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Discussion > Questions to suggest to Lord Donoughue

What's the best way to bring out that the Met Office's climate predictions were/are worse than worthless then?

Jun 7, 2013 at 6:21 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin, that the predictions were worthless is already proven and well known to the public. The people who planned for a barbeque summer, those that planted xerophytic gardens that rotted in the wet, and those that have just shivered through the coldest spring for over 300 years already know that.

Being a danged furriner, I don't know enough to understand what your objective is. I can only suggest that you try to focus the questions on something more specific than proving that the Met Office's predictions over the last few years have been worse than if they had just tossed a coin - although, that might be an angle worth examining.

Jun 7, 2013 at 11:07 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

I don't think the uselessness of their predicitons on climate change had got through to other than a tiny minority of parliamentarians.

The Met Office has said (can't find the ref at the moment) that their climate predictions are far more reliable than their long-term weather forecasts, so soaked-out barbeque summers and sub-zero mild winters in no way invalidate their climate predictions.

The Met Office's ongoing advice to the govt is the AGW is real and CO2 emissions reduction is needed to reduce its impact.

On its models, the MO says:

Are the computer models reliable?
Computer models are an essential tool
in understanding how the climate will
respond to changes in greenhouse gas
concentrations, and other external effects,
such as solar output and volcanoes.
Computer models are the only reliable
way to predict changes in climate.

(my underlining)

My objective would be to make apparent the uselessness of the MO's climate model predictions - prediction of rapid and ongoing warming (in, say, 1997) of xx°C per decade which in fact has turned out to be 0°C per decade.

Jun 8, 2013 at 1:15 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin, in that case it might be better to focus on their projections, and ask why we should believe them. Most likely they will say that they are now relying on new and better information (thanks to their supercomputer).

Unless you have very specific technical information, my instinct is that there is no mouse in that hole.

Jun 8, 2013 at 1:26 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

From memory, we should believe them because:

- Models are programmed to emulate the physical principles of the climate system.

- They are tested every day when the weather forecast is made.

- They successfully reproduce past climate change.

- Vicky Pope published a paper on how the Met Office models are validated.

- When simulation of CO2 effects is switched off, the models do not reproduce past climate. When CO2 simulation is switched on, they do.

- The models run on a 100 squillion megaflop supercomputer (and are programmed in Fortran).

- There is a consensus of climate scientists that models provide reliable projections.

- Although the MO is useless at predicting next month's weather, predicting climate is accurate because we are dealing with expected values/averages.

- The Met Office models agree with climate models programmed elsewhere, which confirms the validity of the MO models.

OK - I'll try to think of some other line of questioning that would make sense.

Jun 8, 2013 at 9:15 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Let me repeat here a comment just made on the current blog thread:

I hope some day there will be serious attempts made to estimate the losses caused to society by official climate forecasts. The embarrassment of forecasting mild winters and BBQ summers quickly followed by something like the opposite of each seems to have led to the production of less specific guidance, but what of the projections for the UK for years ahead being used, presumably, by central planners everywhere? An initial assessment of the forecasting skill of the Met Office climate guidance would also seem to be in order. As a first step, every effort needs to be made to capture all their forecasts/guidance/projections in a secure way. Some are public, some are 'on the record', some may be private for government or others.

------------------ end of repeat-------

So, one line of questioning might be on how to obtain and secure these forecasts etc. Another is to find independent auditors of them.

A third line of questioning which might be worth exploring is to try to establish the extent of research into climate factors other than rising CO2 levels so that this may be compared with the resources devoted to pursuing the 'additional CO2 will be an important driver of climate' hypothesis.

I am sorry I have not had time to sharpen any of these fairly vague ideas up. I have less time than usual to devote to this, but perhaps others might find a hint of merit in them and develop something more penetrating.

The MO sees itself, and is recognised by many, as a leading world authority on climate, and so the defence of 'that's just how it seemed to us as the time', or 'best/widely used practice/presumptions led to ..' will always be ready as responses. The really sharp questions will be like Keenan's and be able to show that standard, existing, widely available, knowledge or practice would have led to different results or assertions. In other words, indicate either accidental or wilful incompetence wherever such alternative or conflicting analysis options have been ignored or downplayed without good cause.

