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Discussion > What should replace the Met Office?

SandyS, nice list. But rather dated, coming from an age when a well educated gentleman might reasonably aspire to understanding all of the sciences. I think you'll find it is rather different now.

Why when someone has to be first in any new field be it Quarks, Bosons, Plate Tectonics or Climate Science? It's blind arrogance to think only trained experts have intelligence and skill to know it all.

I'll join MJ thanks.

Jan 20, 2013 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

BitBucket -

I have been convinced by what other posters have said that the government simply has no business conducting research in "climate science", so now I'd simply say close down the Met Office's climate research and don't replace it with anything.

But, to answer your points about my small research centre all the same, although I doubt that you'll find what I say convincing.

1. The book of bridge design.

Your analogy does not apply. Nobody believes that the book of bridge design is full of flaky assumptions, data doctored in undocumented ways, simulation results that have never been validated and unreliable information that, if followed would lead to bridges failing or collapsing whilst being built, so there is nothing for a chemist to rewrite.

But if I were marooned somewhere with a bridge to build, but no book of bridge design, I'd have confidence in a chemist doing the design from first principles - because of their maths and their ability to formulate physical problems, rather than because of their knowledge of concrete chemistry..

2. Would my team of 20 -30 come up with new stuff?

You may have not appreciated the significance of my words "... all with proven records of rigorous and original research in other fields..."

I have observed that people with a track record of solving hitherto unsolved or unformulated research problems in one branch of physical science can frequently bring new approaches to formulating and finding innovative solutions in other branches. I'd expect my team come up with rigorous and innovative approaches that were beyond the imagining of newly graduated PhD's from the UEA.

You said "You imagine they would (...) come to different conclusions".
(¿you do mind reading?)

To me it is evident that much of "climate science" today lacks the rigour normal in other branches of physical science and some of it should be assigned to the dustbin. Rigour would mean that my team would often conclude simply that no conclusions could be drawn. Where the existing stuff was ok, they'd conclude it was ok. Where the existing stuff turned out to be false, they'd come to different conclusions.

3. Would they start off by requesting to be indoctrinated by existing climate scientists?

You may have not appreciated the significance of my words "... re-do climate science rigorously from scratch, ring-fenced from what has gone before...."

This would rule out their starting off by "... getting some training from the people who do know climate science in universities".

Jan 20, 2013 at 7:11 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A


On chemists building bridges, I doubt you'd expect the chemist to get the bridge more than roughly functional, though. Just the same as I wouldn't expect an electrical engineer to get a system program right. He might write something that sort of works, it just wouldn't be very good.

On coming up with new stuff, you can expect "rigorous and innovative" approaches until the cows come home, but that doesn't make it happen. Do you have examples of the crossover artists you describe?

On indoctrination, they would, "... re-do climate science rigorously from scratch, ring-fenced from what has gone before...."; that is an interesting idea. Here's a vague list of the disciplines involved in the climate sciences (cribbed): Climatology, Meteorology, Atmospheric dynamics, Atmospheric physics, Atmospheric chemistry, Solar physics, Historical climatology, Geophysics, Geochemistry, Geology, Soil Science, Oceanography, Glaciology, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, Ecology, Synthetic biology, Biochemistry, Global change biology, Biogeography, Ecophysiology, Ecological genetics, not to mention Sadistics, Maths and Modelling. Now your neophytes are to be barred from knowing anything about these fields, except for the last few, and have to make it all up as they go along. Never mind: engineers to the rescue! Their detailed knowledge of nuclear physics will no doubt help them get to the bottom of how biological systems function once they manage to find some, and their knowledge of radioactive decay chains will be invaluable in radioisotope dating. With only a few dozen of them, they are going to have to take a climate science discipline each and with 50 years or so of modern research to censor, your "auditors" are going to have their work cut out... And woe betide them if they get the "wrong" answers.

One thing I think is clear: your reputation for having no sense of humour is truly repudiated.

Jan 21, 2013 at 2:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Sadistics???? Is that a university subject now?

Jan 21, 2013 at 8:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger


Jan 21, 2013 at 12:13 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

"Just the same as I wouldn't expect an electrical engineer to get a system program right. He might write something that sort of works, it just wouldn't be very good."

Dunno. Years back, I was sitting in a plane (probably a Boeing 737, though I'm not sure)rolling towards the take off runway, with a colleague JB, an electrical engineer, beside me. He said "Martin, you see that engine? I wrote the software that's controlling it".

