Met Office document shows it only renamed its seasonal forecasts

A Freedom of Information request submitted to the Met Office by Autonomous Mind reveals the Met Office did not tell the truth when it said it had scrapped its seasonal forecast.

Despite repeatedly trailing the line that the Met Office no longer issues seasonal forecasts because the public says they are not of use (a separate blog post on that public view later today, with some new information that has come to light… Update: part two can now be read here), the reality is that the department’s Chief Executive, John Hirst, engaged in a smoke and mirrors exercise in an attempt at reputation management.

At a Board meeting of the Met Office on 26 January 2010, (original Minutes extract received under FOI: 0012014 AM Attachment) a recommendation was tabled by Hirst to rename the forecasts and locate them in a different part of the department’s website, and that Hirst:

‘… proposed to the board the changes the Met Office was considering to manage the presentation of these longer range forecasts.’

This is clearly not a decision to stop seasonal forecasting, merely a tweek to its presentation – presumably to allow the Met Office the ability to deny a forecast when weather events show it to be inaccurate.  It is equivalent to the EU’s renaming of its proposed constitution without changing the substance of the content so it could be ratified as a treaty without referenda being held.  A change in presentation does not change the substance of the content.

The Met Office logic is that although it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck it is actually a horse.  This explains the weak attempt to disown the seasonal temperature probability map that the department published in October.  But Hirst’s actions now reveal the map is a forecast after all, in everything but name.   The details from the Minutes are shown in the blue highlighted section in the screenshot below (click to enlarge):

The words ‘forecast’ and ‘forecasts’ appear seven times in that section, which seems quote a lot when talking about something the Met Office deny is a forecast.  The FOI response comes just one day after the Met Office was seemingly caught out in another lie, when it told Andrew Orlowski of The Register this week that it:

‘… never suggested that we warned cabinet office of an ‘exceptionally cold early winter’

although a Met Office spokeswoman was quoted in the Daily Mail on 4 January as saying:

‘We did brief the Cabinet Office in October on what we believed would be an exceptionally cold and long winter,’

The Met Office employs a large number of very good, honest and dedicated people.  This and my other blog posts on the subject are no criticism of them.

But the department is being run by an unreliable group of executives who have been exposed as dishonest in the course of their efforts to underpin and further a politicised agenda (climate change) and secure even more public money for additional supercomputing power.  At the head of this group is John Hirst.  Suspiciously his executives remained silent about the story published by Roger Harrabin, only denying they had warned of an ‘exceptionally cold early winter’ after Katabasis‘ FOI request revealed the claim was not true.

The unpleasant whiff of deceit and clumsy spin continues to emanate from the Met Office and there now absolutely must be a formal investigation into its management and its executive.  The public deserves and is entitled to much better for its money.

Update: The excellent Katabasis is on the case and builds on this post over at his place. Definitely a must read.

Part two of this blog post is now live…

22 Responses to “Met Office document shows it only renamed its seasonal forecasts”

  1. 1 Barry 01/02/2011 at 1:20 pm

    Point 17 indicates the reason for sticking with the seasonal forecasts – prestige within WMO circles.

    Who are the people getting improved forecasts? T’ins’t us!

  2. 2 Baa Humbug 01/02/2011 at 1:56 pm

    “Setting the forecast as a worldview, then down to European scale….”

    But of course. The world view will ALWAYS be a warmer one. Then if Europe has a warm season, they can claim that. And if GB has a warm season, they can claim that too.

    These people aren’t public servants, these people are out n out politicians with advocacy agendas.

    In the westminster system, there is nothing more dangerous than the politicization of the public service. Our poor brethren in GB are paying the price.

    there needs to be a clean-out, a thourough one.

  3. 3 none 01/02/2011 at 2:06 pm

    point 17 has a typo: “leaders in the filed” instead of “field”

  4. 4 GeorgeGR 01/02/2011 at 2:18 pm

    Brilliant work AM!
    BTW, has anyone written to Mr. Harrabin asking his explanation on how and why he wrote what he did?

    One should also ask him how he is planning to correct the clearly and misleading impression created by his erroneous article and whether his conduct will have implications in regard to his position?

    No matter how this is spun, In my opinion, this is at best an example of really bad journalism by Harrabin (not surprised though).

  5. 5 Mac 01/02/2011 at 2:21 pm

    So what is the difference between a scientific and an operational forecast?

  6. 6 biddyb 01/02/2011 at 2:47 pm

    As Barry says, Point 17 talks about being “groundbreaking” and “leaders of the field” and “without continued effort to develop it was noted that none of the forecasting improvements over the years would have been made”, while in the next point, 18, they agree that it would have to be scaled back so that they are updating every month “rather than a season at a time” and then updating that every two weeks.

    In other words, they haven’t broken any ground and are having to go back to forecasts a few days ahead which they might get right.

  7. 7 Cassandra King 01/02/2011 at 3:12 pm

    Visiting the UKMO website and clicking on weather warnings we see this line.

    “The Met Office has responsibility for providing weather warnings for the UK.”

    Is this a legal responsibility or simply a corporate aim?

    The warning system for the next five days is green(for normal) and no warnings are issued for the entire UK. We see that the UKMO has a weather forecast for the UK out to one month(30dys)ahead and it only consists of this one tiny paragraph below.

    “Outlook for Thursday to Saturday:

    Most parts will have a fine day on Thursday with some sunshine but wintry showers in the northwest. Friday and Saturday turn very windy with some heavy rain at times.:

    So our forecaster that costs us hundreds of millions of pounds per year hands us this lazy poorly worded rubbish and thinks we should be happy?

    The forecast for day 6 to 15 is a little longer, but the weather warning map stops at day five, perhaps they just cannot be bothered or they ran out of money?

