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« Privatising the state | Main | A response from Prof Hardaker »

Met Office forecasts

September 2008:The Met Office forecast for the coming winter suggests it is, once again, likely to be milder than average. It is also likely that the coming winter will be drier than last year.

January:2009:Severe weather warnings have been issued as temperatures in the UK dipped as low as -11C (12.2F) overnight.

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Reader Comments (14)

Quel surprise. Not a peep on the BBC about it either. It must be 8 or 900 days since temperatures in London last hit 30C & yet no-one in the Met office seems to notice that we are cooling. There must be an epidemic of cognitive dissonance going on inside the Bracknell bunker.
Jan 6, 2009 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterSebastian Weetabix
Isn't that the Horoscope section?
Jan 6, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterHoi Polloi
I keep saying it every time a MET office story comes up. The govt are currently trying to sell the MET office. Who in their right [snip] mind would want it? I suppose they have a big supercomputer which is worth a few quid, but [snip] ME THEY ARE USELESS AT PREDICTING ANYTHING.

[Tone it down a little please]
Jan 6, 2009 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterZorro
They are still insisting that once we are over this "to be expected” and “nothing out of the ordinary” cold spell the winter will be well above the long term average. They are becoming a laughing stock, and their own stock is falling as fast as their current owners stock is falling. Funny that.

Its one thing to lose the confidence of the informed, but the government and MO have managed to lose the confidence amongst the greater un-informed public which puts them on very shaky ground.
Jan 6, 2009 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeterMG
What amuses me about this, is typified by this Times piece about the recent cold snap. The MO are indirectly quoted as saying:

“And the Met Office still stands by its long-range forecast of a milder end to the winter. “

They can’t lose if at some arbitrary period at the end of winter we have couple of weeks warm weather :)

I seem to remember them saying something similar after the early December cold snap. They are using the same open ended predictive technique of the stage psychic, I am often amazed that a little more critical scrutiny isn’t applied to them by the media. I guess the MO feel safe in that occupy the unquestionable ‘moral’ high ground.
Jan 6, 2009 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve
This seems relevant:

Piers Corbyn is a bit Barnum & Bailey for me, but his opinions make interesting reading, and I'd back him over the Met Office any day.

IIRC, the MO insisted (rather tetchily) some years ago that long-range forecasting wasn't possible, so they rather burned their boats there!
Jan 6, 2009 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P
Yes, I share your feelings about Corbyn. Looks a bit `smoke and mirrors' to me, although I can't say I've examined his work closely.
Jan 6, 2009 at 6:44 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
The current weather also presents an interesting challenge to proponents of wind-power. Jeremy Paxman just asked Mike O'Brien how much power is currently being produced by renewables (assuming in standard BBC-style that renewables would deliver power on demand regardless of conditions), to which O'Brien answered truthfully "very little".

Even that is an exaggeration for wind at this precise moment. Just when our needs are greatest, because of the cold weather, our output of wind-power must be less than "very little", because of the same high-pressure system that has caused the cold weather.

Wind-fans argue that if we had better networks, the wind will always be blowing somewhere. But it would need to be a big network, with massive redundancy, in conditions like this. The UK is not remotely big enough. Western Europe wouldn't be big enough. In these conditions, we would need a network that stretched from Scotland to Greece and from Spain to Estonia, to achieve reasonable smoothing through geographical diversity. It would need to be a completely new, DC network because of the losses on AC over that distance. It would need massive duplication of wind capacity over that network. The cost would be immense. And the geopolitical insecurities huge. Hardly an answer to our energy-security problems.

