Met Office claim that public did not want seasonal forecasts is a sham

This follows on from the previous post – where it was shown that the Met Office seasonal forecast that isn’t a forecast, really is a forecast.

Readers will be familiar with the Met Office’s explanation for supposedly not issuing public seasonal forecasts.  Whenever the Met Office are asked why they do not provide a public seasonal forecast (in name, anyway) their response is typically that:

“We withdrew from making public our forecasts for the season because the public said they didn’t want them.”

Somehow that did not seem to ring quite right.  It seemed appropriate to find out more about how the Met Office arrived at this conclusion, so Autonomous Mind submitted a Freedom of Information request (using an alias as shown on the attached FOI response) asking:

  1. When the consultation exercise was conducted – or as appropriate – How many communications were received from the public requesting an end to seasonal forecasts
  2. The questions that were asked of the public during the consultation
  3. The total number of responses from the public collected during the consultation
  4. The number of responses FOR withdrawing the seasonal forecasts and the number AGAINST withdrawing them
  5. The name(s) of the Met Office executive(s) who made the decision to withdraw seasonal forecasts following the consultation exercise
  6. The minutes of the meeting at which the decision was taken (dealt with in the previous post)

Not all of the information has been supplied in the way requested.  However the information that has been released is quite revealing and exposes shenanigans behind the scenes that are worthy of public note.  What is clear is that the Met Office’s claim that the public did not want seasonal forecasts relied almost exclusively upon:

  • unsolicited comments made online rather than responses to pointed questions dealing with the point in a relevant manner
  • customer comment – which cannot in any way be considered to be public feedback; and
  • trend research into public trust in the Met Office, which has no place being included in assessing whether seasonal forecasts are wanted by the public.

It is important to note the Met Office was unable able to furnish me with details of the number of communications received from the public requesting an end to seasonal forecasts. For all we know, no one has written to the Met Office asking the department to cease the issue of seasonal forecasts to the public.

So what is the Met Office’s solid basis for the decision to give the impression that the public does not want seasonal forecasts?

16 people.

That’s all.  The Met Office conducted two focus group exercises in February 2009 consisting of eight persons each, male and female, between the ages 25-60.  These were apparently in free form discussion format.  But it does not seem this exercise was taken seriously.  The Met Office was unable able to furnish me with the number of response FOR withdrawing seasonal forecasts and the number AGAINST withdrawing them as the information was not gathered during the focus groups.

This means the Met Office has made a decision yet possesses no quantatative or qualitative information on which to assess how that decision was determined.  Ludicrously in the response the Met Office describe these two discussions involving a total of just 16 people as a:

representative sample, [that] reflect the feelings of this segment of the population

If, as a corporate communications professional, I was tasked by a client to conduct a roundtable exercise to glean information from the public that would be used as the basis for a Board level decision about the way the organisation conducts an activity, and I submitted what the Met Office cites as evidence of public sentiment to be used as the basis for a decision, I would expect to be summarily fired.

But then, it looks almost certain this whole thing has been contrived.  The Met Office Board was not at any time acting in response to public sentiment, it was purusing its own agenda in reputation management.  It wanted something to cite as justification for supposedly scrapping public seasonal forecasts and this ‘go-through-the-motions’ exercise provided it.  When John Hirst presented his proposal to the Met Office Board there was no mention at all of this being done at the behest of the public, or any evidence in support of it, as we can see from the Minutes below:

The long and short of all this – both this post and the previous one – is that the Met Office seems to have manufactured questionable cover for its decision to supposedly withdraw public seasonal forecasts that does not stand up to scrutiny.  The seasonal forecasts remain, they have simply been renamed and relocated as per Hirst’s initiative.  And, if and when a seasonal forecast turns out to be inaccurate the Met Office has constructed this narrative to provide itself with deniability before and after the event, as we saw this winter.

This is a farcical and unacceptable state of affairs which badly fails the taxpaying public.  Process at the Met Office lack integrity and its lack of honesty has already been exposed in previous posts. Root and branch reform of the Met Office executive is required now as the public can have no confidence in the ethical management of the department.

27 Responses to “Met Office claim that public did not want seasonal forecasts is a sham”


  1. 1 Mac 01/02/2011 at 4:36 pm

    Now here is a pretty thing.