    “UK Outlook for Sunday 6 Feb 2011 to Tuesday 15 Feb 2011:

    Sunday looks like being a very wet day with heavy rain across central and western areas. This may lead to localised flooding in prone areas, perhaps with some snow over northern hills. Drier in the southeast. Generally mild in the south, cooler with scattered wintry showers in the north. Very windy at times with gales or severe gales in the west. Tending to become drier on Monday, but still with showers and strong winds. It looks like it will continue unsettled through the following week and weekend with periods of heavy rain at times and strong winds, perhaps with gales or severe gales at times in the north and west. The south and southeast will be near normal or mild, but cooler in the north with wintry showers at times.”

    So for all the money the UKMO receives we get a couple of poorly written paragraphs out to 2wks and a weather warning map out to five days, is this a service for which we pay a very high amount, possibly the most expensive meteorological service on the planet.
    It looks to me that they really cannot be bothered with the boring annoying task of providing a decent weather service, perhaps they feel this drudge work is the equivalent of mopping the floor and is beneath their talents?

    Now contrast this with its climate change services, no expense spared full Monty service going the extra mile to provide us with all the CAGW theologies and dogma(never mind the quality feel the width). The primary service feels like it is an after thought add on, something for the lower order office clerk to slap together while the big wigs can concentrate on higher things like saving the planet(and their reputation). This paragraph taken from the climate change section reveals much about the mindset of the UKMO I think.

    “Policy relevant science

    The Government funds the Met Office to do core research in support of practical decision-making.

    We offer world-leading expertise to help Government and public services make strategic decisions about weather and climate change impacts.

    We offer an understanding of the future through risk analysis and long-range forecasting, enabling them to make better informed decisions.”

    Now reading this ego bloated nonsense and then experiencing the bitter winter of 2010 they didnt see coming, reading this and then remembering the near total shut down of UK transport because the UKMO failed in its core duty to PREDICT THE WEATHER.
    We see the bloated ego and the puffed up pretensions, they are trying to sell themselves to themselves, we have a window into their corporate mind with these few words. They have become a legend in their own lunchtimes in their own minds, they cannot admit the truth not least to themselves, they are the bloated heifers you see in Vegas wearing ultra tight leggings, they are the tiny fat bald guy wearing a toupee and built up heels and a corset, judgemental? Perhaps it is but maybe it is time to judge!

  8. 8 James P 01/02/2011 at 3:16 pm

    “scattered wintry showers”

    What other sorts of shower might one get in Winter..?

  9. 9 George Tetley 01/02/2011 at 3:34 pm

    A big thank you AM, the problem in Britian is not the Met. office its the country, I guess someday in the distant future there will arrive a ‘saviour” until then the population, who are not revolt minded will continue to suffer and watch the latest group of overpayed idiots on Tv ( when a football player is worth 45,000,000, whats a politician worth ? )

  10. 10 Green Sand 01/02/2011 at 3:37 pm

    Well done sir, keep up the good work.

    It appears that just like our politicians they much prefer posing on the international stage.


    “commitment by the Met Office as a centre for Long Range Forecasting within.WMO. The science remains groundbreaking with the Met Office being leaders in the filed (sic).”

    “Significantly useful amounts of skill over tropical regions”

    Has anybody heard any comment from the Met Office about the following chart?

    Hadley Centre Central England Temperature (HadCET) dataset

    Well as it is only the UK I suppose the change in trend is not worthy of comment, even if it is the “world’s oldest thermometer.

  11. 11 Cassandra King 01/02/2011 at 4:12 pm

    Just an an added note about the above post.

    The met office climate change section of the website contains a claim that..

    “We offer an understanding of the future through risk analysis and long-range forecasting, enabling them(politicians)to make better informed decisions.”

    Note the words “long-range forecasting”? How far into the future does the UKMO make these forecasts?

    Note the sentence at the end, “enabling them to make better informed decisions” Better than what, casting the bones or reading the runes or better than lets say accuweather or weather action?

    The met office failed to live up to its own hype on its own website yet still those words remain as clear as day, the met office claim they no longer produce seasonal forecasts but they still claim to be producing long range forecasts, whats the difference I wonder?

    I would dearly like to see one of these advertised long range forecasts, anyone know where I can find one, maybe wikileaks has one?

  12. 12 John Kehr 01/02/2011 at 5:12 pm

    This is a pretty impressive show of incompetence. The political bias at the top is really making the entire MET look like a bunch of idiots.

    While I am sure that there are many competent people there, the ones at the top are making them all look bad.

    I also wonder if they had a non-CO2 forced forecast that did manage to predict a cold winter, but since it wasn’t politically correct they had to trash it.

    John Kehr
    The Inconvenient Skeptic

  13. 13 Ray 01/02/2011 at 6:05 pm

    As a result of observing the output of the UKMO for several years, I appear to have come to a similar conclusion to you about the attitude of their management.
    Instead of “We’ve made a mistake, how can we correct it”, their attitude seems to be “We’ve made a mistake, how can we spin the facts to make it appear that we haven’t”.
    A new team, which is prepared to admit past mistakes, is required.

  14. 14 jorgekafkazar 01/02/2011 at 6:50 pm

    “The Met Office logic is that although it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck it is actually a horse.”

    Hard to imagine an entire horse being associated with the Met Office…

  15. 15 Jonathan Stuart-Brown 03/02/2011 at 12:57 am

    The Met Office have just made clear that they officially told The UK Government (in a secret report) and put in every Met report (in secret) that there would be a revolution in Tunisia, Egypt and that Andy Murray would lose in the Australian Tennis Final. They are almost omnipotent and infallible, utterly honest and humble.
    There really is no need old chap for any more of these beastly Freedom of Information requests. We are utterly honest chaps you know.

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