The evangelical fervour of Sir John Houghton and the track record of Robert Napier at the WWF both suggest to me the possibility of a gross imbalance with regard to the weight given to CO2 and the possibility that increasing levels of it in the air could be an important, even dominant driver of the climate system. A system which as far as I can see is behaving just as it might if the additional CO2 was of very minor import - just as Richard Lindzen for example has long maintained it would be.

Jun 8, 2013 at 10:14 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Martin A
A look at the Spencer paper's graph will fairly quickly demonstrate the extent to which models accord with reality.
I doubt that there is anything to be gained by challenging the Met Office via a PQ since Richard Betts has already told us that none of it matters as long as the actual figure stays inside the error bands. (At least I took that to be the gist.)
Of course once the figure strays outside the error bands ...

Jun 8, 2013 at 7:25 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Jun 8, 2013 at 7:25 PM Mike Jackson

Yes, agreed. I'd already composed the following, pointing to Spencer's graph, but then it was time to eat.

The MO may have said that, since reality is still within the model's error bounds, then the model is fine.

But I still think there is value in making the difference between predictions and reality known to parliamentarians who, I imagine, are pretty much oblivious of the discrepancy. The Met Office's claim to be able to correctly predict future climate by the use of their models is, to a large part, the foundation of the AGW delusion in the UK.



Jun 8, 2013 at 10:14 AM John Shade

This is the sort of thing that, to me, is pretty clear evidence that "climate science" is an exercise in groupthink where the beliefs of the group weigh far more heavily than observation and evidence.

models vs. measurement


Houghton, Napier, Slingo, Pope, et al, though guilty of initiating and then fomenting the biggest mass delusion in the history of the World, are also in a sense its victims.

They were all selected for their belief in the CO2 demon and their willingness to subvert science in producing "evidence" for AGW. Of course, they were/are all utterly sincere in their belief that, as Prof Phil Jones said, they are "doing good science".

It would have been astounding had any of them called a halt and insisted that the whole thing should be put on a basis supported by observation and measurement - in effect asking the questions posed by an Oxfordshire housewife:

I think you are probably right about CO2. The whole edifice of climate modelling seems to be based on guesswork about the effect of water vapour on the greenhouse effect, together with an assumption that CO2 is in some way the top dog, with other effects being "feedbacks" responding to CO2. Yet, so far as I can see, it could be argued almost in the other direction. Observational evidence either way seems to be lacking.

Jun 8, 2013 at 9:10 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Observational evidence either way seems to be lacking.
That may be another angle of course.
"What empirical evidence is there that ...?"
Question I've been asking for more than a decade.

Jun 9, 2013 at 6:04 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

A congressman in the States is claiming his government spends 30 times more on climate than on weather forecasting. It does seem a bit back to front to me. A modest expenditure on climate forecasting would seem in order, perhaps one hundredth of the weather forecasting budget at most. Using up valuable computer time to run GCMs for tens of years ahead would become a rare event, perhaps held every ten years or so during the summer months just in case of the unlikely event that someone somewhere had made appreciable progress with something other than merely pampering the models to stop them being politically embarrassing by projecting BBQ summers and rising temperatures and mild winters and tropospheric hotspots over the shorter term (when, gulp, comparison with observations is possible).

Link to the report on the congressman is here.
(h/t Climate Depot)

Jun 13, 2013 at 9:52 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

This open letter to Davey penned by Paul Homewood contains references the MO which may be of use to Lord Donoughue: Open Letter


It is also a fact that nearly every climate model has grossly overestimated global temperatures over the last two decades or so. There are many examples I could give, going back to James Hansen’s predictions in the 1980’s, but let’s look at a couple closer to home, produced by the Met Office, who you praise for their excellence.

In 2004, Vicky Pope told us that global temperatures would be 0.3C warmer within 10 years. Reality? Temperatures are actually lower.

The Met Office has done much work analysing how the UK would be affected by climate change, and this work has been fed into government planning, via, for instance, DEFRA’s Climate Change Risk Assessment Report or the UK Climate Impacts Programme.

Not only have most of the Met’s predictions failed to materialise, but in many cases the opposite has occurred, e.g.

a) Winters have been drier, not wetter as predicted.

b) Summers have been wetter, not drier as predicted.

c) Heatwaves have become much less frequent, and summer temperatures have been declining in recent years, in total contrast to projections.

d) Similarly, annual temperatures are in decline. CET has been steadily dropping for the last decade, and is now well below the 1981-2010 average.

