The Met Office’s outlook for UK winter 2013-14

There are some headlines in the media today discussing the Met Office long range forecast for this winter.

Firstly it’s important to remember that it’s our short and medium term forecasts that are relied on by emergency responders to help them manage the impacts of severe weather.

The Met Office’s five-day forecasts and severe weather warnings have provided excellent guidance throughout the period of exceptionally stormy and wet weather we have experienced this winter. This advice has helped everyone from the emergency services, to government organisations and the public plan ahead for the conditions we’ve seen.

The news stories are based on information taken from our three month outlook for contingency planners, issued at the end of November 2013 so, what can our three month outlooks tell us?

These outlooks are not like our other forecasts because, as we have discussed previously, it’s not currently scientifically possible to provide a detailed forecast over these long timescales.

Instead, the outlook assesses the level of risk connected to five different scenarios for both temperature and rain/snowfall for the UK as a whole; they do not mention specific areas such as the West Country or the Somerset Levels. It’s a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race.

However, as with any horse race, it’s always possible that the favourite won’t win – so these probability scenarios have to be used in the right context. This is why they’re useful for contingency planners who plan ahead based on risk, but not that useful for the general public.

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36 Responses to The Met Office’s outlook for UK winter 2013-14

  1. I think you are getting a bit too much of a hard time over this. If I recall correctly you stated a 25% chance of a drier than average winter (the driest of 5 categories) – therefore a 75% chance of it not being in said category. A 15% chance of it being in the wettest category.

    Most forecasts (professional or amateur) for the winter season that I saw (and I read many) either went for the coldest and snowiest winter ever, or something rather average.

    I only saw one amateur forecaster predict an exceptionally wet and windy winter.

  2. jbenton2013 says:

    If it is “not currently scientifically possible” to provide meaningful forecasts over long timescales, then why do the Met Office produce these forecasts which are essentially useless. It’s clear that if these forecasts are supplied to government bodies/local authorities there is the possibility they will be misled into giving them credibility.

    This appears to be yet another instance of overreach from the Met Office in an attempt to justify their existence. If you don’t know, then say you don’t know.

  3. jbenton2013 says:

    Seems very odd that the Met Office has been claiming their climate models are reliable and credible for forecasting climate over decades, and yet admit there is no way that, essentially the same models, can forecast three months in advance. In fact I would be both happy and surprised if the Met Office produced an accurate forecast seven days in advance.

    Yes, I know weather is not climate, but climate is still an aggregate of weather over several decades.

  4. darrog2012 says:

    Raise you head above the parapet and it will get shot at, but don’t stand up waiting to be shot.
    Surely one of the key principals in life is don’t make the same mistake twice, BBQ summer, dry winter – you know where I’m coming from, but even if you use vague terms or give a large degree of error (which you do) in these long term forecasts they will bite you and you would appear to have made the same mistake twice in which case you only have yourself to blame.

    Oh and by the way this claim about “4 day forecast are now as accurate as a 1 day forecast 25 yrs ago”
    were the forecasts really that bad 25 yrs ago?

  5. Jaime Jessop says:

    I believe it was stated that there was a 15% chance of this winter falling into the wettest category. Is the Met Office able to say that, on average, their three monthly forecasts are right significantly more often than they are wrong? If not, then it’s time to give up on them altogether I would have thought.

    To be fair, the MO was not the only long term forecaster to be seriously caught out by this winter. Exacta Weather, who claim to have a ‘hit’ rate for these forecasts considerably better than that of the Met Office, also came unstuck big time, having predicted 100 days of snow and ‘historic’ cold temperatures. Whether predicting the weather or future climate, using multi-million pound supercomputers, or relying upon empirical observations combined with correlations, Nature, it seems, will always have the last laugh..

  6. I refuse to predict in any sort of detail because there are so many potential variables that it is a mug’s game.

    3 to 5 days is about the best that can be done realistically and all attempts at longer timescales should be regarded as guesswork.

    That said, there are natural implications of a long term shift in the Earth’s permanent climate zones and jet stream tracks.

    If everything shifts poleward then there will certainly be a predictable change for the UK in that on average the climate will become more like that of the Mediterranean and if everything shifts equatorward the climate will become more like that of Iceland or Norway.

