Posts Tagged 'Met Office'

BBC Weather Test plugged again

Listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme may have heard Roger Harrabin holding forth about his little project to compare the accuracy of weather forecasters, the Weather Test.

We’ve covered the Weather Test’s multiple conflicts of interest previously and shortly after that we identified some possible flaws in the project.  But of course none of these have been given a public airing by Harrabin and the wheeze trundles along after a year of planning and a distinct absence of definition.

It was interesting that Harrabin referred to the Met Office’s nervousness about the project. Given that just about every outside agency and University involved in assessing forecast accuracy are Met Office partners in various meteorology and climate change, that seems to be over egging things.  Maybe the source of that titbit was Harrabin’s Met Office ‘deep throat’ who fed him the lie that the extremely cold early winter had actually been forecast to the government.

Perhaps the amount of time being devoted to getting his vanity exercise off the ground is the reason why Roger Harrabin’s reporting of the Met Office spin, disinformation and outright deception was non existant in December and January.  Or maybe it was simply Harrabin sticking rigidly to the party line in defence of his Met Office friends, thus furthering the BBC’s deeply entwined relations with the department.

Met Office covers itself in forecasting glory again…

Courtesy of a Freedom of Information response from the Cabinet Office, we can now see what the Met Office advised the government about the weather for January to March 2011.

(click to enlarge)

So far we know that the UK was very slightly cooler than 1971-2000 average in January and experienced its ninth warmest February in the last 100 years, that at 2deg above the average can be considered more than mild for the time of year. No doubt this will be presented by the Met Office as another successful bit of work.

Given the fact they have demonstrated again that forecasting beyond several days ahead is ineffective, you would think they would focus on addressing the way their computer models work.  But instead they want us to count aircraft con-trails and watch bubbles float around as part of a ‘climate survey’ !!  And we pay for this out of our tax pounds.

Piers Corbyn shreds Met Office evidence to Transport Committee

Following on from the post about the written evidence submitted to the Transport Select Committee about the preparedness (or otherwise) for the early winter weather in December, Piers Corbyn has a post on his WeatherAction site that is required reading.

In addition to providing some useful documents for readers to download, Piers lambasts the Met Office’s written evidence, declaring:

THE MET OFFICE’s submission is, I would say: a Mubarak-style, bunkerish, self-serving, denial of reality

It’s hard to disagree. Read it all here.

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.

Overheating Britain revisited

It was nearly three years ago that the global warming hype was running riot in the Independent. The Environment Editor, Michael McCarthy published a piece in April 2007 that began:

The possibility is growing that Britain in 2007 may experience a summer of unheard-of high temperatures, with the thermometer even reaching 40C, or 104F,a level never recorded in history.

Adding to the hype, inevitably, was the Met Office and Climategate central – the University of East Anglia’s CRU.  McCarthy reminded readers at the time:

The Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, in a joint forecast with the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, has already suggested that 2007 will be the hottest year ever recorded globally.

A year after McCarthy’s breathless article and with poorer weather evident a now sleeping blog, The Daily Brute, wondered what had become of McCarthy’s speculation.  It seems rarely does a year go by when the Met Office and the propagandists at CRU are not declaring that we could experience the warmest year on record.  Indeed, they have already declared that 2010 (12th coldest year in the UK in the last 100 years) was a statistical tie with 2005 as the warmest year globally even though a substantial percentage of the globe does not have surface temperature stations.

The obvious thing to conclude here is that while Britain’s lower temperature must have played some part in dragging global temperatures down in 2010, freak conditions such as the intense heatwave in Russia must have had the effect of dragging them up. So it’s a misnomer to conclude that ‘global’ temperatures have risen.  The UK is part of the globe and the temperature here has fallen.  Indeed in many places temperatures were lower and in others warmer.  But the impression given by the climate hysterics is a uniform increase the world over, which is nonsense.