Jan 21, 2013 at 12:25 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin, in my first job post-graduation, my first task was to design a high (now low) speed bus interface. I had studied digital design and knew enough to do the design, using interface buffers and programmable logic. At various stages, I thought it was done, but my supervisor knew better and made me re-do many things, draw it properly and of course prove that it worked. I then spent more weeks improving the design with his input, drawing worst-case timing diagrams (pencil and paper, pre-PC) to show that it worked and eventually completed the design. When it was built it worked and I was proud of "my design".

The point of the story, if it is not obvious, is that although JB might have written that software, he didn't do it in a vacuum. If Boeing know what they are doing, and I'm sure they do, they have supervisors who guide neophytes and QA departments that are awfully careful with safety critical code.

But your dirty-double-dozen would be expressly forbidden from any such mentoring and their results would be similar to mine before my supervisor made me do it properly.

Jan 21, 2013 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Once again, bitty, you as a neophyte designer had to work iteratively to get a design right because your training alone didn't equip you fully, but, hundreds of new entrants to the world of climate science every year should easily be able to prick massive holes in the science. And the fact they don't, proves that climate science is fully settled?

Jan 22, 2013 at 2:31 AM | Registered Commentershub

"...hundreds of new entrants to the world of climate science every year should easily be able to prick massive holes in the science" ... Er, did I say that?

Here's what I think you are referring to: "...If the science is so wrong that 20 or 30 new hands can demolish it, then why hasn't that already happened? There must be hundreds of clever people entering the field each year ..." In other words, it doesn't happen with current new grads and it probably wouldn't happen with Matin's nuclear strike force. Whether mentored new-grads are more likely to burst the balloon than the strike force's loose cannons we can speculate over all day. But preferably not.

"And the fact they don't, proves that climate science is fully settled?" Did I say that? I think you must have been talking to someone else.

Jan 22, 2013 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Screw it mate. I know what you said and you know what you said. No time to waste playing word-games with you

There is a clear precedent of expert outsiders making significant contributions to fields that are not their own. In biology, one can see the ideas of Dyson, Gold, and Schrodinger, for instance, and the list is long. The larger point Martin's making is that paradigm generation itself is infected with green-ism and corrupted, to whatever extent, in this field.

Jan 22, 2013 at 6:03 PM | Registered Commentershub

Keep a lid on it please gentlemen.

Jan 22, 2013 at 6:28 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

So what should replace the Met Office?

Nothing, they just need to secure independent funding, get rid of a few zealots, and then they can lead the rennaissance back to scientific sanity.

The trouble with threads implicitly calling for the destruction of our enemies is that it just hardens them in the fight, fearful of the barbarians overrunning the walls. We should be softening them, and we get back to truth more quickly.

Jan 23, 2013 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

TBYJ: Normally I'd agree with you, but in reality the levels of activism at the Met Office have attracted my attention to them, to the extent that they have framed all their weather forecasts for at least the last six years in terms of AGW. They have also used their position as a national weather forecaster to make pronouncements emphasising the effects of global warming on past weather events that are manifestly untrue, and moreover don't appear in any of the IPCC predictions. In other words they're just making things up from a position of authority and have betrayed the trust of the British people. At the end of every year whether warm and dry, cold and dry, warm and wet, cold an wet, they have pronounced that the weather was a result of global warming.

They also hid the hiatus from the British people by announcing the years in terms of their position as the hottest on record rather than the relationship with the previous year. They forecast a dry 11 months for 2012 and one wet month, January, which was at around 50% of the average rainfall, while the other 11 months had less educated people than ourselves building arcs and assembling animals of both sexes to save the world. At the end of this debacle the Chief Scientist, Julia Slingo (known mostly for the petition she organised in support of the CRU at taxpayers' expense) had the chutzpah to tell us that the wetter weather was caused by global warming and we could expect it in the future. Why didn't the Met Office "expect" it then.

I have discovered other, less ideological, weather forecasters, who make better and less ideological weather forecasts, try's 10 day forecasts they, to my experience at least, knock spots off the Met Office. It's past its sell by date and the activists have just brought it to the attention of the people who are watching. It could go and we wouldn't miss it.

Jan 23, 2013 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

But what's more likely to happen?

1. The govt will take this blog's advice and shut down the Met Office, sacking all staff and distancing itself from all their predictions.