    It would appear that this Met Office probability forecast was based on Ensemble Forecasting and as such the Met Office could never have predicted the extreme cold weather experienced this winter. It transpires this widely used method of forecasting ‘averages out’ extreme weather events. This method cannot be used to predict extremes of weather. It is a widely known problem, but one that appears in this instance that has never been relayed to the government.

    The long range/seasonal Met Office probabilty forecast falls if the weather turns extreme.

    We have been led up the Met Office garden path over this forecast, the background to it, the context in which it was made, and the claims that the Met Office did forecast extremely cold weather.

  2. 2 Cassandra King 01/02/2011 at 4:55 pm

    The met office have clearly learned how to use deception and manipulation combined with presentation skills, a lot of effort has gone into these new skills. These are not the skills you would usually associate with meteorologists dedicated to their trade of forecasting weather, You might find this skill set employed by politicians or the lower class of carpet bagger corporation.

    What it does strongly suggest is a collapse in leadership and moral character and ethics. Anything goes, and CYA means the failure is happening at the top and it is this failure that needs to be addressed quickly. The good news is that a change of leadership with the eviction of the corrupt management and the swift imposition of ethical policies and practices from the top down would solve the problem very quickly. In other words, regime change. The fish always rots from the head first, its as plain as day that this is the problem with the met office.

  3. 3 Mac 01/02/2011 at 5:04 pm

    CAN WE TRUST LONG-RANGE WEATHER FORECASTS?

    PASCAL J. MAILIER*

    Swiss Re, United Kingdom

    http://www.climate-development.org/atroccoli/nato_arw/arw_book/Climate_Energy_Book_Troccoli_CH15_Mailier.pdf

    I wonder if the National Grid have read this paper.

    If not, they should have because it would have saved them a lot of time and money.

  4. 4 Green Sand 01/02/2011 at 5:04 pm

    “There were two focus groups consisting of approx eight people in each.”

    “approx” is that a hind-cast?

  5. 5 baike 01/02/2011 at 5:19 pm

    Excellent work! Keep it up.

  6. 6 John Blake 01/02/2011 at 5:38 pm

    Didn’t we just read somewhere that Hirst just received a 250,000-pound (or more) annual bonus for Met Office services rendered? On what basis, pray tell, does officialdom’s virtual sabotage of the U.K. energy economy plus ludicrously malfeasant short-term forecasts entitle him to anything but a substantial salary reduction or (better yet) an immediate, unceremonial excretion from the premisses?

  7. 7 Barry 01/02/2011 at 5:42 pm

    I wonder if the 16 person ‘survey’ is the one mentioned near the end of this BBC Open Secrets blogpost from December last year. I can’t spot any kind of link to the disclosed documents nor can I immediately find them on the MOD Publication Scheme pages.

  8. 8 permanentexpat 01/02/2011 at 5:43 pm

    …..and for this we pay how much?
    Symptomatic of all that is rotten in The Septic Isle.
    Yes, keep it up please…there’s always a weak link in the chain…and the prospect of more whistle blowing!

  9. 9 Autonomous Mind 01/02/2011 at 6:00 pm

    I think you could be right Mac. I’m certain I saw ‘ensemble’ mentioned in some of the posts I have been trawling through.

  10. 10 Dave 01/02/2011 at 6:13 pm

    “If, as a corporate communications professional, I was tasked […]”

    Can I just check the grammar there, not being familiar with the author’s profession? Is that sentence supposed to read “as a corporate comms professional, if I were tasked etc.”? It reads as if the author is imagining what might be if they were a corporate comms professional, rather than giving their opinion as one.

  11. 11 Autonomous Mind 01/02/2011 at 6:18 pm

    :) Reminds one of the value of proofing before posting… I hope you can excuse the error in my rush to publish between other things.

  12. 12 Ian E 01/02/2011 at 7:53 pm

    “approx eight people”

    Would that be somewhere between 7.5 people and 8.5 people?

  13. 13 Anoneumouse 01/02/2011 at 8:28 pm

    And dont forget, it was the Met Office chief executive John Hirst and it’s chief scientist Julia (senna the soothsayer) Slingo that asked their colleagues to sign the Climatic Research Unit statement “to defend our profession against this unprecedented attack to discredit us and the science of climate change

  14. 14 Slabadang 01/02/2011 at 8:28 pm

    Well the new Green order!

    They suck people dry by taxes. Leaves nothing in return and laughs all the way to the bank.Honour and responsability is a thing of the past.Met Offices Napier and Hirst really wants to make me puke.