Jun 13, 2013 at 1:30 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Is the Met Office collaborating with EDF in campaigns to promote political viewpoints about such as 'sustainability' by using the Met Office's well deserved reputation for good work on weather as a trojan horse to effect entry into schools on climate? If so, is this not of grave concern given that political indoctrination in schools is illegal under the Education Acts?

Links (h/t Ruth Dixon, commenting here)

Jun 13, 2013 at 3:52 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

@John Shade of 1:30 PM 13/6/13

In the theme of "statistical significance" I would propose asking the team to estimate the likelihood that 11 of 12 UK Met Office annual predictions of winter temperatures would all be off in the same direction and would they then compare that estimate to the likelihood of throwing 11 "heads" of 12 tosses of a fair coin? ( or words to that effect)

A fair coin repeatedly tossed will, once in a while, give a long run of heads. There is some predicable likelihood of such a run. But shouldn't the Met office be able to "back cast" their pre-1990, pre-CAGW, accuracy to determine their historical accuracy? Then estimate the odds that they'd be wrong and compare that to the odd of the coin? Because naively I'd assume that Met Office predictions are BETTER than half likely, and a run of 11/12 is LESS likely in winter weather forecasts than a run of 11/12 in coin tosses. But I'd very much like to have my naive notions corrected by my statistically and meteorologically more educated civil servants.

Jun 15, 2013 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterPouncer

I agree, Pouncer. That would be worth pursuing, if only to force civil servants to do the required computations.

The 12 Reasons Why the Met Office is Alarmed should also be assessed for the harm they have each caused to society. It may be that a question could be formulated to request an assessment of at least some of the tangible losses that could reasonably be attributed to these seriously wrong forecasts.

Jun 15, 2013 at 1:40 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Jun 15, 2013 at 1:21 PM Pouncer

Jun 15, 2013 at 1:40 PM John Shade

There can be no doubt that the run of "barbecue winter" forecasts is systematic and not just a bit of bad luck.

The MO's Chief Scientist has said several times that the Met Office's climate models are tested every time they make a weather forecast, because essentially the same model is used for both purposes (interesting, in view of the "weather is not climate" slogan often quoted by True Believers).

The climate models have been "parameterised" to represent physical effects that are not well enough understood to be modelled by simulating the physical effect via its partial differential equations. Probably the most important of these effects is the interaction of water vapour with other atmospheric variables. Climate modellers have assumed that there are significant positive feedback effects at work, by which water vapour magnifies the otherwise limited warming due to CO2 increases.

The discrepancy between the predictions of general circulation models and reality is now apparent for all to see, with predictions of continued global warming having failed to materialise.

If the same models are used for predicting weather as are used for predicting climate, then it would be quite surprising if they did not make systematic "warmer than the reality" errors.

Questions about the Met Office predicting milder-then-normal weather, should (I believe) be linked in to exposing how their predictions of global climate warming have not materialised. Make the uselessness of their models apparent and the whole of their selling of the AGW scam should, in principle, fall apart since, in the MO's own words, it is all based on their models.


Are computer models reliable?
Yes. Computer models are an essential tool in understanding how the climate will respond to changes in greenhouse gas concentrations, and other external effects, such as solar output and volcanoes. Computer models are the only reliable way to predict changes in climate. Their reliability is tested by seeing if they are able to reproduce the past climate, which gives scientists confidence that they can also predict the future.
But computer models cannot predict the future exactly. They depend, for example, on assumptions made about the levels of future greenhouse gas emissions.

[From a MO publication. Listing the fallacies and misleading statements in this quote would take more space than the quote itself.]

Jun 15, 2013 at 3:02 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Questions/Lord Donoghue and Met Office
Suggestion 1
What evidence is there, if any, to support the assertion by Folland and Parker 1995 that, in World War 2, there had been a general shift away from the use of buckets to measure sea surface temperatures and that this switch was permanenet? Folland claimed, "there was a sudden but undocumented change" [to the use of ERI - engine inlet}.

Suggestion 2

Had SST3 attempted to undo some of Folland's assumptions. However, Kennedy et al 2011 included some arbitrary assumptions also. This claim was made: "It is likely that many ships that are listed as using buckets actually used the ERI method (see end Section 3.2). To correct the uncertainty arising from this, 30+-10% of bucket observations were reassigned as ERI observations. For example a grid box with 100% bucket observations was reassigned to have, say, 70% bucket and 30% ERI."