Despite this we can expect more McCarthyesque idiocy in the media fuelled by the money grubbers at CRU and the Met Office as their fixation with CO2 blinds them to the more powerful drivers such as oceanic behaviour and solar influence.

Why DECC is running interference for the Met Office

Two days ago this blog published a post arguing that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is engaged a disgraceful manipulation of information about the Met Office winter forecast for 2010-11, for which the only possible purpose is to protect the Met Office from scrutiny for the fundamental failings in its seasonal forecasting.

While it will not be news to those who are well informed, the Met Office itself has kindly provided a clear ‘follow the money’ rationale for DECC’s spin and distortion in its Ministerial answers to questions from MPs about the winter forecast.  The rationale can be found in a Met Office news story about the wholly unsubstantiated claim by Dr Pardeep Pall at Oxford University that CO2 emissions contributed to the floods in Worcester in the autumn of 2000:

Developing the science
The Met Office Hadley Centre has been commissioned by DECC, Defra and DfID to work with international partners as part of the Attribution of Climate-related Events Group. The group is developing the science of attribution of extreme weather that will be needed to provide regular and scientifically robust assessments of how the odds of these phenomena are changing.

This demonstrates there is DECC credibility, money and resource at stake. It would explain why DECC is throwing a protective shield around the Met Office, rather than serving the public interest and addressing the failings of the department.  It all boils down to vested self interest.  Further, it shows the public cannot have confidence in government departments because their own narrow interests do not match our own.

This is a scandal. Or at least it would be if anyone was watching and the media had the integrity to report it.


>> The whole saga in posts from its beginning in December 2010 <<


DECC deliberately misleading MPs over Met Office forecast

Following on from this post about recent Parliamentary answers on the subject of the Met Office winter forecast for 2010-11, the very next day saw the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) at it again:

Nuance is one thing.  But constructing answers that distort the forecast advice from the Met Office is something else altogether. To say the information being shared in the answer by Gregory Barker on behalf of DECC is selective is an understatement.  The Parliamentary written answer supplied to Peter Lilley on 10th February deliberately excludes information the Met Office included in the forecast and thus distorts the context.

Let us just remind ourselves of the advice from the Cabinet Office to the rest of Whitehall, approved by the Met Office.  Note the elements of the forecast that have been omitted by DECC:

This is a disgraceful manipulation of the information, for which the only possible purpose is to protect the Met Office from scrutiny for the fundamental failings in its seasonal forecasting.  The Met Office did not forecast an extremely cold early winter.  While saying there was a 70% chance of an average or colder winter, it caveated this by saying there was a 60% chance of an average or warmer winter.

The summary clearly states there was ‘a slightly increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season’ – something DECC refuses to concede in its answers to MPs.  When a department is allowed to get away with deception of this type it is undermining the parliamentary process and perpetrating a fraud against the public.  It is outrageous.

Is Met Office trying to hide inconvenient temperature records?

On the excellent Watts Up With That blog, reader Steve Rosser writes:

…the UK Met Office website, it’s undergoing a refresh at the moment and the CET link seems to have been mysteriously cut.  It used to be readily accessible via the UK Climate summaries page, see below, however this link now redirects you to a global temperature page instead.

Thinking it may be a genuine mistake I e-mailed an enquiry and received a very polite response redirecting me to find it via the obscure link below.  It’s hard to argue that this location provides a sufficiently high profile for such an august dataset..

It may be that the original link will reinstated over the next few days in which case this is a non story.  However, it looks suspicously like they are taking the focus away from the CET as after 2010 it’s showing an embarrasing disinclination to follow the AGW orthodoxy (+0.4 deg C since 1780).  To do so would be a betrayal of their lack of impartiality which I’d personally find very disappointing.  It would also send a message that rather than face-up and make the case for 2010 being a rogue year for UK temperatures they’d rather brush the whole thing under the carpet. I hope I’m wrong.

