Addressing the Daily Mail and James Delingpole’s ‘crazy climate change obsession’ article

10 01 2013

An article by James Delingpole appears in the Daily Mail today under the headline The crazy climate change obsession that’s made the Met Office a menace’.

This article contains a series of factual inaccuracies about the Met Office and its science, as outlined below.

Firstly, he claims the Met Office failed to predict snow in 2010, but our 5-day forecasts accurately forecast 12 out of 13 snowfall events – as you can see in this article. In addition the Press Complaints Commission has also already addressed this fallacy with the Daily Telegraph in February of last year. As a result the newspaper published a clarification that highlighted that “the Met Office did warn the public of last winter’s [2010/11] cold weather from early November 2010.” 

Mr Delingpole also says we failed to predict flooding in November last year. Once again, our 5-day forecasts gave accurate guidance and warnings throughout the period. In just one example of feedback the Met Office has received for highly accurate forecasting and guidance throughout 2012, Assistant Chief Constable Paul Netherton, Chair for the Local Resilience Forum for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (which was one of the areas most affected by flooding in November), said: “[I] would like to formally thank and recognise the hard work of the Met Office over the past week. The information you provided was invaluable and enabled the responders in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to prepare and respond effectively to assist our communities.”

Mr Delingpole then inaccurately states that the Met Office has conceded ‘there is no evidence that ‘global warming’ is happening’. We have not said this at any point.

In fact, we explicitly say this was not the case in an article, posted on the home page of our website and widely circulated, which was written in response to articles about updates to our decadal forecast. Professor Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist, has also provided a more in depth feature on ‘Decadal Forecasting – What is it and what does it tell us?’.

Further on in the print version of the article (although amended online), Mr Delingpole says “According to the Met, Britain is apparently experiencing more rain by volume and intensity than at any time since records began.” Although he is right in saying the Met Office has published preliminary observations which show an increase in the intensity and volume of rain, we are clear that this relates to a period from 1960 onwards – not ‘since records began’ as he claims.

He also states that the Met Office was trying to defend a narrative that the “the past ten years have been the ‘wettest decade ever’”. Again, this is not something the Met Office has ever said.

Also he quotes David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Foundation saying that the Met Office ‘thinks weather forecasting is beneath it’ and that ‘climate change… brings in more money’.

A cursory glance at our annual report and accounts (pdf) would reveal weather forecasting represents the vast majority of the Met Office’s contractual work on behalf of the public.

There are also a number of other accusations which cannot be substantiated.

Mr Delingpole does quote Dr Whitehouse saying “when it comes to four or five day weather forecasting, the Met Office is the best in the world.”

This supports the view of the World Meterological Organization (WMO) which consistently ranks the Met Office in the top two operational forecasters in the world.

Our reputation for forecasting accuracy is based on our commitment to provide the world’s best weather and climate service which helps protect lives and property here in the UK and around the world.

Met Office in the Media: 24 January 2012

24 01 2012

The Daily Telegraph has today published a correction relating to a story it published back in November of last year. In “Outlook fair for amateurs as Met Office releases data” the newspaper inaccurately suggested the Met Office had failed to predict the cold weather of last winter, the weather for the royal wedding and had been criticised by the Transport Select Committee.

The correction, printed on page 2 of the paper, and is reproduced below:

The Met Office

Following “Outlook fair for amateurs as Met Office releases data” (Nov 27), we are happy to make clear that, as noted by the Select Committee for Transport, the Met Office did warn the public of last winter’s cold weather from early November 2010 and that it did accurately forecast the weather in London on the day of the Royal Wedding. While the Committee questioned the usefulness of Met Office seasonal predictions, it accepted the accuracy of its short-term forecasts.

Following the publication of a scientific study on the effects of changes in solar output on climate change several papers reported on the findings that although solar output is likely to reduce over the next 90 years this will not substantially delay expected increases in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. The Daily Telegraph reported ‘Solar slump will not slow climate change’, whilst Reuters reported ‘Weaker sun will not delay global warming‘ and the Guardian said ‘Sun’s changes unlikely to slow global warming’.

Elsewhere there has been continued interest in the changeable weather affecting the UK at the moment. For the most up to date information check out our latest weather forecasts online.

Met Office in the Media – 25 November 2011

25 11 2011

There are a couple of interesting articles about the weather in today’s press.

First of all, in the Daily Telegraph, a contradictory story with a headline which claims we shouldn’t “expect a big freeze this Christmas“. The introduction goes on to say the Met Office is predicting “unseasonable weather” – when actually, we are predicting normal weather for the time of year.

The Met Office quote further down the article gives a more accurate picture: “Last December saw a very prolonged period with wave after wave of cold spells and snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures. Rather than that, it looks like we’re in for a mixed, unsettled December this year, with some cold spells but also milder spells.”

To clarify, last year we had the coldest December in more than 100 years. The Met Office forecast for 30 days ahead, which still does not cover the whole month of December, suggests that we are unlikely to see a repeat of the persistent and extreme cold and snowy conditions that we saw last year.

Instead the current Met Office forecast is for much more normal conditions for the time of year, with periods of wind and rain interspersed with colder spells bringing some overnight frost and a chance of snow – mostly over the higher ground in Scotland. As always we will keep the British public warned and informed when severe weather is expected to affect the UK through our 5 day forecasts and our National Severe Weather Warning Service.

