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Discussion > Do you Trust the Met Office?

I enjoyed listening to the BBC radio programme, “What is the point of the Met Office”. I enjoyed it for several reasons, it was entertaining, lively and I think, a fair and balanced assessment. I also enjoyed knowing that it would drive the warming extremists wild, and some of the Met Office management as well. I also liked the idea that the BBC global warming cheer leaders would be tearing their hair out. It was the first programme with a sceptical element (i.e. unbiased) for as long as I can remember and that was a major factor in my reaction.

After a couple of days I reflected more seriously about the Met Office. What do the employees think? What do I really think?

I think the weather forecasting part is ok. I realise that this is a difficult part of the world for a number of technical reasons. It is a pity they use some of the climate models. They stopped doing longer term forecasts because they were an embarrassment.

Then there is the climate change part, the Hadley Centre. I remember Ms Pope with her advocacy and dire warnings, Slingo with her assertion that the floods were due to climate change. The recent battle between DECC and Lord Donaghue about whether the warming was significant or not, the cooling of the historical temperature record by way of adjustments, the record temperature due to a spurious reading at Heathrow.

There have been lots of occasions when the Met Office have been a little bit political, biased, unprofessional and downright questionable in their unfettered promotion of climate alarmism.

So, there is my considered opinion. I may have got it wrong. I may be unfair to them. I’m sure the majority of staff are as honest and objective as you can hope for.

But do I trust the Met Office as an honest and objective scientific centre of expertise on climate change? My answer is a definite NO, I do not trust them.

What do you think? (I’m looking for a fair assessment, not an opportunity to kick the Met Office.) Your conclusion with reasons would be interesting.

Aug 6, 2015 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Well for forecasting what might be termed non-extreme weather in the short term, 36 hours say, they are better than they were. Even including the fact that UHI can be several degrees during hot and cold periods with low windspeeds. For forecasting weather extremes they are still suffering, taking a charitable view, what could be termed the "Micheal Fish Effect" in forecasting doom and destruction just in case. There was an element of "see, told you!" in reporting the so called Hottest July day ever.

For long term forecasts (3 months) they are pretty much useless. As For 10 years out that is just a joke.

He who pays the piper calls the tune?

Aug 6, 2015 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Looking at satellites, seeing what's there and then guesstimating what will happen to that...
Yes.
I trust the MET Office.
They may make mistakes but it seems like they are trying not to. And with the satellites they are getting better.

Looking at computer models, seeing what's been put there by their own assumptions and biases and then guesstimating what will happen to that...
No.
I do not trust the MET Office.
They may make mistakes but it seems like they can't recognise it when they do. And with the satellites they are getting worse and worse at reflecting reality.

Aug 7, 2015 at 10:43 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

I used to have a professional interest in longer term weather forecasts across much of the Northern Hemisphere (as well as shorter term ones too). We used to make use of forecasts provided by private enterprise for the longer term, which proved to be far superior to those offered by the Met Office who were good enough for the short term. Paid for being right (i.e. retained for the next season) seemed to provide a good feedback into improved forecasts. The accuracy was achieved without the benefit of supercomputer models, but with careful attention to oceanic conditions such as El Niño. Among our interests were hurricane incidence and storms, temperatures over land masses, weather that might affect crop growing/harvesting etc.

Aug 7, 2015 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Christopher Booker had a large piece in the today's Daily Mail about the Met Office.

I realised after I posted the above that there are really two questions about the Met Office. Do we trust the integrity of the people who make the decisions and do we trust their science?

I can accept them getting the science wrong (to err is human) but they stick to the same flawed models even when they know that some of the values they use (e.g. for aerosols) are unrealistic. So I'm sorry to say that they have failings in integrity, failings scientifically and when these are combined, they persevere with predictions that can influence policymakers knowing that their work is flawed. I find that quite disturbing in a state funded self-proclaimed centre of excellence.

Aug 7, 2015 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Sandy not my experience in South Devon sadly. I think their daily forecasts are getting worse. We even had the very rare experience of their local chief David Braine apologising recently because they got it so wrong one day. They get it wrong more often than they get it right for the SW area.

I know there are considerable difficulties because of our varied landscape - moors to seaside cannot be easy, but they far too often resort to the "it will be dry with possible showers heavy in places" and " it will be generally showery but some areas may be dryer" approach. I look out of my window westwards each day [that is where the majority of our weather comes from] and make my own prediction.

Anything over 24 hours is basically the same as generating random numbers and not even worth reading/listening to.