    The problem for the Met Office is that, for many years past, AGW theory has persuaded the Met Office that everything will shift poleward but in fact the opposite is happening.

    All their longer term predictions have been biased towards a trend that stopped around 2000 and which is now in reverse.

    The Met Office needs to recalibrate to remove the assumed effects of global CO2 levels from their models.

    Solar changes are currently giving a much better fit as per my New Climate Model.

    • nuwurld says:

      Hi Stephen. Totally agree with the above.

      Could I add, please, from reading through, that there are at least three commenters here, Stephen, Piers and myself who view from irrefutable energy balance argument that the trend of the mean jet stream position is the climate trend. This follows from the jet stream being reliant in its production upon the polar front and the thermal gradient associated with that and the sub tropical convective cell. A jet stream trending poleward results in (as we see summer seasonally) a reduced polar convective (cold) cell. A trending equatorial results in (as we see winter seasonally) an increase in the polar convective (cold) cell.

      Recent equatorial trending of the mean jet stream position has only one translation. A cooling signal.

      There is no confusion about this.

      Regards Geoff

  7. jauntycyclist says:

    ” it’s not currently scientifically possible to provide a detailed forecast over these long timescales.”

    this guy predicted the storms back in october 2013.”The need for stronger west and SW winds from a Conservation of Angular Momentum consideration certainly lends itself to scope for the North of Britain to get some real batterings- we are set to have some of our biggest winter storms in years” he gives his reasoning

    there are other examples.

    is MetO about providing the best forecasting for the UK or about providing co2 friendly unvalidated models for the IPCC so they can write reports that there is a co2 deathstar coming to kill us? Who pays for the MetO? The UK or the IPCC? Maybe the £80m a year be put out to tender and given to the group who can best demonstrate their forecasting and not distracted with co2 models for the ipcc that predict nothing?

    • He also predicted a ‘devastating; storm to hir northern Britain in the period 21st-23rd October which did not occur. October is normally a stormy month so predict a few storms and chances are some will be correct but the only skill is knowing what the climatology is.

    • Jaime Jessop says:

      Ian Penell states in his forecast, which predicts “stronger Westerlies and south-westerlies blowing across the north Atlantic from this month onwards and through the winter” the following:

      “The sunspot cycle peaked in 2011-12, and is now declining: This means there is likely to be less impact of solar flares causing forces to impact on the upper-atmosphere (solar flares have been known to slightly increase the overall westerly momentum of the atmosphere globally- and ultimately results in deeper subarctic depressions and stronger higher-latitude westerlies). The solar cycle entering a quiet spell would lend itself to weaker Westerlies coming off the North Atlantic; but the other factors as described above (Arctic Ice constrained in high latitudes and a warmer than usual North Atlantic going into winter) are likely to far outweigh the effect of a slightly “quieter sun”.”

      What in fact happened was that the Sun entered a phase of (relatively) higher activity throughout the winter period, implying that, rather than tending to weaken sub-Arctic depressions and decrease westerlies, increasing activity might have contributed to a general increase in storminess, which of course is exactly what happened. The increase in solar activity (within the envelope of a much weaker solar cycle generally, with SC25 predicted to be weaker still) strengthened the jet stream over the Atlantic and gave parts of Southern UK our wettest, most likely stormiest winter since records began.

      The magnitude of the effect of the brief increase in solar activity is a point for discussion and debate. Given that solar activity in general is very subdued, one might suppose that a relatively modest increase would not have a particularly significant effect, whereas, as far as this winter is concerned, it appears to have dramatically affected the strength of the jet stream. There is tentative empirical evidence emerging that even very modest increases in solar activity occurring within the context of a Grand Minimum can have a startling short term effect upon a generally ‘sluggish’ meandering ‘quiet sun’ jet stream, in effect ‘supercharging’ the North Atlantic section (and perhaps others) resulting in extremely stormy weather. A paper released very recently identifies distinct ‘modes’ of the Sun: a Grand Minimum mode, a main general mode and possibly a Grand Maximum mode, suggesting that solar activity within each mode may be characteristically and intrinsically different.

      I have pointed out in my blog that the Great Storm of 1703 (by all accounts, the worst ever recorded to hit southern England) coincided almost exactly with a sudden increase in solar activity following a very long period of inactivity during the Maunder Minimum.

