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.