Their models are simply that models, which can be made to predict anything they choose by changing the assumptions.

The Met Office is a huge waste of public money at all levels.

Aug 7, 2015 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Hewitt

The Met Office has been pushed into a position in which it has to promise far more than it can deliver. This is entirely due to its adventurism with climate scaremongering. That has been very lucrative for them, but there the list of benefits ends. Of course we cannot trust them. They sold their soul some time ago.

Aug 7, 2015 at 11:11 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

@John Shade

Whether the Met Office was "pushed" or whether it was simply a path some unnamed author willfully chose to follow, I don't disagree with your assessment, John - nor with the comments of others, above.

But what I find interesting [h/t CraigM350 via Tallbloke] is the Met Office's response - and conspicuous lack of links to that to which the author is purportedly "responding".

Here's their intro and some excerpts:

An article published today makes a number of claims about Met Office weather and climate science.

It would be difficult to cover all the points raised in this blog, but here we look at the science and facts behind a few of the assertions.

We did indeed publish the first groundbreaking decadal forecast in 2007. It had two headline statements:
[...]
The article says
[...]
The article also states
[...]
A series of other claims are made in the article,
[...]

Source: Met Office in the Media – 7 August 2015

Alas, my mouse could not find a single link to "this article published today" in any of the logical choices above (or elsewhere in the blog entry, for that matter)!

So, a month from now (or at the pace of article production in alarm-o-land, a few days or a week from now!), if anyone were to stumble across this particular Met Office blog entry, how on Gaia's green earth would such a person know what "article" this self-serving, self-praising bureaucracy was even talking about?!

I thought perhaps there might be a Met Office policy in place - albeit somewhat incomprehensible in this day and age - which precludes their linking to any external sources. But my mouse and I did find at least one elsewhere in this piece. So that rules that out!

So many opportunities for transparency missed. And we should "trust" them for this?! I don't think so.

Aug 8, 2015 at 10:40 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

A Met Office that admitted mistakes with its models and that they would get back to the drawing board would be a good start.

There is absolutely no sign of that.

That would be standard practice in all the science disciplines that I know about.

Aug 8, 2015 at 7:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Hilary, I agree that 'pushed' is the wrong word, but I spotted that too late. 'Pulled' would have been better, or possibly 'led' since I think this has been a top-down conversion of a decent organisation into a more Machiavellian one driven by political (and in John Houghton's case, also evangelical) goals. The transition has no doubt been buttressed by the huge sums of money and extra prestige which it gathered in influential circles. I pity any old-school employees who are dismayed by it all, and are probably just grimly enduring it until retirement.

Aug 9, 2015 at 9:48 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Hilary, again, I presume the 'article published today' was this one by Christopher Booker: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-3187587/What-shower-money-Met-Office-gets-ludicrously-inaccurate-doom-mongering-climate-change.html
It is a good one, and provides a useful summary of some of the Met Office's poor performances. I include a link to it for anyone passing by who may be wondering why anyone might not want to trust a national weather service. Here is the final paragraph of the article:

This makes the performance of a Met Office for which we pay £220 million a year not just a joke, but a major scandal. And well done the BBC for allowing Quentin Letts, for once, to point this out.

Aug 10, 2015 at 5:55 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

John, your presumption was the same as mine.

And I completely agree with your appraisal of Booker's article. On re-visiting the Met Office blog, a few minutes ago, I see that - miracle of miracles - they've now modified the blog entry to include a link to Booker's article, at their first mention thereof ... without even a hint that they've made the change - far too long after the fact.

Thereby (she says somewhat cynically!) providing an opportunity for someone to come along at some point and claim that those who pointed out the omission (and there were several such entries now belatedly released from moderation) were "wrong"!

On a related (and not dissimilar) note of the Met Office inadequacies ... On p. 2 of the Letts thread here, Pharos had also noted the Met Office failure to link to their http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/b/1/informing.pdf (sorry, I haven't checked to see if they've also corrected this particular omission!).

When I took a look at this .pdf, the one thing that struck me was that for all the glossiness and bafflegab, there is no way to determine when this might have been published ... unless one reads the very small print noting © at the very end of this document.

In this regard, not that it makes a heck of a lot of difference, BUT in this particular case ... When I first followed Pharos' link a few days ago - to what he had described as an "apocalyptic 2004 brochure" I noticed no discrepancy. Yet, when I followed the same link a few minutes ago, I noticed that the © now shows as 2007. And I'm at least 97% certain that if there had been such a discrepancy when I first looked at this .pdf, I would have noticed it!