      • nuwurld says:

        Hi Jamie. Very interesting about the 1703 storm. I believe that Paul Vaughan has very interestingly described a strong link between the solar differential of forcing and sea surface temperature which shows very high correlation.
        As you have pointed out the solar activity late 2013 picked up and in terms of sunspot number has passed the earlier peak of over 12 months ago. Between around 11/13 and now the extreme UV flux increased by around 30% from around 120 SFU to 160SFU. It will be interesting to see how the atmospheric circulation responds once cycle 24 enters its waning phase. SORCE around 2002 showed a dramatic decrease in EUV as cycle 23 started to fade. Interesting times.

        I hope you don’t mind me adding this here. I’ve been a regular here for the past couple of years and this is the first time I can remember that four commenters who are open to Earth’s climate being externally driven have replied. Normally it’s just me ranting about this, and playing down the modern obsession with GHG’s whilst emphasising the prolonged lack of correlation of CO2 levels with Earth’s temperature.

        The four are, in no particular order, yourself, Jamie, Piers, Stephen and myself.

        Regards, Geoff

      • Jaime Jessop says:

        Hi Geoff, I’m very new to commenting on here. I’m surprised that you find so very few people sceptical of CO2 driven climate change engaging in discussions. I thought us ‘deniers’ were everywhere!

        In view of the lamentable failure of the climate science establishment to give proper and due consideration to both internal and external non-GHG forcings over the years, we are where we are today, burdened with a hugely costly and ineffective climate change mitigation policy riding on the back of an entire ‘climate change industry’ consisting of an unhealthy dose of green ideology combined with poor science and an exceptionally wasteful and inefficient engineering ‘solution’ in the form of ‘renewable energy’.

        It’s high time for the balance to be restored and, if scientists still insist that anthropogenic global warming is a reality, they need to communicate to the public exactly how much of a reality it is in comparison with natural climate change, and not rely upon a crystal ball comprising of a hypothetically generated figure called ‘equilibrium climate sensitivity’ with which they have attempted to beat us all senseless with alarming prognostications of 3 or 4 degree thermageddon happening ‘this century or the next’.

      • nuwurld says:

        Hi Jamie. Many are skeptical but very few hint at the potential cause being external. Many regularly question the Met wrt political stance. Very few mention the imminent solar decline or the obvious question,
        “what was the Sun doing before the imminent decline?”

        I have noticed very few people mention the Sun. Never mind the solar system and the Earth’s role within that whereby it concerns gravitational exchange and momentum conservation, which modulates fundamental winds and therefore equator to pole circulation patterns. I remain fully disdainful of the mitigation ‘industry’.

        The potential for not responding to a cooling planet is more seriously life threatening than to one warming. As I am sure you are aware.

        Regards, Geoff.

  8. Sirs,
    Your statement in para 5: “…it’s not currently scientifically possible to provide a detailed forecast over these long timescales.” is a lie. WeatherAction does provide such with proven peer-reviewed significant skill. As an example note Autumn 2013 and Winter 2013-14 in detail for eg, UK+Eire or USA. Our Severe storm in South England of Oct 28th was forecast for late October 23 weeks ahead.
    As extreme examples our forecast of the coldest December (2010) for 100 years; and the ‘CRUEL WINTER’ in detail of central and East USA 2013-14 (due to offset polar vortex) were superbly confirmed.
    Your claim is untrue and gratuitously damaging to WeatherAction and you must withdraw it forthwith.
    Thank you for your attention,
    Piers Corbyn

    • Bob Smith says:

      Yes but you are only describing hits, and not mentioning not misses.

      If you really believe you have a long-range forecasting method why don’t you make it publicly available?

      It could be considered ethically immoral to keep something like that secret for your personal gain.

      Just think of all those poor countries in the world that could benefit from better forecasting…

      • jauntycyclist says:

        “ethically immoral”

        like deceiving people there is a co2 deathstar coming to kill us all? Given co2ers don’t seem to have designed a fail point in their experiments then there is no point at which evidence will change their conviction that the theory is right. Co2 =main driver of climate is a Hotel California. You can check out any time u like but u can never leave.

