    When the met office decided to play politics and support a political ideology they gained new shiny offices, pay rises and a new super computer but none of that was free, the price was never explained to the mugs that signed the deal and the price was very heavy indeed. They are a laughing stock around the world, the name that used to signify so much now induces laughter and derision. It must have sounded like such a great deal to begin with, being the standard bearer of a new religion to save the world, more money than they could spend and the political class hanging on their every word but it was always going to end in tears, the local village idiot could have told them at the time, dont sell out because the price is always far higher than you think it will be.

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