Such mediocrity on the documenting front from this "jewel in the crown", eh?!

Aug 11, 2015 at 2:05 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Hilary

I think 2007 is the date that the rubbish was released.

The pdf that you point to has the same dates given in its 'properties' as the copy I downloaded on 23/03/2012:

created 2007-08-31 16:23:05
modified 2008-02-22 14:41:23


I think the Vicky Pope "Harsh Realities" youtube video was made in 2007. Youtube states "Uploaded on Sep 13, 2007". She said

For 2014 we're predicting that it will be point three degrees warmer than 2004. To put that into context, the warming over the past century and a half has only been point seven degrees globally now there have been bigger changes locally but globally the warming is point seven degrees. Point three degrees over the next ten years is pretty significant. And half the years after 2009 are predicted to be hotter than 1998 which was the previous record so, again, these are very strong statement about what will happen over the next ten years so I think this illustrates that, you know, we can already see signs of climate change over the next ten years we are expecting to see quite significant changes occurring.

So what about the risks of dangerous climate change further into the future? (etc etc etc)

From a Met Office News Release:

News release
10 August 2007
The forecast for 2014...

Climate scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre will unveil the first decadal climate prediction model in a paper published on 10 August 2007 in the journal Science. The paper includes the Met Office's prediction for annual global temperature to 2014.

Over the 10-year period as a whole, climate continues to warm and 2014 is likely to be 0.3 °C warmer than 2004. At least half of the years after 2009 are predicted to exceed the warmest year currently on record

These predictions are very relevant to businesses and policy-makers who will be able to respond to short-term climate change when making decisions today. The next decade is within many people's understanding and brings home the reality of a changing climate.

The new model incorporates the effects of sea surface temperatures as well as other factors such as man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, projected changes in the sun's output and the effects of previous volcanic eruptions — the first time internal and external variability have both been predicted.

Team leader, Dr Doug Smith said: "Occurrences of El Nino, for example, have a significant effect on shorter-term predictions. By including such internal variability, we have shown a substantial improvement in predictions of surface temperature." Dr Smith continues: "Observed relative cooling in the Southern Ocean and tropical Pacific over the last couple of years was correctly predicted by the new system, giving us greater confidence in the model’s performance".

Notes

Total global warming, on a decadal average, is 0.8 °C since 1900 (IPCC 2007)
1998 is the current warmest year on record with a global mean temperature of 14.54 °C

Aug 11, 2015 at 6:15 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Below is the text of Vicky Pope's "Harsh Realities" youtube video.

At the time of making it, according to her LinkedIn page, she was the Met Office's "Head of Climate Science Advice", so it has to be taken as official Met Office output.

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/vicky-pope/2b/3b/98

Head of Climate Science Advice
Met Office
2002 – October 2011 (9 years)

I was a founding member of the Met Office Hadley Centre set up in 1990 to provide climate predictions and climate science to underpin government policy on climate change. I have a background in stratospheric research and climate modelling and led one of the teams who developed the climate models use in IPCC 3rd and 4th assessment reports and the UK Climate Projections published in 2009 (UKCP09).? From 2002 I had various senior management roles managing various aspects of our climate research programme, In these roles the focus was on the provision of climate change advice to underpin policy development. For example I led the Met Office contribution of science to the Stern Review on the economics of climate change. I also initiated new programmes of work, in particular a new partnership with Australia for them to use our Unified Modelling system, a partnership with DFID to improve climate advice and science capacity in Africa and a multidisciplinary collaborative programme for DECC to provide policy relevant advice. I also led an activity to improve the communication of climate change in the light of its increasing importance in the public arena.

Here is my transcript of the Youtube video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyDmdcPw7Uw

For 2014 we're predicting that it will be point three degrees warmer than 2004. To put that into context, the warming over the past century and a half has only been point seven degrees globally now there have been bigger changes locally but globally the warming is point seven degrees. Point three degrees over the next ten years is pretty significant. And half the years after 2009 are predicted to be hotter than 1998 which was the previous record so, again, these are very strong statement about what will happen over the next ten years so I think this illustrates that, you know, we can already see signs of climate change over the next ten years we are expecting to see quite significant changes occurring.

So what about the risks of dangerous climate change further into the future?

so this is....the monitor on the left hand side there and I've just picked up some iconic changes that we might expect at various different temperatures. There are a lot of other changes that you could pick here but this is just really to illustrate the point if the global average temperature increased by point seven degrees and that's illustrated by the blue meniscus there just at point seven when we get to one degree we're already seeing some marine ecosystems suffer irreversible change and there's already been reports of coral reefs being damaged by acidifications so that's a very real danger that's happening now. The melting of the Greenland ice sheets the arctic is a region where we will expect to see climate change first and there are already signs of change in terms of ice melting although, because the observations don't go back very far, it's quite difficult to disentangle natural variations from climate change but we will expect to see the changes first quite large changes in the arctic because you get strong feedbacks in the arctic in terms of temperature and temperature changes are much bigger there. As ice melts - ice reflects sunlight - so, as it melts and disappears, you've got a darker surface it absorbs more sunlight and you get more warming so you get a stronger warming in the arctic than you do in other regions

So we would expect, by the time we get to two degrees, that the melting of the Greenland ice sheets may become irreversible so basically, the melting is happening faster than snowfall builds it up again so it will gradually decrease. If all the Greenland ice melts it will result in a sea level rise of seven metres which is very significant. But we have to bear in mind that this takes a very long time. It takes a lot of heat to actually melt all that ice and it could take 3000 years before it melts but obviously if you set yourself on a trend where that's irreversible, that has very dire consequences in the future. It allows time to adapt but it would make the world a very different place.

Once you get to three degrees, we're looking at the risk of significant loss of the Amazon rain forest and in fact in our model, the Amazon rain forest disappears completely. In other models it's not quite so dramatic but nevertheless this is a very significant area. It provides a feedback actually on the climate because the rain forest obviously cycles a lot of water. If the rainforest disappears, you get drying out and you get a feedback on a reduction in climate. You also, if vegetation disappears, if soils are damaged, not as much of the carbon dioxide we produce...

Note that she talks about "over the next ten years" even though the talk was evidently given in 2007 and the predictions were for changes from 2004 to 2014.

Aug 11, 2015 at 6:48 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Many thanks, Martin for both of your very illuminating posts above ... Last time I'll trust Pharos ;-) Although I don't really fault him for my obvious misperception of the year in question.

To some extent I think this highlights the point of my - admittedly minor - "arguments" here. But really, if we can't trust the Met Office on the "small stuff", why should we (or anyone, for that matter!) trust 'em on the BIG stuff, eh?!

You know, I went back - again - to that 2007 bundle of "rubbish" as you so aptly dubbed it. And I was (again) struck by how much the background images totally overpower (if not deliberately distract from?!) the message(s) such as it/they were!

Canada's Marshall McLuhan, I suspect, would be turning over in his grave at the extent to which the Met Office (amongst other such luminaries and representatives thereof) appear to have adopted and abused his most famous maxim to the effect that "the medium is the message" :-(

Notwithstanding any and/or all of the above, to my mind there is still no excuse for such amateur efforts on the part of this "jewel in the crown".

Aug 12, 2015 at 11:08 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Fascinating reading. I remember the events but I had forgotten the detail.

When one thinks of the destruction of energy intensive industries and associated jobs, people driven into fuel poverty, the closure of low cost,efficient power stations and the taxpayers' money squandered on intermittent renewables, the way the poor of the world are denied energy and the fat cats who milk the public purse through every green measure you can imagine, then the way the MO influenced policymakers with their half-baked science deserves some scrutiny.

Aug 12, 2015 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

And I was (again) struck by how much the background images totally overpower

Yes. Just about every page of Met Office climate brochures from that time is illustrated edge to edge with belching power station chimneys, flooded town centres, parched and cracked lake beds, floundering polar bears, and so on.

Quite clear what they intended the message to be.

the way the MO influenced policymakers with their half-baked science deserves some scrutiny.

No question about that.

Had the Met Office at the time said - "Hold on a bit. Let's go carefully. Global warming is no more than a theory at present" who can imagine that the Climate Change Act would exist. But Vicky Pope was Head of the Met Office's "climate science advice to the Government"...

Aug 12, 2015 at 1:25 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Hilary -
Thanks for pointing out the update in the MO's article. Good that they finally found their way round to citing the article which so aroused their ire.

Now, if they'd only expand upon their back-patting "2014 would be 0.3 °C ± 0.21 °C warmer than 2004 (giving a range of 0.09 °C to 0.51 °C) – WMO figures show the global temperature for 2014 was 0.13 °C higher than that in 2004; which is within the range of the forecast" by showing a graphic such as this which puts the predicted change and error bars in perspective.

