Met Office undermined by evidence to Transport Committee

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.

15 Responses to “Met Office undermined by evidence to Transport Committee”

  1. 1 Junkk Male 22/02/2011 at 5:53 pm

    Is there anyone in government, ex-government, NGOs, and certain selectively supportive or agenda-driven media… who is not either a liar, hypocrite or cheat these days?

    All seemingly unejectable from their pay, perk and pensioned enclaves, co-funded by me and the few others left in that out-dated income-generating sector these meddling parasites rely on.

    Where’s the ‘B’ Ark when it is needed?

    Otherwise I am getting close to seeing that those guys across N. Africa may have a point.

  2. 2 MrT 22/02/2011 at 6:55 pm

    Wonder how long the MuppET OFFICE has left on it’s contract with the BBC??

  3. 3 Anoneumouse 22/02/2011 at 7:44 pm

    The RAC link should read “RAC Motoring Services” (they are no longer Royal Automobile Club)

    Also, it is interesting that RAC Motoring Service are an Online sponsor of the Met Office.

    See met office site

  4. 4 Pascal 22/02/2011 at 7:45 pm

    MrT 22/02/2011 at 6:55 pm

    Wonder how long the MuppET OFFICE has left on it’s contract with the BBC??

    Funny you ask that…but the BBC have signed the MuppET Office for another 5 years. I have to ask how is this possible with all the evidence pointing to such corruption..Oh but yes the BBC are just as corrupt.

    Silly me…..

  5. 5 Phillip Bratby 22/02/2011 at 8:59 pm

    I cannot now remember how I was alerted to this parliamentary inquiry, but the Transport Committee stated “The Transport Committee welcomes written evidence from those affected by the adverse weather conditions”. I am very surprised that I am the only member of the general public who answered the call for evidence. Obviously not many people know about these inquiries, but there are millions of people out there who were far more badly affected than us. We just hunkered down and threw more logs on the fire. I was pretty incensed by the unpreparedness of the government and my local council and by the lack of warning by the Met Office. I thought we were in for another severe winter, having listened to Piers Corbyn and noting the continuing quiet sun. Being prepared, we could have survived being cut off for at least a month, possibly all winter. I warned my friends and relatives to be ready. I am now considering getting a generator for when the country starts to run out of electrical capacity.

    And the Met Office still tries to get away with its lies. I will be interested to see the Transport committee’s conclusions and if they are made fools of by the Met Office.

  6. 6 Autonomous Mind 22/02/2011 at 9:19 pm

    Better buy a big fuel container for all the diesel you will need for that Phillip :) And some good security measures to stop the fuel being pinched.

  7. 7 Phillip Bratby 22/02/2011 at 9:24 pm

    I’m thinking of a gas powered generator. We are so remote that theft is not too likely; my heating oil tank holds about 2700litres and that is a lot of money at today’s price. Having said that, theft of oil in rural areas is more common these days.

  8. 8 Autonomous Mind 22/02/2011 at 9:27 pm

    It’s a sad indictment of the times that it happens at all.

  9. 9 Jonathan Stuart-Brown 24/02/2011 at 12:41 am

    A play in London championing the sceptics and challenging the warmist persecution of dissenters….
    it is “meant to show how government and the mainstream media have adopted an unproven hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming, as if it were undisputed”.

  10. 10 Jonathan Stuart-Brown 24/02/2011 at 12:43 am

    I repeat that Autonomous Mind and fellow travellors may consider stage plays, radio plays, novels, teleplays, screenplays as another front in getting their material in the battle place of ideas to win hearts and minds.

  11. 11 Piers Corbyn 24/02/2011 at 5:09 am

    Good points. Please also see (as via twitter Piers_Corbyn)
    UK Parliamentary Enquiry into December snow crisis takes evidence from Piers Corbyn. MetOffice in Mubarak-style denial

  12. 12 James P 24/02/2011 at 11:12 am


    “my heating oil tank holds about 2700litres and that is a lot of money at today’s price”

    It may be a lot more soon! I would fill it up…

    Your submission was excellent, BTW. May I borrow some of it for the benefit of our local highways department? Our (Isle of Wight) roads are disintegrating before our eyes!

  13. 13 YZX4 28/02/2011 at 12:22 pm

    The anonymous recipient of the email shown above writes “Please let me know of any comments or changes you would like made before it goes in”. An forecast is an assessment of what might happen based on the evidence at that time. Given more time, every assessment/forecast would be more detailed, more carefully explained, etc. That is why EVERY weather forecast service encourages “mission-critical” decisions be made only after direct discussion with a forecaster.

    Forecasts two or more weeks ahead are NEVER accurate – they can only be general. One example: Imagine a cold front will bring rain to London in 10 days. Where is that front now? Nowhere. It hasn’t formed. So if it can’t be assessed as weak, active, or very active, how can it be forecast incredibly accurately?

    That front may move a 10 miles and hour once formed – if that forecast speed is out by 1mph, over 5 days that is 120 miles. So the London rain is falling in Bristol! If the speed is too slow by 1mph, the rain has gone east of London. So you have 3 options: too fast and skies are probably clear and the weather is dry and maybe chilly, on time and the weather is cloudy and wet, too slow and the weather is probably cloudy, mild and maybe a little drizzly. Difference in speed? 1mph.

    As for forecasting snow amounts months in advance, this isn’t possible. You can forecast cold temperatures and estimate a wind direction to be from land (dry, snowless) or sea (snow likely) but anyone who says they can predict 22cm of snow over areas X or Y or low pressures will run over Liverpool rather than London is exaggerating their skill.

    Finally, as already pointed out, if the RAC were so fed up with weather forecasts, why sponsor the Met Office? The RAC bosses understand how useful forecasts are to their business DAY BY DAY, A bit of exception weather, doesn’t mean that daily forecasts, taken as a whole, don’t save money.

  14. 14 Autonomous Mind 28/02/2011 at 12:32 pm

    Well, that’s the Met Office for you.

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