        An ex founder of Greenpeace Patrick Moore, Ph.D is saying ……… “There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2)are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years. If there were such a proof it would be written down for all to see. No actual proof, as it is understood in science, exists…….. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) states: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid -20th century.” (My emphasis) “….. Extremely likely” is not a scientific term but rather a judgment, as in a court of law. The IPCC defines “extremely likely” as a “95- 100% probability”. But upon further examination it is clear that these numbers are not the result of any mathematical calculation or statistical analysis.They have been “invented” as a construct within the IPCC report to express “expert judgment”, as determined by the IPCC….”

      • jauntycyclist says:

        Meto should put aside 10m from their budget to research it rather than keep a closed mind for political reasons? currently amateurs and farmers almanacs have proven better long range forecasting than MetO. Isn’t it ethically immoral to pretend to skill in order to get tax money?

    • jbenton2013 says:

      Getting the Met Office to withdraw anything is virtually impossible Mr Corbyn. It’s not in their DNA to admit to any failings.

    • Piers you Winter forecasts contained no mention of floods, indeed they showed significantly below average rainfall for the South.
      Why do you think people are so stupid not to notice this? I guess because the huge majority don’t pay for you forecasts and rely on your misleading ‘reports’ on your blog.

      • jauntycyclist says:

        er all the past paid reports are in the archive. pretty easy to check. Why did the bookies stop him placing bets? because they realised he had a statistical edge? If MetO had skill they could become millionaires by placing long range bets? But they haven’t so they can’t.

        the nation and cobra relies on misleading reports from MetO who can’t predict storms till the water is coming thro the catflap.

        the main hostility or just ignoring anyone who does long range like the guy on the blog [link in another post above] who in oct 2013 did predict the worst storms for years and openly detailed his reasoning so no ‘black box’ there is that it would destroy the co2=main driver of climate religion because they achieved their results without access to £30m supercomputers laced with co2 assumptions.

        given these taxpayer funded computers cannot model past climate is it any wonder they cannot predict anything either?

        it is important the uk has the best weather forecasting regardless of who does it. It is not the place for eco utopian dogmas to blinker the forecasting?

  9. Is my post at 18.20.58 being censored ?

  10. Piers Corbyn – only ever one review – 2001University of Sunderland. “the only thing verified was a yes/no to a gale anywhere in the lowland UK”

    • jauntycyclist says:

      just a reminder even the bbc reported a WA success back in 2010…..”Piers Corbyn, the independent weather forecaster, predicted the winter cold many months ago, to the surprise of many meteorologists.”……..

      so long range is possible and one can have a statistical edge in it. so come on MetO forget the ideology and preconceived ideas let the uk have the best possible forecasting so the uk via cobra can prepare for extreme events.

      I see the MetO only publish accuracy rates for first 2 days forecasts? Don’t need a £30m supercomputer for that. So why does the bulk of the uk taxpayer money go on speculation for the ipcc rather than improving forecasting for the uk?

  11. Bob, try reading. 1. As it says above our site carries peer reviewed and independent reports of our significant forecasting skill (which obviously includes unconfirmed forecasts) – something which does not exist for MetO ‘Long Range’ efforts, as well as ongoing reports from forecast users. 2. Our website Latest/news has many reports of free forecasts and warnings made in public however the green drivel sheets such as New York Times suppress such warnings preferring people should suffer storms, floods and blizzards and then get the ‘Co2 dunnit’ lie. 3. I presume you don’t use a mobile phone or fly by plane or drink Coke because the technology is not published and daresay you would have opposed the use of radar in the war because its technology was not published. Get real 90% of physics technology is secret and unpublished and used by businesses or the military – and note in the bubble era WeatherAction was on the Stock Exchange and withdrew when the era ended. Your argument is short on logic and of course is there to dodge the issue: the MetO has made untrue statements which are gratuitously damaging to WeatherAction and must be withdrawn. If they did it would help us spread our weather warnings across the world but then of course that is actually not what you want us it?

    • Bob Smith says:

      If you have such a great forecasting method that no-one else knows then share it. That’s the only way to get it accepted.

      It’s the same with the cold fusion and free energy people. I tell them that if they have such a great technology they need to share it with the world.

      And if not, why not?