The reality is that wind-power cannot serve much more than the 20% of our electricity demand (7% of our energy demands) that always used to be assumed (before the Renewable Energy Directive made it necessary to lie), and needs standby thermal generation capacity equal to almost the whole of the wind capacity. Like a pan-European HVDC network, keeping those power-stations available but idle won't be cheap.
Jan 6, 2009 at 11:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruno Prior
My boyfriend worked there and more than just the weather forecasts are a joke. I don`t have time to go into detail but the wasted money and poor returns to the taxpayer are some things. They made fun of the Corbyn fella but at the same time admitted to spending time and money to follow his work......just in case. The HR team were a joke also. Right now there is someone working there as a consultant who nearly got a job there in the past but when he applied for the position recently when the job was readvertised, they said that they had changed the criteria they employ people based on and he didn`t meet the criteria this time but he did in the past. They never employed anyone else for the job either, so what did they do? The same person they turned down they offered a long term contract to, paying him more than three times more to do the job than they would of paid him if they employed him permanently. Yet this person is deemed to be not someone they want to employ, yet he`s been there for nearly a year already doing a similar job before they interviewied him. He`ll now be there for another year on contract making it two years yet they don`t want to employee him as he isn`t supposedly 'good enough for them' yet they offer a long contract and state that they like his work. What a load of BS and wasted money, if he does two full years there, he`s earnedabout 6 years of the permament job salary they would of had to pay him. He`s happy of course. The HR team make it hard for potential employees yet when they do offer a job, they also insult people also as my boyfriend was offered a job that they knew he was perfect for, but insulted him when it came to the offers - offering much less than he stated very clearly he would work for. When the job offer didn`t work out, they readvertised the same job offering £5000 more than my boyfriend was asking yet they made him FOUR insulting offers before he had to tell his managers 'you`re about to lose me over HR incompentence'.
Sorry if this is a little off topic but it 'met office joke' related 8-). If recruitment poor, it`s no wonder the forecasts can be rubbish although that is based on hokery pokery anyway. The met office act as a trading fund so have the benefits of the civil service plus extra money sloshing around due to selling their services. Other more crucial Ciivil Services don`t have the same money to access so their poor employees have a harder time of it.
Jan 7, 2009 at 12:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

How nice to hear from you again! Any sign of a return to blogging?
Jan 7, 2009 at 7:06 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
I recently read a report from New Zealand written by the Manager running one of the big wind farms. I can not get the link back so maybe it was removed, but from memory the gist was this after 6 months operation.

The farm has not produced more than about 90% installed capacity, and only produced over 80% for about 10% of the time. It only gets to 60% about 40% of the time and is below 20% for about 15% of the time.

The capital outlay is twice that of Geothermal Station, which can then run at 100% of installed capacity. There were other conclusions but I think you can all guess what they were.

Now I am a New Zealander so I know how windy it is there, not too dissimilar overall to the UK, so if they can not make it viable, there is no hope here where the population is greater, and the need greater still.
Jan 7, 2009 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeterMG
Readers may wish to note that the 2008 weblog awards are being voted on at the moment. The Best Science Blog looks like a close run thing between Pharyngula (anti Intelligent Design)and What's Up With That (anti Global Warming).

If past years are any guide, the pro Global Warming fraternity will be voting heavily for Pharyngula to try to stop an anti-Global Warming site from winning. You may wish to view or vote for any of your choices at:
Jan 7, 2009 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer
BH, I am trying hard to resist the urge, because I can't afford the time, but it's hard to resist, with so many fools spouting so much nonsense at the moment. Even more than usual, in my impression. I ought to leave it up to you, Tim Worstall, Wat Tyler & co, but sometimes you really feel like you need to vent spleen, don't you?

PeterMG, for availability figures for renewable-electricity projects in the UK, see the excellent reports prepared for the Renewable Energy Foundation at

One of my favourites is that usually-stationary sculpture beside the M25 near Kings Langley. It is at the head office of RES, one of the largest developers of wind farms in the world. And it achieves a magnificent 8% load factor (see p.199 of REF's wind report).
Jan 7, 2009 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruno Prior
Bruno excellent link, boy am I going to have some fun with this. Wind power is even worse than I thought
Jan 8, 2009 at 11:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeterMG

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