In support of this correction it was stated: "It is probable that some observations recorded as being from buckets were made by the ERI method. The Norwegian contribution to WMO Tech note 2 (Amot [1954]) states that the ERI method was preferred owing to the dangers involved in deploying a bucket. This is consistent with the rst issue of WMO Pub 47 (1955), in which 80% of Norwegian ships were using ERI measurements. US Weather Bureau instructions (Bureau [1938]) state that the \condenserintake method is the simpler and shorter means of obtaining the water temperature” and that some observers took ERI measurements \if the severity of the weather [was] such as to exclude the possibility of making a bucket observation”. The only quantitative reference to the practice is in the 1956 UK Handbook of Meteorological Instruments HMSO [1956] which states that ships that travel faster than 15 knots should use the ERI method in preference to the bucket method for safety reasons. Approximately 30% of ships travelled at this speed between 1940 and 1970."

Question: What evidence , other than the existence of the two documents cited, is there to support the arbitrary change made by Kennedy 2011( end Section 3.2) in numbers of particular methods of sea surface temperature methods?

Question: What evidence is there to support the idea that the use of ERI causes an increase in the temperature of the water before the temperature is taken?

Suggestion 3
Folland was aware of the original Briffa graph proposed for TAR and discussed the problem this might cause in diluting the message. He knew that data had been deleted from Briffa's work to "hide the decline". The Muir Russell report criticised this as being "misleading". Did Folland raise the matter of Briffa's deletion of data with any of his Met Office colleagues? If so, with whom?

Jun 15, 2013 at 7:03 PM | Unregistered Commentersam

I suggst the "Bolt Question" attributed to Andrew Bolt. If all the measure taken by the UK meet the targets but how much will this limit the global temperature by 2100 and how much will it cost the UK tax payer.

Jun 25, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

The question that should be asked is fairly simple:

"What short-term climatic forecasts have the Met Office produced and how much skill do these show in forecasting the climate".

From memory they had yearly forecasts from 2001 to 2009 and they were appalling being worse than just taking the previous year's temperature (then they stopped making them public).

The other question is

"what mathematical model of the scale natural variation do they use and what frequency distribution does it have".

I suspect the answer to this question will be: "they don't have any model for natural variation".

Jun 25, 2013 at 1:26 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

There are curiosities in methods and assumptions that are jumped over and then ignored when issuing further research summations. Let alone that those further summations are enmeshed with vague caveats misleadingly termed as based on statistical significance.

Your previous insistent question to the Met Office questioned that statistical significance.

Further questions could pursue the vague caveats; only I believe those questions will get caught in the alarmist circular reaction rationales.

Instead, I suggest looking back at some of the foundational assumptions. A key assumption for all alarmist announcements are their absolute beliefs in anthropogenic climate impact. Not withstanding the fact that CO2 is a GHG of well known empirical physical functions; what is not truly known is man's direct absolute contribution to atmospheric CO2 content. Yes, there are some studies that purport to estimate anthropogenic contributions, I have yet to personally see one truly vetted against a global biosphere.

Taking a global biosphere approach; is England's CO2 impact affected by atmospheric masses moving over a cold ocean (CO2 reduction), warmer ocean (CO2 increases), historically stable ocean (historical ocean impacts which I believe are unknown)? Net question; given that Met Office has such a wonderful climate/weather modeling system can Met Office definitively ascribe atmospheric impacts to CO2 changes? N.B.; any all obfuscation, retreat, defensive caveats means the answer is no. Remember, the working weather models focus on moving air masses and pressure changes. Resulting accurate falsifiable prognostications are actually made by educated experienced meteorologists; generally after reviewing many model runs with individual runs scrutinized for the whys and wherefores.

What this question pertains to are those wonderful statistically valid (cough, cough) pronouncements the Met Office makes on anything atmospheric. Basically without an explicit true working knowledge of the beginning components, how can one construct a working model? Backing into a model from assumptions means guessing; when an assumption (guess) is incorrect, adjusting the assumption really means adjustments to the guess, not corrections to a model. Complicating this thought is that models are adjusted until they comply with assumptions; meaning that not one model truly models climate.

A prime model component central to the Met Office regime of hotter predictions is CO2. Therefore, let them define exact knowledge of atmospheric CO2 inputs and impacts; hourly and daily per region across Great(er) Britain.