Purely by coincidence (if you believe in that sort of thing) as Anthony Watts points out, this ‘presentation of the data’ as the Met Office would put it follows the Central England Temperature Record getting a lot of attention of late. Watts relays what Joe D’Aleo at ICECAP pointed out recently (emphasis his):

The Central England Temperature record is one of the longest continuous temperature record in the world extending back to the Little Ice age in 1659. December 2010 was the coldest December in 120 years with an average of -0.7C just short of the record of -0.8C recorded in December 1890 and the Second Coldest December Temperature in the entire record (352 years).

Given such actions, some people might conclude that the Met Office is deliberately pushing records that fit with a pre-determined agenda, rather than long standing records that put recorded temperature into its much wider context.  Decide for youself. Meanwhile we will watch to see if the link is restored to its original, less obscure place.

Is the Met Office becoming irrelevant?

A strange question perhaps, considering the considerable political influence the Met Office has within political circles when it comes to energy and climate policy.  But certainly one worth asking following a comment by Northern Ireland’s Regional Development Minister last month.

On the topic of burst water pipes and the seve supply problems affecting thousands of people in Northern Ireland over the Christmas period, the Belfast Telegraph reported on 19th January:

Forecasts of another seven years of the extreme winter that triggered the burst pipes crisis in Northern Ireland may force changes to how water is plumbed into homes, the regional development minister has warned.

Conor Murphy, facing questions from his Stormont scrutiny committee on the Christmas emergency, said some meteorologists believed the region had entered a weather cycle that would see successive deep freezes.

In the face of that, Mr Murphy said the Executive may have to look at changing building regulations to ensure that water pipes are buried deeper and insulated better.

What makes the comment interesting is this response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Autonomous Mind (using an alias), enquiring which Meterologists provided this advice and requesting a copy of the advice that was provided to the Minister enabling him to make his assertion.

The response from the NI Department for Regional Development (click to enlarge) is telling:

This shows that for all his multitude of failings, Conor Murphy is listening to what meteorologists other than the Met Office are saying about changes to our weather that contradict the Met Office line of ever increasing warming. Not only that, they are using what they have listened to in official evidence to government committees.

A very small example maybe, but marginalising the Met Office in this way – intentionally or otherwise – represents a visible crack in the climate consensus that has consistently told us mankind is changing the climate, making the world warmer and the result will be warmer and wetter winters.  The structures are weakening.

Departmental vested interest in helping Met Office?

In reviewing recent Parliamentary answers on the subject of the Met Office winter forecast for 2010-11, one discovers a very different tone and approach when comparing responses from different departments.

One the one hand we have answers from the Cabinet Office – to whom the forecast was provided and with whom the Met Office were in direct communication to ascertain and agree the accuracy of the briefing that was to be issued to government departments.  On the other hand we have answers from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which merely received the forecast from the Cabinet Office, but which shares the Met Office’s quasi-religious belief in the field of man made global warming.

Compare and contrast (click to enlarge screenshots):

13th January 2011 – Cabinet Office

20th January 2011 – DECC

27th January 2011 – Cabinet Office

27th January 2011 – DECC

Now, colour me sceptical, but given the significant difference in the tone of the answers and the demonstrable exaggeration of the forecast by the Department for Energy and Climate Change by excluding caveat information (such as the words ‘slightly increased risk’) , is this evidence of vested interests at work at DECC and an attempt to hold the line for the Met Office from inside Whitehall?

Also, one wonders what the Secretary of State for Defence (the MoD being the parent department of the Met Office) would think if he realised he and his officials were retailing a deception engineered by Met Office Chief Executive, John Hirst.  On 17th January 2011, former SAS troop commander and now a Minister at the MoD, Andrew Robathan, submitted this answer to a question about the infamous temperature probability map:

As this blog’s Freedom of Information request turned up, a recommendation was tabled by Hirst to rename the temperature probability forecasts and locate them in a different part of the department’s website in order to manage the presentation of these longer range forecasts.  The Minutes of the Met Office Board meeting on 26 January 2010 make it very clear.

