Met Office in the Media – 28 November 2011

Today there are stories in the media about government plans to make more data publicly accessible. While we expect an official announcement to be made tomorrow, the Met Office welcomes any move that leads to wider access to our high quality data.

We understand the power of information. Data underpins our forecasting, which is recognised as among the best in the world. Our next day temperature forecasts are accurate 87% of the time and the Met Office is consistently ranked in the top two operational forecasters in the world.

An example of this in practice came this weekend, when winds of up to 90mph swept across the north of the UK. We gave accurate guidance several days ahead of where and when these damaging winds would happen. By working with the Highways Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and other agencies, we helped ensure the impacts were minimised. Protecting life and property remains at the heart of the Met Office’s work and, providing that releasing more data does not compromise this, we welcome the initiative.

We recognise that access to high quality weather advice and services has huge potential to allow companies to manage the impacts and opportunities weather brings to their operations. As an example, the Met Office has recently won a €10 million contract to work with others to support aviation services across Europe. Making more of the Met Office’s data available has the potential to encourage innovative new products and services, stimulating the market, creating competition and generating jobs.

Some of the stories in today’s media suggest that releasing more data could be a move towards privatisation of the Met Office. However, Edward Davey, the Government Minister with responsibility for the Met Office, speaking at the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee only last month, said: “We have no plans to privatise the Met Office”.

An article in The Daily Telegraph on the subject also states we got the forecast wrong for the Royal Wedding, but – as you can see from the press release issued at the time – we actually forecast sunny spells and a 10% chance of rain (which is another way of saying there’s a 90% chance it will remain dry!). In terms of accurate forecasting, The Daily Telegraph themselves said we forecast snowfalls last December with “something approaching pinpoint accuracy”.

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