Perhaps an easier way to frame this question is a comparison of any prognostication is a request for predictions with CO2 impacts and predictions not based on CO2 impacts, (and resulting forcings).

Add in a follow-up question to determine prediction 'successes'. Of course, it would greatly add to our amusement if Met Office predictions are submitted concurrent with, ahem, polls on customer faith concerning said predictions. This approach involves the populace providing a constant reminder for all regarding constituent Met Office approval and satisfaction ratings Should I mention at this point that Met Office bonuses or salary cuts could depend on this satisfaction level?.

Some rough background:
-cold water absorbs CO2
-warm water releases CO2
-forests absorb CO2
-algae blooms absorb CO2, though dying algae blooms may release more
-large industrial centers emit CO2; though this may be mitigated by holidays and Sundays.
-are transportation impacts variable by day
-major volcanic or ongoing volcanic CO2 emissions
-when weather is considered, are air mass sources considered for CO2 impacts, (arctic, North America, Southern Atlantic)?

Jun 25, 2013 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

In an academic study of carbon savings by wind farms, there is this:- '...a direct request to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for measurements of fossil fuel displacement by wind revealed that DECC has made no attempt to calculate actual savings in CO2 emissions as a result of wind-generated electricity and appears to have no intention of doing so.'

I therefore suggest that Lord Donoughue might consider asking a question along the lines:- ask Her Majesty's Government what figures they have for measurements of fossil fuel displacement by wind, and should there be no such figures available, on what grounds the government considers the subsidies paid to wind farm developers to be justified.

Jun 25, 2013 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterThomas Gough

I would ask:

Does the government consider the warming of the world between about 1910 and 1940 to have been primarily the result of human influence on the climate, or was it primarily the result of natural variations?

The world warmed by just over 0.4 degrees (a rough eye-balling of one chart) in that thirty-year period, but when people say "the world has warmed by 0.9 degrees in the past hundred years" (or whatever number they choose) they always include that first part of the 20th century, a period in which, by general though perhaps not universal agreement, man's CO2 emissions were too small to have had any major impact.

Getting an acknowledgement that the first part of the 20th century was mostly (all?) natural has obvious implications for the second half, given that the apparent warming was so similar in each.

Jun 26, 2013 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterHK

I think someone (Lord Donoughue?) mentioned that having something to counter the "97% of scientists" myth (which is extremely convincing to the govt).

Here is a reference that might lead to something (posted on unthreaded by matthu).

Alan Carlin Destroys John Cook’s Credibility

Jul 3, 2013 at 11:42 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

For Lord D - copy of a comment I left on the "Ducking, diving, dodging and weaving" thread:
IMO, now that the claim has been made over peer reviewed validation, there needs to be a request for the specific references and the reasons for their selection. A question asking for the Gov. response to peer reviewed literature which falsifies the models is also required.

Further to those, I think specific questions need to be asked over the v and v framework and methodology in use at the MO with reference to specific individual models and their evaluation criteria.

Etc etc
Jul 4, 2013 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

For sources on model V and V issues and methodology, look to organisations such as NAFEMS, ASME, ASTM. AFAIK there are NO established v and v standards for GCMs - if anybody has a reference please post it.

Re: Falsification papers in the PRL - see my other comments and links in the DDW&D thread.

Jul 4, 2013 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

I want to thank you for your helpful suggestions for Questions, some of which I have used, though with modulation. I shall resume battle next term.
Incidentally, some of you may be a little harsh on Baroness Verma. She is a decent lady, doing a difficult job and often trying to be helpful to me in private. The real problem lies elsewhere and higher up, with the likes of Cameron, Clegg, Davey, Miliband, and the fanatics at the Met Office and the mediocre jobsworths at DECC.
On the utube dramatics, with Worthington completely losing it, for which she later made a formal apology to her Leader and whips, it was Matt Ridley in picture behind, with Deben at the end of the row furthest from Verma. I am the ancient grey haired ex boxer later placing a consoling hand on Vermas shoulder as I walked out from the Moses Room in embarrassment. Have never seen such a disreputable performance in 29 years in the House.
More assistance always welcomed. Best brief and precise, especially numerical, where the ducking non replies are most apparent.
Bernard Donoughue

Jul 26, 2013 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterBernard Donoughue

I think we were mostly being harsh on the Baroness because she failed to answer your question!
Does she know she didn't answer it?

Jul 26, 2013 at 12:47 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp