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Numbers no longer add up for off-shore wind.

"Shell will not be joining David Cameron's crusade to attract private sector investment into creating a North Sea wind revolution despite its commitment to turbines in the US.

Simon Henry, the company's finance director, said Shell "can't make the numbers" add up to justify building offshore windfarms. "

Apr 28, 2012 at 11:04 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

Just came across a rather low key BBC article on "University spent £112,000 on Climategate media advice" dated 25th April.

"Climate "sceptics" claimed emails showed that university scientists manipulated and suppressed key climate data.

But those accusations were largely dismissed following a review.

During this period advice and guidance was given by PR specialists on conducting interviews with individual journalists, MPs, ministers and at press conferences."

Very much a one sided (UEA) presentation of events. BBC Norfolk - I'm surprised anyone noticed - makes it out to be a non-story.

Apr 28, 2012 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterGSW

This Spectator article is worth reading: an amusing - and perceptive - article about the danger of decisions that rely on computer models. An extract:

It sometimes resembles a conspiracy by the young and smart against the old and wise.

Apr 28, 2012 at 1:32 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Apr 27, 2012 at 10:48 PM Richard Betts

... that is there to try to make it clear that there is no simple answer and there's a range of possible outcomes.

So, give us a break guys, we're just trying to do the job we've been asked to do :-)

Hi Richard,

OK, fair enough. I promise that in future I shall mock the Met Office less when the weather turns out to be different from what was forecast.

As the Merkans say, it's like shooting fish in a barrel - it's too easy, anyway.

One problem in science as in other endevours is that organisations can take themselves too seriously.

The point I was trying to make was that the Met Office's caveats and qualifications sounded very much like the offical language of a large organisation with a very large computing budget and being an organisation (in its own opinion) of great importance and using sophisticated mathematical modelling techniques and statistical analysis leading to specific confidence levels.

But since it was (in the case I picked on) talking about the probabilities of events on the tails of the distribution whose probabilities (on a log scale) barely differed, the official qualifications amounted pretty much to saying "in this case we can't make a useful prediction" (="buggered if we know"). In my view, better to say that explicitly than to dress it up in flowery language and expect users to do the decoding.

In conclusion, if the Met Office is asked to do something that cannot be done, the best answer is "Sorry, we'd like to but it can't be done".

Apr 28, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Early Weather Action (Solar Weather Technique) skill was independently verified in a peer-reviewed paper by Dr Dennis Wheeler, University of Sunderland, in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Vol 63 (2001) p29-34.


In 4,000 Weather Test Bets over 12 years with William Hill, Weather Action forecasts made a profit of some 40% (£20,000). The Odds were statistically fair and set by the Met Office before being shortened by William Hill by a standard 20%; the results were then provided by the Met Office for William Hill to settle each bet. Piers Corbyn was excluded by the bookies from such account betting in 2000.

Of course, there is also lots of anecdotal evidence (try Google)

Apr 28, 2012 at 9:10 AM | Registered Commentermatthu

Is there an independent benchmark whereby forecast claims are compared? Or does each forecaster get to give his own summary of 'skill'?

My 'today will be like yesterday' scheme is running at over 90%, rural Oxfordshire, last two weeks. As assessed by myself, of course.

Apr 28, 2012 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Hi Richard,

Many thanks for your reply, which I understand and accept. As you say, it is a very difficult problem - modelling a complex, non linear and sometimes chaotic system is not something that can be relied upon with a high degree of confidence.

But my point is this - if models can become unstable within a matter of weeks, what is their possible utility in predicting weather trends (or climate) over decadal or multi-decadal timescales? That is the sole reason why I passionately believe that we should not be betting the economic future of our country on the predictions of numerical models, in the absence of any supporting empirical data.

This subject is so important that I am sure that Martin A will wish to come back and speak for himself.

Apr 28, 2012 at 8:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Dear Richard. I think you are missing the point. I've been involved in contingency planning, and to be honest the level of skill demonstrated in the 3-monthly forecasts is so low as to be useless for contingency planning purposes. The narrative for April-June was for drier than normal, with April the driest of all. The small print came towards the end of the summary,and said basically, "we don't really know". In the event, the UK has received over twice as much rain as the average, which interpolating from the forecast, was probably considered to be a less than 5% eventuality. You are asked to do a job by the Government, it is true, but on present form the MO is taking taxpayer's money under false pretences. It would show far more scientific integrity on the part of the MO if you admitted that at the present state of scientific expertise, you were unable to give a reasonably skilled forecast out to 3 months and row back to the length of time your forecasts show reasonable skill. At the moment, you are merely giving credence to the wags who quipped that the MO's super-duper-new-computer would enable you to get the forecast more wrong more quickly.

Apr 28, 2012 at 7:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy Old Man


If the skill is so low, it would be better to avoid the ridicule that the Met Office gets (there has been lots of it on the BBC and in the printed media, not just here) and tell the Cabinet Office that you won't give seasonal forecasts. 60% is so near to 50% that you might as well give the cabinet Office a coin and tell them to use that.

On the other hand, the Met Office could advise the Cabinet Office that Piers Corbyn will give much more reliable forecasts at a fraction of the cost.

Apr 28, 2012 at 7:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Hi Roger Longstaff & Martin A,

I think you're being a bit unfair about the seasonal forecast.

These forecasts are produced at the request of the Cabinet Office in order to help with contingency planning, and although the 'most likely' outcome doesn't always happen, in the long term these are still useful on balance. The notes on the introductory page very clearly say:

Watching brief only, not used to inform immediate action or for committing resources.

This product provides some limited guidance on potential variance from climatology i.e. possible change from what is typical for UK weather.

It is however an emerging and cutting edge area of science and users are encouraged to consult our shorter range and climatological guidance before committing resources or taking action.

These forecasts are not being over-sold to the public - well, not any more anyway, that lesson has been learnt :-) It is a very difficult area, and it would be easy to just not even try because the skill is so low (about 60%) and the reputational risk so high (because folks like you use it for easy criticism!)

Nevertheless, the Met Office is asked to produce guidance on how the weather may be evolving over the coming months, and this is done as well as can be done within the limits of current science - with appropriate caveats being made, making clear that it's all highly uncertain.

I appreciate it's a lot of information and caveats to "wade through" as you say, but that is there to try to make it clear that there is no simple answer and there's a range of possible outcomes.

So, give us a break guys, we're just trying to do the job we've been asked to do :-)



Apr 27, 2012 at 10:48 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

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