Government was concerned about mixed forecasts from Met Office

It seems that it isn’t only bloggers and newspaper journalists who understand the infamous temperature probability map that has done the rounds since this blog made a screenshot of it and published it.

This blog submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Cabinet Office to enquire if it issued any instructions or restrictions concerning the use of the ‘private’ Met Office forecast to the Government.  The Cabinet Office states that it gave no such instructions to the Met Office.  It also included the Met Office forecast that readers will now be familiar with.

But tacked onto the end of the FOI response, on page 8, were redacted copies of a couple of emails between the Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingencies Sectretariat (CCS) and the Met Office.  One of those relates to the forecast information the National Grid was using – screenshot below.

It is clear that the government’s understanding is that the temperature probability map is exactly what we showed John Hirst acknowledging it to be yesterday, a forecast.  The differential between the probability map and the forecast received by the Cabinet Office is clearly identified as being the age of the forecast.  The difference can be accounted for by the Met Office’s two-week update cycle.

The clear inference here is that by the time National Grid and the media had used the temperature probability map to state the Met Office was forecasting a warmer than average winter, the Met had already updated its forecast to the one supplied to the Cabinet Office.  This and the information in the screenshot below (helpfully highlighted by the Cabinet Office), refutes Met Office claims that the map was not a forecast and that it had not suggested a warmer than average winter:

The Met Office has twisted itself into so many contortions to provide it with deniability of any forecast that is inaccurate, it has put itself in a position where they are telling the media, the public, bloggers, National Grid and the Cabinet Office that black is actually white.

The Met Office did not consistently forecast the 60% probability of an average or colder than average winter.  Indeed, the Cabinet Office actually refers to figures that bear out what was shown on the probability map – around a 60%-80% (below tightened up to say 75%) probability of a warmer than average winter:

What does all this mean?  Simply that the Met Office is not capable of producing forecasts of weather more than a week or so ahead of time, unlike other forecasters who do not have a fraction of the computing power available to them.

The issue is the Met Office model assumes that as atmospheric CO2 rises, so temperatures must rise – and this means longer range forecasts have an in-built warm bias that can result in inaccurate forecasts as we have seen over the last three years.  As such while their short term and ‘nowcasting’ performance is broadly acceptable, anything forecast beyond a few days seems fundamentally flawed due to a blind faith in the hypothesis of CO2 driven global warming and so we can have no confidence in it.

14 Responses to “Government was concerned about mixed forecasts from Met Office”

  1. 1 Andy Baxter 02/02/2011 at 6:21 pm


    I have been following your Met office thread for some weeks now and would just like to say

    Thank you

    well done on good research and excellent analysis and a unswerving desire to get at the truth…

    How sad and what does it say about the poverty of what passes as supposed journalism in this country, that the MSM and the Biased BBC (where sadly most of the population rely for their daily dose of news and weather) are utterly incapable and totally inept at providing just such analysis as this…

    keep up the good work


  2. 2 Autonomous Mind 02/02/2011 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks Andy! Very kind of you.

  3. 3 Beware of Geeks Bearing GIFs 02/02/2011 at 7:31 pm

    Yup, great effort AM, it’s the type of great analysis that really makes a blog stand out from the rest.

    As Andy says, it puts the rest of the copy/lobby nonsense that passes for journalism to shame.

  4. 4 Autonomous Mind 02/02/2011 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks ‘Beware’.

  5. 5 Ian 02/02/2011 at 7:57 pm

    Let me echo the thanks. Your work has been diligent and enlightening.

    On a slightly separate (but related note), I’ve been having difficulty downloading the files from the “What do They Know” website (the downloads start out well, then slow down and then fail). Has anyone else had that difficulty? (And would it be possible to for AM to make available the entire package of requested/received material on this site?)

    Cheers, & keep up the good work!

  6. 6 Martin Brumby 02/02/2011 at 8:05 pm

    If you want copies of earlier MET Office seasonal forecasts, I have copies (from a FOI request). I can send as email attachments.

  7. 7 Autonomous Mind 02/02/2011 at 8:07 pm

    Thanks Ian. The blog posts have links to the FOI responses so the packages are available here. Hope that helps.

  8. 8 Autonomous Mind 02/02/2011 at 8:08 pm

    Thanks Martin. I replied to your email but I’m not sure if you received it. Might be an idea to check your spam folder.

  9. 9 Barry 02/02/2011 at 9:27 pm

    AM said: “This and the information in the screenshot below (helpfully highlighted by the Cabinet Office), refutes Met Office claims that the map was not a forecast and that it had not suggested a warmer than average winter:”

    From the excerpt it looks to me like the Met Office was privately trying to suggest not so much that the warm winter forecast wasn’t a forecast but wasn’t a *current* forecast. Which is a bit pathetic to me. Publicly they denied it was a forecast. Privately they appear to have said something quite different.

    The Weather Outlook is odd. The Quarmby audit was told 1 in 20 was the probability for a bad winter. There the Met Office have put 1 in 30.(At a guess, because we’d had 2, 30 years apart?)

  10. 10 Derek Reynolds 03/02/2011 at 6:53 am

    Could it be that as climate changes, weather changes (heaven forbid they be connected), and that the Met Office scientists have yet to understand or keep up with such changes. In which case, no super computer is going to produce anything useful. GIGO.

  11. 11 Derek Reynolds 03/02/2011 at 6:55 am

    PS: 10 out of 10 for persistence and reporting.

    Many thanks.

  12. 12 Barry 03/02/2011 at 10:59 am


    I think it is the opposite. Climate is changing but the weather doesn’t appear to be and that has confounded the Met Office. For one the consensus was that higher temperatures makes for more and stronger energetic storms – that hasn’t happened afaik. Warmer = wetter too. Not sure if that is happening. Less snow in winter. Nope. Now they are saying more snow in winter yet they haven’t appreciably changed the ‘science’.

    Imo they and many others are too concerned with something of little relevance – averages of averages of averages, and on, in temperature, wind, precipitation, etc. Weather is what we deal with on a day to day basis and we should be prepared to deal with the extremes of that.

  13. 13 Katabasis 03/02/2011 at 12:08 pm

    Keep up the pressure AM! As others have said its this kind of work that really makes a blog stand out, and it shows what bloggers such as Anna Racoon and Guido have been arguing for sometime, that the fourth estate isn’t fit for purpose and is increasingly being supplanted by the ‘fifth estate’ of the blogosphere and attached social media.

    You’re certainly an inspiration to me and have encouraged me to up my own game.

  14. 14 Autonomous Mind 03/02/2011 at 12:10 pm

    You’re too kind Katabasis, thank you. Keep up your good work too!

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