  15. 15 PhilJourdan 01/02/2011 at 8:30 pm

    Well – somethings cross the pond quite well – like politicians failing the taxpayers. Good luck on your side – it is almost hopeless in the colonies to get them to be responsive. Or fiscally responsible.

  16. 16 Grumpy Old Man 01/02/2011 at 8:34 pm

    The Met Office may have truncated the sentence. After “The public did not want them”, insert “as they were woefully inaccurate”. As public recognition of a failing would have at least partially negated the warmist agenda of the Met Office The Met Office has ended up moving from bumbling to premeditated corporate incompetence. It’s a long way back to reality from there.

  17. 17 Keith at Hastings UK 01/02/2011 at 9:13 pm

    Write to your MPs. Otherwise nothing will change. It might not change anyway, but at least we will have tried!

    I have a feeling 2011 will be a critical year for the whole CAGW/CACC movement, especially if it starts cooling…. (satellite record only please!)

  18. 18 Cthulhu 01/02/2011 at 9:26 pm

    The Met Office didn’t say it has stopped *doing* seasonal forecasts, just that it wasn’t releasing them to the public anymore.

    Unless a forecast is official I don’t think you can just take a map on their site, which they say isn’t a forecast and take it as a forecast anyway.

    Afterall the map doesn’t match the forecast in the FOIed document, so clearly anyone who took the map on the Met Office site as their forecast has made a mistake.

  19. 19 Autonomous Mind 01/02/2011 at 9:34 pm

    Just to check Cthulhu, you did understand John Hirst’s proposal and rationale from the Board Minutes, didn’t you? I know you want to hold the line so no amount of evidence will sway you. The Cabinet Office forecast came after the map had been noticed. The difference is accounted for by the two weekly update regime put in place in January 2010.

  20. 20 Fielding Norris 01/02/2011 at 10:05 pm

    “so clearly anyone who took the map on the Met Office site as their forecast has made a mistake.”
    It seems the fault is mine for thinking the Met Office did weather forecasts. The map was clearly for decorative purposes, and I can only assume the new supercomputer is for the same.

  21. 21 London Calling 02/02/2011 at 7:24 am

    When is a forecast not a forecast? When no-one knows what it is, in case they lose confidence in forecasting as a consequence of it not being a very accurate forecast.Hirst and Napier are masters of illusion that a weather forcaster forecasts the weather.

  22. 22 George Tetley 02/02/2011 at 9:05 am

    Is it not time to put this out to tender ? If I was still paying taxes in Britian?? packed my bag and got out before it became a satalite state of Iran.

  23. 23 Lynne 02/02/2011 at 9:36 am

    I thought Mark Hutchinson, Hirst’s predecessor, was bad enough when he managed to lose £4.5 million via the ill-starred WeatherXchange by dabbling in the weather derivatives market.

    Hirst, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish. He’s not gambling with the equivalent of taxpayer petty cash, he’s gambling with our entire economy and energy security. In my opinion this makes him one of the most dangerous people in the UK at this time because most people have never heard of him. He is an establishment figure, appointed by the establishment to perform the establishment’s will. The rot is deep set and spreads far beyond the Met Office.

    AM, I sincerely hope your serious efforts to take the Met Office to task pays off. However, the MSM seem to be studiously ignoring what’s going on under its collective cocked snoot. The press and broadcasting media are more interested in John Hirst the “votes for prisoners” killer because that, as any fule kno, has a propensity to destroy civilisation as we know it whereas John Hirst, the Met Office supremo, is just some boring and harmless old codger, innit.

    For all our sakes please keep hammering away at this vital issue. I’ll be linking to this this blog post from Counting Cats in Zanzibar.

  24. 24 Vanessa 02/02/2011 at 5:09 pm

    I don’t really care whether the Met Office does seasonal forecasting or not; they are generally totally wrong. I use the excellent website accuweather, a Canadian weather site which is nearly 99% accurate on ALL its forecasting. Who needs the Met Office? How much do we pay for it? Why is it a government department? The sooner it is abolished the better.


  1. 1 Met Office steps in it again | Watts Up With That? Trackback on 01/02/2011 at 4:43 pm
  2. 2 Met Office claim that public did not want seasonal forecasts is a … | Articles about the world Trackback on 03/02/2011 at 5:40 am
  3. 3 Met Office’s pathetic self justification and lack of attention to detail « Autonomous Mind Trackback on 25/06/2011 at 12:54 pm
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