2. Over time, the Met Office backtracks and changes its position until it's more in line with actual science. It will still mouth propaganda on the way. Everyone saves face (and pension)

I'm not asking what is needed, or what is justified or deserved. Just what is more likely.
So which one should be be working towards? What are the consequences of trying the
first and failing? (entrenched positions, fighting to the death, dirty tactics, lengthy campaign)

Jan 23, 2013 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Problem with government offices as opposed to private enterprise is that although there are empire builders in both organisations, in a private profit making organisation eventually someone will make a name for themselves by getting rid of departments and people making the leaner fitter organisation.

In government/Civil Service this seems impossible, even that famous cost cutter and Lord Weinstock protégée Peter Gershon couldn't do it. The only solution in my view is privatisation and quickly, the market where profit and lives depend on accurate forecasts will soon sort the wheat from the chaff.

Jan 23, 2013 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS


I'd certainly agree that the govt is not going to pay even the slightest attention to anything discussed on BH. To think otherwise borders on harbouring delusions of grandeur.

But equally, I can't see that the Met Office, on the point of announcing that the newest findings suggest that climate change is not the danger once thought, is suddenly going to put everything on hold, and dig itself into an entrenched position with no holds barred, because of what had been said on BH.

However, I do think there is merit in debating what is the ideal replacement for the current situation, even if the chance of that coming about is minimal.

So I'd go for saying what we think, irrespective of what we might imagine the govt's (or the Met Office's) reaction might be (in the unlikely event of their noticing what is said here).

Jan 23, 2013 at 9:20 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

In which case I'd say that the Met Office should concern itself with weather predictions for the next few weeks, up to about 6 months. It has no business in climate science.

Jan 23, 2013 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

TBYJ: Now I'm coming to the defence of the Met Office, while I agree they shouldn't be doing research of any sort let's make it clear that they never asked for this job it was foisted on them by the government. There are good people in the Met Office, my view is that it has been hi-jacked by activist scientists, who apparently can't do statistical analysis of time series, and who want to push a left wing, environmentalist agenda, and indeed are pushing a left-wing environmentalist agenda. The other thing that has become obvioius to me is that the agenda is all, and apart from when they are pushed into a corner the senior managment couldn't give a FF about weather forecasting.

Jan 24, 2013 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Replace or reorganise, doesn't matter which, with a small organisation of weather forecasters whose remit is to produce weather forecasts as accurately as possible tailored for the various end users e.g. agriculture, aviation, maritime etc. and disseminate them to those end users free at point of use, because accurate weather information is a positive contributor to safety.

The organisation should NOT be concerned with AGW, modelling, "impacts", "hottest ever" etc. records and the like.

There should be no need for supercomputers, forecasts to be produced by informed interpretation of observed weather patterns. Infrastructure spending should be concentrated on a network of high quality weather stations to inform the forecasters.

Jan 24, 2013 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

In the spirit of this thread, I would suggest that the Met Office should concentrate on weather forecasting (up to 2 weeks maximum) and conduct experimental research (no more than 10% of their budget) to try to forecast the position of the jet stream in the coming months.

"Climate science" should only be carried out at universities, as non-political, academic reserach.

Jan 24, 2013 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

...Now I'm coming to the defence of the Met Office, while I agree they shouldn't be doing research of any sort let's make it clear that they never asked for this job it was foisted on them by the government. (...)
Jan 24, 2013 at 4:25 PM geronimo

Hold on. Hold on.

My understanding is:

- John Houghton was Director General of the Met Office from 1983 - 91.

- He was a fervent believer that CO² will cook the planet.

- He played a key role in the IPCC, leading the creation of its first three reports

- He convinced Mrs Thatcher that global warming was a serious danger, so that, around 1990 the Met Office Hadley Centre was set up "To use models to predict climate change (...)" etc

So far as I can see, the Met Office's top management played a key and central role in the creation of the Great CAGW Mass Delusion.

Far from "not asking for this job", the Met Office engineered its creation and then executed it with fervent enthusiasm.

Jan 24, 2013 at 6:48 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I'd replace the Met office with one of these...

One off cost of £20 and more reliable.

Jan 25, 2013 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial

What should replace the Met Office?

I could probably rustle up a nice bit of seaweed.

Jan 25, 2013 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Actually, it would be good if it did what it says on the tin.

A Meteorological Office, as in an office full of Meteorologists issuing weather forecasts.

No modellers, climatologists etc.

Jan 29, 2013 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW