Mystic Met Office abandons long range forecasts
They're rubbish, and they've run out of tea leaves
The Met Office has confirmed it is to abandon long range weather forecasts, finally acknowledging criticism. The most recent forecasts were so inaccurate, that even the BBC is reconsidering whether to appoint an alternative supplier, such as Accuweather, after 88 years of continuous service from the 1,700-strong MoD unit.
The Mystic Met predicted a barbecue summer for 2009, and the third washout in a row, with the wettest July since 1914, duly followed. A mild winter was then given a high probability, only for the UK to suffer its coldest winter for 30 years. Yet Met Office staff received performance-related pay bonuses worth over £12m over 5 years, it was revealed last week, in response to a Parliamentary question.
In a statement, the Mystic Met said:
"We have therefore decided to stop issuing a UK ‘seasonal forecast’ four times a year. Instead, we will now publish a monthly outlook, updated on a weekly basis."
The reason, apparently, is that the UK is just to big and strange to forecast. "The UK is one of the hardest places to provide forecasts for because of our size and location,"
But can anyone do better? Britain's best known amateur Bill Foggitt, of Sowerby near Thirsk in North Yorkshire, used meticulous natural observation for his long term forecasts. A Telegraph obituary noted:
...When swallows come early in April, it will be a good summer; the closing of pine cones precedes wet weather; soporific flies mean thunderstorms; when frogs lay their spawn in mid-pond and rooks nest higher in the treetops, the weather will be warm.
But Bill's gone now, along with the Telegraph's full time obituary editor. Meanwhile renegade forecaster WeatherAction came a cropper when it predicted a "green", or unusually mild Christmas.
In place of observation, or new scientific thinking, the Met has a new £33m supercomputer. Alas this is used for climate modelling - an area that has proved even less accurate over the past decade than seasonal forecasts.
Many of you responded to my appeal last year by thinking of how to rate their weather forecasters claims of accuracy. I'll put these together in a Mailbag next week. ®
When are they going to admit their short range forecasting is pretty crap too?
As an example I told my son on saturday that we wouldn't be going out on sunday because the forecast was for heavy rain. There were even weather warnings in place. I watched the late forecast and they were still forecasting heavy rain for sunday. So eight hours later I got out of bed to glorious sunshine. Checked the forecast and it said sunny periods. No mention that in eight hours the forecast had totally changed. Later on TV one forecaster had the decency to mention the error, except that he said that the weather had done something unexpected. So it seems that it's never the met office's fault when they get it wrong, it's the fault of the weather for not doing what they expected it to do.
We've had snow forecast at least three times in the last few weeks only for there to be no snow. And then this week they forecast a day that was apparently going to be precipitation free for the whole country. Guess what. It snowed.
Seasonal forecasts? Monthly forecasts? They have trouble getting the weather right a few hours in advance.
What's that you say? They have statistics that show how accurate their forecats are? Well sure they do, but that's easy. Here's a little excercise for you: Nip to www.meto.gov.uk and look up the forecast for your home town for next tuesday. Pop back at least a couple of times a day until next tuesday and notice how the forecast changes. Keep a record and I'm sure you'll find that one of the variations turns out to be accurate. So if the Met Orifice keep a record of how many days weather they managed to forecast accurately then they can probably chalk up close to 365. However what if they kept a record of the number of inaccurate forecasts made?
Strange how people are willing to rip into climate and weather models, with a proven, measured skill, and yet give the economists an easy ride ...
"Revert back to hunter gatherers". Prove it.
No, I mean it. Show a measure of your day to day accuracy in predicting economic results, and put them up against the skills of any weather forecast. For that matter, show me papers where economists measure there own skills as forecasters and reporters do it. Meteorologists do it all the time: go to a met. conference and its all about the events they got _wrong_, not the one forecast they got right.
Big and strange
Do the Met not mean that the UK is too *small* and strange to forecast? My impression is that continental forecasts are usually more accurate. In summer it's always hellish hot, and in winter it's always devastatingly cold.
Is the UK, a smallish island, subject to the vagiaries of oceanic weather, with its cyclones and occluded fronts piling in from the west?
Mere idle speculation on my part. Much like a long-range forecast, I suppose.