      • jauntycyclist says:

        people do know but ignore it and try to prevent funding by statements like ‘long range forecasting is not possible’ when all they mean is their co2 models can’t do it.. i believe WA has invited meto and others to open public debate about ‘the science’ several times and the MetO never take it up?

        as for sharing lets not forget anyone outside the co2 deathstar is coming club get NO public funding unlike MetO who get £80m a year and still an amateur predicted the winter storms while MetO didn’t which is why the floods were ‘a surprise’ and no one was prepared making the political class look inept and behind the curve costing the country £100s of millions.

        there is evidence people can long range forecast so why claim it can’t be done?

      • Bob Smith says:

        “there is evidence people can long range forecast so why claim it can’t be done”

        I don’t buy it. There’s too much scope for focusing on a few successful predictions and ignoring the failed ones. Especially when forecasts are vague and *something* can be found in them later. It’s how astrology works.

    • does not contain any peer-reviewed or independent assessments of Pier’s 30 day/45 day Britain and Ireland forecasts.

  12. Did any long term forecaster predict a wet winter? Piers for example who has posted above proclaiming skill seems to have omitted to mention that his forecast was for a dry winter, February exceptionally dry in the areas which saw extensive flooding.

    • jauntycyclist says:

      guess u didn’t look at my link for the guy who back in oct2013 predicted the worst severe winter storms in years and who demonstrated his reasoning. it can be done but arrogance and co2 blinkers prefer to dismiss even the possibility so the uk suffers.

      the uk needs the best possible forecasting not sinking millions into co2 driven models that can’t predict anything, can’t model past climate and is used by the IPCC to write co2 deathstar is coming reports.

      if meto is not willing to place money bets on its own forecasts why should the nation be expected to place billion pound bets on the nonsense predictions coming out of ‘wise owl’ or whatever their supercomputer is called?

      • Bob Smith says:

        “the guy who back in oct2013 predicted the worst severe winter storms in years ”

        Great so you have one hit. I bet I could find a few successful Astrology predictions made in oct 2013 too.

  13. I can personally vouch for Piers Corbyn’s forecasting acumen. He has accurately described 30 days ahead of time over and over again the frontal maps and precipitation range in his USA forecasts for the last six months that I’ve recently evaluated. He has made successful tornado activity warnings several times, a successful earthquake prediction for Nov 17, 2013, along with the outstanding prediction of the January circumpolar vortex – jet stream meander all the way down to the Gulf coast states and the subsequent cold and snow spells through February.

    Why do I keep hearing this crap that NO ONE can forecast long-range when Piers Corbyn does it over and over again successfully? Anyone can look over his prior forecasts at no cost here at his archives: .

    Stephen Wilde if you or the MET forecasters cannot bring yourselves to look over Piers’ recent older forecasts before declaring the impossibility of forecasting beyond five days, then you’re objectively biased and probably a bit jealous of Piers. Get over it. How’s that “dry” winter forecast coming along for the UK, hey MET forecasters?

    Why do people keep dismissing what they won’t even look at? Fear. Fear of being wrong. It’s too late for the already wrong. The only sensible thing to do is try to understand how and where you went wrong, something an intellectually honest scientist ought to do if they can face their fear.

    Bob Smith: Piers has to make a living too, and his forecasts are not that expensive. Every weather forecast you see in media was paid for by customers and/or advertisers. Piers often makes unpaid public weather warnings when he feels it is necessary.

    What is ethically immoral is how the people in government weather and climate circles around the world know who Piers Corbyn is, who know Piers’ concern over public safety, who are regularly invited to understand the basis for Piers’ forecasts, who still yet behave in a pathetic groupthink denial of his ability, and who are in deep denial over their own personal inability and lack of skill and proper understanding to forecast long-range weather successfully, denial over the faulty carbon-based models that they use to produce nonsense predictions, and denial over the historic failure of climate “science” to produce useful predictions of any kind. CO2 based forecasts are useless.

    You people at the MET should be embracing a golden opportunity to improve your game by consulting with Piers Corbyn, but no, your pride and arrogance will only lead to more avoidable suffering and death amongst the public who you are supposed to be protecting. It’s not too late to be honest with yourselves and admit to yourselves that you don’t know everything there is to know about forecasting. Pride goeth before a fall…

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