British government weather service, after major flops, stops predicting seasonal weather

It is not just that Britain’s top weather experts at the Met Office, which does “weather and climate change forecasts for the UK and worldwide,” cannot predict weather trends over centuries or decades. It’s that they can’t predict them for a single year, or even a season.

Predicting the weather a week in advance, they can handle. Predicting it a day in advance, they’re pretty darned good at.

Saturday, Mar 06 2010 3AM 2°C 6AM 2°C 5-Day Forecast
After those “BBQ summer” and “mild winter” fiascos the Met Office admits defeat and cancels seasonal forecasts

By David Derbyshire 06th March 2010

Not since Michael Fish scotched reports of a hurricane more than two decades ago have the weather forecasters seemed to get it so wrong.

Last year’s predictions of a “barbecue summer” and mild winter left them feeling decidedly under the weather.

Yesterday the embarrassed forecasters announced their own solution. They have dropped their long-term seasonal forecasts and will instead publish a monthly prediction for Britain, updated once a week.

The climbdown follows a series of major gaffes.

The Met Office was ridiculed for claiming the UK was “odds on for a barbecue summer.” [LA replies: and if it had been a barbeque-hot summer, you can bet that the Met Office would have touted this as proof of global warming.]

In April last year the agency said it was “quite optimistic” temperatures would be warmer and drier than average. Although indeed warmer, July and August were also a washout.

The Met Office also made a disastrous prediction for winter—claiming there was just a one in seven chance of a cold December to February.

It turned out to be the coldest and snowiest winter in three decades.


Here comes the sun: Daffodils in Cornwall finally flourishing after the cold winter

Last week the agency came under fire for handing out bonuses worth 12 million pounds in the past five years to its 1,800 staff—including a £40,000 bonus to its chief executive last year.

The Met Office insisted yesterday that its short-term forecasts for five- day periods are “extremely accurate” and envied the world over.

However, any forecasts beyond five days are notoriously difficult to get right in Britain, which has some of the world’s most unpredictable and changeable weather, it added.

Spokesman Barry Gromett explained September’s winter forecast would be the last of its kind. “We are dropping seasonal forecasts for the UK,” he added.

“Based on the summer 2009 and winter forecast this year, the public are quite clear they’d rather have something a little more detailed over a shorter time scale. The long-range three-monthly forecasts will still be available for energy companies, commodity dealers and insurance industry.

“But we will put them on the science pages of our website and they will be rolling forecasts, updated each week, rather than seasonal forecasts.”

The Met Office’s long-term forecasts rely on the same 33 million pound computer that predicts the next day’s weather and the climate in decades to come.

The agency insists its 24-hour forecasts are 85 per cent accurate.

However, in previous seasonal forecasts it has stressed that the predictions are intended for businesses, such as insurers and energy traders, which need to plan ahead—not members of the public who simply want to arrange holidays.

In a statement, the Met Office said: “We take seriously our responsibility to provide the best possible service to the public.

Snow winter

Mild winter: It turned out to be the coldest in 30 years in spite of predictions

“Although long-range forecasts are vital in some parts of the world, we know that they are of limited use to the public.” [LA replies: hmm, why did they push long range forecasts then? Could it have had something to do with the thrill and fashion of the global warming craze?]

Last month it emerged the Met Office may be dropped by the BBC after nearly 90 years following complaints about its forecasts.

The agency’s contract comes up for renewal next month.

Meanwhile, Britain is poised to enjoy one of the most spectacular springs in 31 years, experts say.

The harsh frosts and chilly winds of the past few weeks are paving the way to a stunning season of blossom and flowers, according to the Royal Horticultural Society.

The wet autumn has apparently allowed flower and fruit tree buds to swell to a gigantic size.

[end of Mail article]


Note: The Met Office is an agency of the British government

What we do

As weather and climate experts we:

* predict the weather for tomorrow, next week, next season and beyond;

* are a significant contributor to the global understanding of climate change;

* are leading researchers of weather science …

Looks as though they’d better update their website, since they no longer do that stuff.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 06, 2010 01:57 PM | Send

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