The House of Commons Transport Select Committee inquiry into the impact on transport of recent adverse weather conditions has published the ‘uncorrected’ written evidence that has been submitted. It includes a submission from the Met Office.
As one would expect from the unreconstructed propaganda the Met Office likes to spread about itself, the submission they have made can be summarised as claiming to have got all their forecasts right, that the public and Met Office customers agree and everything is just peachy, with only some minor lessons learned with respect to further developing the National Severe Weather Warning Service. Some highlights from the Met Office’s written evidence include:
This prolonged period of finely balanced weather conditions provided a real challenge for the Met Office’s forecasting capability. Overall, we performed well not only in forecasting the key hazards but in providing consistent, timely and useful advice to Government, customers, the emergency response community and the public.
What this actually refers to is the Met Office’s self congratulatory boast that it managed to forecast the bad weather 1-2 days before it hit as shown in their evidence’s Annex A below:
But what of the seasonal forecast and advice to government? Like the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) the Met Office is engaged in some outrageous revisionism. The two departments clearly have spent time getting their ducks in a row.
As Freedom of Information requests have shown, the Met Office advice somewhat different to what they now claim. Where is the mention of there being ‘no clear signals for the winter’? Where is the admission that while the chance of an average or colder winter was 70%, they believed the chance of an average or warmer winter was 60%? What about their agreement with the Cabinet Office that there was only ‘a slightly increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season’? Clearly they have forgotten their own advice below:
Small wonder the Met Office submitted its evidence in writing. Whom would have had the gall to give oral evidence and risk cross examination by any member of the Transport Committee in possession of this information? But perhaps the questions will be asked anyway in light of other written evidence that has been supplied to the committee.
Firstly we have the evidence from the Automobile Association (AA). Uniquely among organisations submitting written evidence, they refer to this having been the third successive bad winter and the fact early seasonal forecasts appeared to be in conflict. They also mention the great Roger Harrabin fiction of the Met Office privately forecasting ‘an exceptionally cold start to winter’ that ‘had not been made public because of potential embarrassment caused by the unreliability of long range forecasting’. A claim destroyed by the document above.
More pertinent, and certainly more damaging for the Met Office, was the written evidence from the Royal Automobile Association (RAC). Their reference to the inability of the Met Office for forecast major weather incidents two or more weeks ahead makes clear how the public and a great number of organisations were let badly by the Met Office, regardless of the spin emanating from propaganda central in Exeter.
It is this submission, more than any other, that gets to the heart of the matter. It is that that undermines the Met Office’s spin and attempts to rewrite history. Bloggers can be ignored, but evidence from one of the nation’s biggest motoring organisations is a great deal harder to dismiss. It is this evidence that should that offers valuable insight to the Transport Committee and that should shape the nature of the committee’s further investigation into adequate preparation for major weather incidents such as that in December 2010.
The only written evidence that brings home the human impact of the failure to forecast weather more than a couple of days in advance, was that provided by Dr Philip Bratby – an occasional commenter on this blog. It is best read in its entirety.