What seems probable is that the government has the Met Office’s back, because the Met Office is producing computer models and warmist narrative that fits in with the government’s climate change policies.  As such, it seems for now that no amount of evidence and no number of Parliamentary questions, such as these and this are going to see the Met Office’s executive held to account for the department’s manifest failings.

Comparing apples with oranges

Joe Bastardi with a salient observation about temperature measurements that are not like for like and why the accuracy of the Met Office figures can be called into question.

So the UKMET number is based on the 30 year means ending in 1990. I understand why, because they will probably change in 2020 again. But now wait a minute and this is why I assumed they werent using that. About 2/3rds of that is measured one way, the other 3rd has to take into account satellite data. So my question is why not just use the 30 year means just ended, its all done with a better measuring stick. I actually assumed that is what they were doing. But since they are not, and the increase since the period they are using is about .2, then I guess their number would be .24 against the past 30 years. Mine is normal. there is still a big difference…. 2 decades worth of warming.

Read the whole thing here ‘Okay here is the deal‘ at the bottom of the page before it scrolls off…

Why our failing and biased media should concern us all

Yesterday on James Delingpole’s news blog I left a comment concerning the coverage of the Met Office’s actions and behaviour in the media. Or, more accurately, the lack of it.

In thanking Dellers for giving some ‘mainstream media’ visibility to what has been dug out by the blogosphere, I added the following:

The rest of the media is either asleep at the wheel, or doesn’t have the gumption to dig for the truth and report it. The public is being badly let down by complacent journalists who sit and wait for a press release to land in their inbox.

If a handful of bloggers can put this together in their spare time, why not a few professional full time journalists?

A written answer in the House of Commons yesterday, to a question about public involvement in the political process, led me to a survey finding that underlines why the media’s lack of attention to matters such as these – with their implications for public awareness, policy and public spending – should concern everyone.

Mark Harper’s response made reference to the Hansard Society’s 7th Annual Audit of Political Engagement, published last year, and the finding that there has been a big decline since the first Audit in 2004 (sic) in the perceived impact of the Westminster Parliament on people’s lives, compared to other institutions.

So what are the public’s most recent perceptions about the institutions perceived to have the greatest impact on people’s lives?  Harper had already alluded to the perceived lesser impact of Westminster, so where does the power now reside?

To understand the percentages, APE1 is the figure from December 2003, APE4 the figure from November 2006 and APE7 the most recent figure from November 2009.

It shows that of the available options (X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent are noticably absent) the media is perceived to have the greatest impact on people’s everyday lives.

Not, you notice, the bureaucrats and functionaries who make our laws, raise our taxes, meddle in our lives and oversee the ruination of our justice system, rather the lazy hacks who sit around waiting for press releases they can cut and paste as news copy and the TV reporters who throw softballs at the political class in what pass for searching interviews.  The irony is staggering considering the lack of trust many people have in journalists.

Given the BBC’s dominant position in news reporting in the UK and the fact its editorial line is lifted directly from the dismal Guardian, this finding is horrifying.  The naked bias in reporting on matters such as how we are governed and by whom, the economy, foreign affairs and climate change, does have an impact on those who rely exclusively on the mainstream media in shaping their view of the world.  It is profoundly worrying.

While tens of thousands of people have been visiting this blog over recent weeks, and hundreds of thousands more have visited other blogs to see facts presented that the media chooses not to relay to its audience, the fact remains citizen journalists are still grovelling in the weeds.  We can be concerned, we can tut and sigh, or we can redouble our efforts to reach a wider audience and present them with information the establishment (which very much includes the mainstream media) prefers to keep quiet about.

We are in a fight between perception and reality. To date, with the noble exception of James Delingpole, no one in the mainstream media has touched this story of Met Office lies and deception, despite it being presented to two national newspapers. Many millions of people are being fed the party line and are unaware of the serious questions raised about the integrity and competence of people we pay to work for us, not just on this subject but on all subjects.  It should concern us all.

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.

Roger Harrabin plays watch the birdie on WUWT

Over on the excellent Watts Up With That blog, Anthony Watts posts a response to an email he sent to Roger Harrabin.  Following the post here on this blog ‘The Met Office winter forecast lie is finally nailed’ Anthony contacted Harrabin to offer him ‘a chance to respond, to tell his side of the story’.

Harrabin has replied.  But if you were hoping he addresses the points raised about the Met Office forecast and Harrabin’s role in reporting about it, you would be disappointed.  As an exercise in fluff, puff and self aggrandisement it is a masterpiece.  As a number of commenters on WUWT have pointed out, Harrabin has employed a deflection strategy to take the discussion off somewhere else.  He is trying to make people watch the birdie.  Given a chance to rebut the points made here, Harrabin has demonstrated he has no come back.  As I said at the time, caught cold.

In fact Harrabin has used his response as an opportunity to raise the profile of his ‘Weather Test’ project.  A number of the commenters think it sounds like a very good idea to compare the forecasts of various forecasters against the actual weather conditions.

However it is unlikely they understand how the ‘Weather Test’ is put together and that they would have read my assessment of it posted here earlier this month.  So I am reposting it below for their interest.  It may provide readers with some food for thought…

(For those just catching up with the Met Office/Harrabin saga the whole story in links can be found here)


Can the BBC’s ‘Weather Test’ project be impartial?

It was interesting to read Roger Harrabin’s email comments to Dr Benny Peiser about John O’Sullivan’s recent artice in the Canada Free Press, covered here on this blog.

Harrabin’s email references a project he is running for BBC News called the Weather Test. As those of you who have heard about it will know, the aim is as Harrabin explains below:

This project will compare the long-term performance of several forecasters. It is being carried out in conjunction with the Royal Meteorological Society, the Royal Statistical Society and the Royal Astronomical Society.

A comparison of forecasters is not currently available, and indeed our steering group is having difficulty agreeing a protocol to compare different forecasters. But if (as we hope) it does go ahead it will be guided solely by journalistic and scientific curiosity.

OK. This sets out the official line about the aim of the project. But Harrabin appears to be selective in explaining the involvement of and relationships between parties who have not been mentioned above. More of that in a moment. Harrabin goes on to say of the Weather Test project in his email:

It is not influenced in any way by any corporate relationship between the corporate BBC and the MO [Met Office]. Once the project is underway it will have a life of its own, overseen by the royal societies, myself and a senior editor on the Today Programme. It will be judged statistically by Leeds University.

Again, interesting. Harrabin probably didn’t want to cover previously trodden ground, but there is no mention here of what Dr Benny Peiser describes as the ‘active involvement’ of the Met Office in the project. So as an aid to understanding, this is what Harrabin said of the Met Office’s involvement in the Weather Test on the Radio 4’s Today programme web site:

It was agreed that a forecaster could offer a deterministic forecast if he or she wanted – but this strategy would risk winning or losing everything by dumping all the tokens into one bin.

Then there’s the question of who would provide the verification data for the forecasts.

The independent Philip Eden had volunteered, and I liked this because Philip is regarded as genuinely independent.

But then others objected that the Met Office is the official provider of World Meteorological Organisation statistics and it would be ludicrous to reject their highly sophisticated statistics smoothed by computer models just because the Met Office forecasters were amongst the contestants in the Weather Test.

There are a few things worth noting from Harrabin’s two separate comments. First, with respect to Philip Eden. He is the former the Chief network weather presenter on BBC Radio 5 Live who is now Director of the Chilterns Observatory Trust. Some might question how independent he could have been considered as a result.

Second, it is incredible that the Met Office gets to act as competitor and judge in the same project when their forecasts are being compared, and that Harrabin specifically omits metion of the Met Office from his email.

Third, in a piece titled ‘Understanding Climate Change’ BBC Devon & Cornwall announced last week that:

The Met Office and Exeter University are to form a world class academic partnership to tackle the problems of climate change.

Along with two other British Universities they’ll try to understand the impact of extreme weather.

The other two universities, we learn from watching the video clip, are… Reading (former home of the Met Office’s Julia Slingo) and Leeds – the statistical judges of the Weather Test (mentioned in Harrabin’s email further above). We only need someone from Exeter added to the management of the project to complete the climate change advocate set. Surely Harrabin knows Leeds and the Met Office are partners, so how can Leeds continue to be involved?

So to sum up, we have a mutually supportive corporate relationship between the BBC (whose project the Weather Test is) and the Met Office, who act as both competitor and judge. We have the Met Office’s mutually supportive new world class academic partnership, which includes Leeds university who are part of the project management. We have the Met Office’s unofficial PR man from the BBC, Harrabin, leading the project. And that project leader has a sideline in speaking at or chairing meetings of climate change advocacy groups who share the Met Office stance on AGW.

In all honesty, can the BBC’s Weather Test to compare weather forecasters be considered independent or its results impartial when there are so many conflicts of interest behind the scenes involving the Met Office? Could you imagine any of these parties undermining their partner’s (the Met Office) forecasting reputation further if the outputs show other forecasters enjoy greater accuracy?

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.

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…

Met Office: ‘Not us, it was Harrabin’. But…

Writing in The Register this afternoon, Andrew Orlowski shares a quote received from the Met Office that appears to cut the legs from under BCC environment analyst Roger Harrabin’s claim that:

The truth is it [The Met Office] did suspect we were in for an exceptionally cold early winter, and told the Cabinet Office so in October. But we weren’t let in on the secret.

As pointed out by this blog and Katabasis last Friday, the forecast submitted to the Cabinet Office contained no such warning.  Orlowski explains:

The Met told us:

“The Met Office has never suggested that we warned cabinet office of an ‘exceptionally cold early winter’. The forecasts said that there was ‘an increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season’. The Met Office provided a forecast to the cabinet office that showed that there was an increased risk of an average or cold start to winter over an average or mild winter. This along with a verbal briefing and the text that highlighted a ‘increased risk of a cold start to the winter season’ all provided useful guidance to the cabinet office.”

What does this mean?  The Met Office appears to be suggesting that Harrabin embellished the Met Office forecast, in a way that gave cover to the department, on his own initiative and that the public was mislead with false information.  However the Met Office does not get away with it that easily.  Orlowski’s article also links back to a piece in the Daily Mail on 4th January where the paper quotes a spokeswoman from the Met Office was quoted as saying:

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

It is said that your lies will find you out.  The Met Office appears to be lurching from lie to lie.  The left hand does not know what the left hand is doing, or there is a concerted effort to create enough confusion to turn people off the story in frustration.  Roger Harrabin has been a friend to the Met Office, but it is hanging him out to dry.

What remains unexplained is the Met Office’s silence since 4th January.  If Harrabin made up the ‘exceptionally cold early winter’ quote why has it taken nearly a month for them to deny it?  Why wait until the FOI was finally made public by a blogger?  Something is very rotten in the upper echelons of the Met Office and John Hirst has a number of searching questions to answer.  It is clear we cannot have confidence in him.

Update: And by happy coincidence (yeah, as if) Roger Harrabin finally uses the BBC space to relay more of his thoughts about the forecast. My bullshitometer has gone off the scale reading this particular passage:

But the Met Office kept quietly doing the forecasts anyway. And they laid their winter prognosis on the government on 25 October.

Finally it’s come my way. The Met Office was forecasting a 40% chance of a cold start to the winter, with a 30% chance of a mild start, and a 30% chance of an average start.

This doesn’t match a more conclusive forecast I gleaned from a Met Office contact in December whilst researching an article for the Radio Times – though it does point in roughly the same direction.

It does no such thing.  He is still shilling for them.  It’s actually now amusing to see Harrabin trying to hold the line while the Met Office tries to put a continental sized distance between it and Harrabin’s reporting from his ‘deepthroat’ contact.  But it’s also interesting to note Harrabin’s determination to corral the government into this when he says:

The government was criticised in the media earlier this month for failing to publish the advice to ordinary folk planning their Christmas holidays. A spokesman for the Cabinet Office told me they had passed the forecast to key stakeholders (“Government departments, local council as appropriate – we don’t have a list”).

The forecast, he said, belonged to the Met Office – so it was up to the Met Office to decide who to share it with.

Something else worthy of note is this gem where Harrabin has spoken with a former BBC weather man, who he performs contortions to describe at every opportunity as ‘independent’.  What this forecaster says is doublespeak plus.  It is too funny for words (emphasis added):

I contacted the independent weatherman Philip Eden at the time and he said the Met Office online map had been mis-understood by journalists and bloggers reporting it.

He told me: “The Met Office are correct: it is not a forecast. It does not even indicate above average temperatures – rather, it suggests an above-average probability of above average temperatures. This would be only one of several outputs that they would consider in putting together a seasonal forecast”.

War is peace, ignorance is strength etc, etc.  The rats in the sack continue to scrabble around looking for a way out.  But Harrabin continues to show he is still ‘one of them’ as he faithfully relays the current Met Office meme, that they need more supercomputing power:

Well, the Quarmby report for the government into winter preparedness reveals that the Chief Scientist John Beddington “advises me that significant progress is being made by the Met Office in being able to make seasonal projections with more confidence, certainly up to one month and potentially up to three months in advance, and could be incorporated into operational forecasting by winter 2011/12, given sufficient computing resource.”

The spin, fiction and fantasy continues.

Rats in a sack

In an analysis of the Met Office and BBC’s role in the winter forecast fiasco, John O’Sullivan offers an interesting take on possible events behind the scenes:

A report by a top BBC environment journalist, Roger Harrabin, implied that the UK’s Coalition government might have blocked the so-called ‘secret cold winter’ forecast.  But is there more to this story than meets the eye and have dark forces in high places conspired to frame the veteran journalist?

The risk here is that heading off at a tangent into possible conspiracies and character assassination most foul diverts necessary focus from the taxpayer funded Met Office’s failure to issue a public forecast for the coldest early winter for more than 100 years.

For the millions of our tax pounds that are lavished on the Met Office we are entitled to something much better.  The fact is the Met Office claimed it warned of the extreme weather but the evidence now obtained shows it did not. Further it shows the quality and detail of the forecast is little better than what could be produced by examining chicken entrails.

The Met Office winter forecast lie is finally nailed

And heads must roll.

With compliments to Katabasis whose FOI request has been dealt with more quickly than mine… The information in the FOI response he has received today and written up in a detailed blog post goes into much more detail than Bishop Hill’s release from the Quarmby audit team.

A look at the information makes clear there is nowhere left for the Met Office to hide.  The Met Office has been caught ‘cold’ lying about its winter forecast in a disgraceful attempt to salvage its reputation.  Its claim that it forecast the cold start to the winter lays in tatters thanks to an exchange of emails between the department and the Cabinet Office.

As a result the Met Office is completely discredited.  Also utterly discredited is the BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin, who on the Met Office’s behalf used a column in the Radio Times (later carried in the Telegraph and the Daily Mail) to state that:

In October the forecaster privately warned the Government – with whom it has a contract – that Britain was likely to face an extremely cold winter.

It kept the prediction secret, however, after facing severe criticism over the accuracy of its long-term forecasts.

(My emphasis in bold italic above and below) Harrabin went on to say in his piece that:

Why didn’t the Met Office tell us that Greenland was about to swap weather with Godalming? The truth is it [The Met Office] did suspect we were in for an exceptionally cold early winter, and told the Cabinet Office so in October. But we weren’t let in on the secret. “The reason? The Met Office no longer publishes its seasonal forecasts because of the ridicule it suffered for predicting a barbecue summer in 2009 – the summer that campers floated around in their tents.