The MO has previous with respect to claiming success within large error bars. My favorite is their "verification" of 2013 Atlantic tropical storm forecasts. Their summary: "Forecasts of the number of hurricanes provided good guidance for all forecasts issued apart from May. However, observed values were at the lower end of the range predicted." This when their June forecast was 2 to 14 (actual 2) and July forecast was 2 to 12 (actual 2).

Aug 12, 2015 at 1:56 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

The MO has previous with respect to claiming success within large error bars.

Yes.

Richard Betts (Met Office) replied to BH commenter Buck as follows:


Apr 4, 2012 at 9:52 AM | Buck

Can someone point me to the model which predicted no statistically significant warming over the last 15 years?

Sure - the Met Office model did - or at least, it was within the uncertainty range even if it was not the central estimate.

Cheers

Richard
Apr 4, 2012 at 12:32 PM Richard Betts

In a follow-up comment I said (typo corrected):

Unless there were Met Office memos dated 1998 that said "Note to executive committee: Our model predicts no significant warming for the next 15 years" then they DID NOT predict no warming in any meaningful sense of "predict".

A bullshit organisation whose primary product is bullshit.

Aug 12, 2015 at 2:41 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Does anyone remember the consensus?

No, not that one. I refer to a letter signed by academics to the effect that everything said by the MO was true. If I remember correctly, Ms Slingo or someone asked loads of academics to sign a letter stating that claims of all earthlings being fried shortly were absolutely on the button. I remember lots of claims that all the people on the list had contracts with the MO, but surely that can't be true?

Does anyone remember this stuff?

Aug 12, 2015 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

SC - yes, I remember it. It provided conformation (to me) that "climate science" was in fact a cult-like movement rather than an area of physical science.

It was triggered by climategate but also, as you said, its main purpose was to confirm that CAGW was not bollocks in any shape or form. I'll see what I can dig out.

Aug 12, 2015 at 9:57 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Schrodinger's Cat
It was here http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climatechange/news/latest/uk-science-statement.html but now has a 404 error so will be removed from my bookmarks. The only other reference I can ind is here

Aug 12, 2015 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

The statement was available at one time at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climatechange/news/latest/uk-science-statement.html but this now returns "page not found".

I came across a web page which appears to reproduce a Met Office press release:

Friday, 11 December 2009 09:43
Met Office issues UK science community statement

On behalf of the UK Science Community, the Met Office yesterday issued a Joint Statement in response to the ongoing questioning of core climate science and methods. The action comes in the wake of recent leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at The University of East Anglia (UEA) which are now the subject of an independent review.

The Met Office was responsible for co-ordinating the united statement, which has collected over 1,700 signatures in just four days. The list includes the personal responses from over 100 institutes across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Met Office said that the tremendous response affirms our confidence in the science, and reinforces the immediacy of the challenge and the critical nature of the discussions at Copenhagen.

The statement reads:

“We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities. The evidence and the science are deep and extensive. They come from decades of painstaking and meticulous research, by many thousands of scientists across the world who adhere to the highest levels of professional integrity. That research has been subject to peer review and publication, providing traceability of the evidence and support for the scientific method."

"The science of climate change draws on fundamental research from an increasing number of disciplines, many of which are represented here. As professional scientists, from students to senior professors, we uphold the findings of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which concludes that ‘Warming of the climate system is unequivocal’ and that ‘Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations’.”

The announcement follows the publication last Sunday by the Met Office, together with the National Environment Research Council and the Royal Society, of another joint statement emphasising the body of scientific evidence that underpins the need for immediate action on climate change.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Although the "statement" (it was a petition) does not mention Climategate, it was clear that it was a panic reaction to Climategate. Afterwards there were suggestions that some signatories had felt pressured into signing it.

It might be worth FOI-ing it so that the official version is on record. It would be interesting to know if the list of signatories is FOI-able.

Aug 12, 2015 at 10:58 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I recall Paul Dennis refused to sign it and that deepened all kind of suspicion that he was the Climategate leaker suspect.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100025094/climategate-leaker-finally-revealed/

Other blog snippets

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/10/the-met-office-making-a-list-tries-to-prop-up-the-image-of-the-cru/


http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2009/12/09/pressure-defend-climate-gate-scientists/


PS Apologies to Hilary about brochure date!

Aug 12, 2015 at 11:03 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

OK - here it is, complete with list of signatories.

Aug 12, 2015 at 11:10 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A