There’s also an article in the Daily Express which suggests Scotland will be “blanketed” with snow. There has been some snowfall in Scotland overnight and this morning, but – as forecast by the Met Office – this has generally been on high ground above 400m. We are expecting further snowfalls over the next few days, but again only on the high ground in Scotland.


Met Office in the News: 13 April 2011

13 04 2011

Volcanic Eruption Test – The Met Office in its capacity as the Volcanic Ash advisory Centre London (VAAC London) is taking part in a european wide exercise to test changes and improvements in how the industry deals with volcanic ash incidents. This exercise, a routine twice yearly test, takes place today and tomorrow and is known as “VOLCEX 11/01”. It is organised by ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The exercise will simulate the eruption of the Grimsvötn volcano in Iceland.  The Met Office will be operating its Volcanic Ash advisory Centre, providing guidance on expected ash movement across the North Atlantic and across European airspace.  The exercise is then expected to test how regulators and airlines deal with the ash.

In the last year the Met Office have worked with the industry and regulator on a number of activities to increase preparedness to meet the challenges of a volcanic eruption of a similar nature as last years happening again.  Such work includes:

  • Providing a radar in Iceland that can be used to provide more information about any volcanic eruption
  • Increasing ground-based and air-borne observations such as mobile lidars, cloud base recorders, aerosol measuring weather balloons and lightning measurements
  • Working with the CAA to provide an additional ash measuring aircraft
  • Working with the industry to adapt outputs from the VAAC to meet the changing requirements of airlines and the regulators

Fukushima Incident – Ian Sample at the Guardian has written ‘Radiation spreads, but risk to the rest of world low‘.  The article describes our role in dispersion forecasting and our role in supporting the international community  in relation to the Fukushima incident.

Warm April? – The Daily Telegraph have today reported that this April is currently heading toward being the warmest spring on record.  In honesty, it is just too early to say how this April will fair in the record books, however the month has indeed start off very warm with record-breaking minimum temperatures in parts of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Northern England earlier in the month. Our 6 to 15 day forecast, which will cover most of the rest of April is available on our website.

Met Office in the Media: 04 January 2011

4 01 2011

Following an article in the Radio times on Roger Harrabin, Environment Analyst with BBC News, the  Daily Mail have followed up with stories highlighting how the Met Office provided forecasts for this winter to the Cabinet Office, that indicated the risk of a cold start to the season.

We provided a long-range forecast to the Cabinet Office at the end of October highlighting the risk of a cold start to the winter. This forecast is used by government officials across the UK to support long-term planning.  We offer a 30 day forecast on our website which accurately highlighted the cold weather in late November and through December.

We do not issue long-range forecasts to the public, as following research they have told us that they are of little use to them and they would prefer forecasts for shorter timescales.  Therefore we offer forecasts for 6 to 15 days and 16 to 30 days ahead on our website.

The Daily Telegraph also followed up on the story in today’s paper, but has mistakenly reported that the BBC has decided to publish independent assessments of the Met Office’s performance on its website.  In fact, Roger Harrabin has begun a project within BBC News to evaluate the accuracy of weather forecasters across the UK, looking at forecasts from 1 day ahead to 3 months ahead.  The Met Office welcomes this initiative, engaged in the initial public workshop meeting and will provide input when asked by the project.

Response to Boris Johnson column in Daily Telegraph

20 12 2010

The Met Office has not issued a seasonal forecast to the public and categorically denies forecasting a ‘mild winter’ as suggested by Boris Johnson in his column in the Daily Telegraph.

Following public research, the Met Office no longer issues long-range forecasts for the general public; instead we provide a monthly outlook on our website, which have consistently and clearly sign-posted the very cold conditions.

Our day-to-day forecasts have been widely recognised as providing excellent advice to government, businesses and the public with the Daily Telegraph commenting only today that ‘the weekends heavy snow was forecast with something approaching pin-point accuracy by the Met Office’.

The public trust and take heed of our warnings and it is misleading to imply that the Met Office did not see this cold weather coming.

Winter Forecast?

28 10 2010

Several newspapers have reported today that the Met Office is predicting a mild winter. As was widely reported earlier in the year, following public research, the Met Office no longer issues long-range forecasts for the general public, instead providing a monthly outlook on our website.

Despite this, the Daily Express has published a story ‘Winter to be mild predicts Met Office’ and the Daily Telegraph has reported ‘Met Office data suggests mild winter’. These media reports have based their interpretation for the coming winter on a single probability map on our website. However they have been selective about the information they have used and you should not take these interpretations as a guide to the coming winter. Instead we would recommend using our monthly outlook and short range forecasts.

The forecasts on our website are provided to support international collaborators in seasonal forecasting. They require expert interpretation and the need to be combined with a range of other information before you can make a seasonal forecast.

Met Office in the Media: 27 Oct 2010

27 10 2010

Over recent days there has been a great deal of coverage regarding the chilly conditions across parts of Britain.  The Daily Telegraph, reports that Frozen Britain braves coldest October night for 17 years. Many parts of northern Britain had a very cold night overnight Sunday into Monday with Levens Hall, Cumbria, seeing an overnight low of -6.6C, the coldest for 17 years. Other cold places included Trawsgoed in Wales and West Freugh in Scotland.  The cold snap has been relatively short lived as winds have now turned more west or southwesterly again bringing milder conditions across the UK.

The Sunday Times has reported on NASA GISS data showing that Oct 2009 to September 2010 was the warmest 12 month period on record since records began. The article also reported that data from the Met Office, where we compile global temperature data in a different way, would confirm that the same period would “probably the first or second hottest on record”.


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