The email exchange in the screenshot below proves this is a lie. The Cabinet Office civil servant (bottom message) confirms the weather outlook supplied by the Met Office earlier that day is what the government will use in its ‘Forward Look’.  The Met Office employee (top message) agrees with it.

The all important sentence is the first.  ‘The Met Office seasonal outlook for the period November to January is showing no clear signals for the winter’.  The Met Office knew this was the case when it sent Harrabin scurrying off to spin its lie that the Met Office did suspect we were in for an exceptionally cold early winter, and told the Cabinet Office so in October‘.  The briefing to the Cabinet Office contains no such warning – and vindicates the parliamentary answer given by Francis Maude when questioned about the forecast the government received from the Met Office.

What is worse is that the Met Office knew this, yet with its claim tried to place responsibility for the lack of prepareness for an extremely cold start to the winter on government inaction.  Harrabin added to this by saying he had put in a FOI to the government (referenced in this post) to discover what they were told, the insinuation being it was the government that had something to hide.  This is very dangerous ground that leans towards the possibility of the Met Office and a BBC reporter engaging in a joint effort to undermine the government’s credibility.

This leads us to ask a serious question that must be answered: How is it possible that Roger Harrabin could claim the Met Office line he was retailing was the ‘truth’ with such certainty?

  • If Harrabin had seen the evidence and still spun his line then he has knowingly lied to the public
  • If he spun his line without seeing the evidence then he is utterly incompetent and the public can have no faith in the stories he broadcasts and publishes on the BBC

Either way Roger Harrabin’s position is now untenable and in addition to resigning he must make a full public apology.  As for the Met Office, the buck stops with the Chief Executive, John Hirst, who has looked on as this false narrative was constructed and insinuations were made to deflect criticism from his department, yet did nothing to correct it.

We now have the truth.  It is what many people have suspected since the story materialised.  It’s now time for those who are funded by taxpayers’ money and who engineered the deception, and those who allowed it to happen, to pay the price for their actions.  Over to the executive board of the Met Office and the trustees of the BBC…

>>  The story from the beginning as it developed  <<


Met Office and BBC – Winter 2010-11

The Met Office, the BBC, that winter forecast and how it and related stories involving the protagonists developed during the period: (in chronological order, oldest first. Check back as this post is updated as new related stories emerge).

Met Office accuracy review

Met Office: memory or honesty deficiency?

That Met Office global long range probability map

Met Office severe weather warning ignored in Northern Ireland

What supercomputers do Bastardi and Corbyn use?

Bastardi and Corbyn reply

BBC spins that Met Office got winter right, just kept it secret from public

Why issue them in the first place?

Met Office continues to hide inconvenient facts

Far from being the warmest year on record

Met Office spins itself deeper into the hole

Met Office: smokescreen, confusion or conspiracy?

What is Roger Harrabin doing?

BBC weather man tries to clear Met Office but digs deeper hole

Can the BBC’s ‘Weather Test’ project be impartial?

BBC’s biased reporting of Global Warming

Government vs Met Office forecast row heats up

That Met Office cold winter forecast revealed

NationalGrid – Not one of Met Office’s ‘intelligent’ customers?

Peter Sissons on the BBC’s climate change propaganda

BBC’s Richard Black resorts to spin and deception

There’s spin and there’s Met Office spin

The Met Office winter forecast lie is finally nailed

Met Office: ‘Not us, it was Harrabin’. But…

Harrabin the Untrustworthy

Met Office document shows it only renamed its seasonal forecasts

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

Roger Harrabin plays watch the birdie on WUWT

Government was concerned about mixed forecasts from Met Office

Departmental vested interest in helping Met Office?

Is the Met Office becoming irrelevant?

Is Met Office trying to hide inconvenient temperature records?

DECC deliberately misleading MPs over Met Office forecast

Why DECC is running interference for the Met Office

Last updated: 17th Feb 2011 @ 11:00am


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