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« A dissentient | Main | Teacher training »
Sunday
Jan302011

The Lords discuss the Met

Excerpt from Hansard:

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, can my noble friend inform the House of the statistical and scientific evidence for the Met Office's estimate that there was only a one in 20 chance of a severe winter in 2010-11, an estimate on which the airports relied?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has asked Sir John Beddington to give him scientific advice on the likelihood of future severe winters. On 25 October 2010, the Met Office provided the Cabinet Office with an updated three-monthly forecast, which suggested a 40 per cent chance of cold conditions, a 30 per cent chance of near average conditions and a 30 per cent chance of mild conditions over northern Europe.

Looks like Earl Attlee didn't answer the question, but good to have confirmation that the message we saw was the real thing.

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Reader Comments (17)

The problem is that this "forecast" is utterly worthless to anyone who is trying to plan for winter weather. Not only that, anyone could have just made up some similar numbers by throwing dice or cutting cards and then claimed afterwards that they were right. I would expect that pretty meaningful results could be achieved by studying the records for previous winters for the past couple of hundred years and working out what percentage of them were mild, severe, wet, etc.

Jan 30, 2011 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

Sorry to be a pedant but isn't "The Met" the Metropolitan Police?

Jan 30, 2011 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

Interesting also that Mystic MET also defines "cold" for December as being +3ºC.

Interesting also that numerous other forecasters managed to get it very much closer to what we actually experienced. Including (apparently) the German equivalent of the MET.

Jan 30, 2011 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

40 per cent chance of cold conditions, a 30 per cent chance of near average conditions and a 30 per cent chance of mild conditions

How very decisive. How many coins did we toss them to come up with this near-as-dammit-coin-toss of a prediction?

Jan 30, 2011 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterPunksta

I thought it was 34/33/33 rather than 40/30/30. (Equally useless, of course.)

Jan 30, 2011 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Hi Andrew, please get in touch with the author Cory Doctorow, he has many interesting ideas on generating income from writing--one of them being selling very special limited edition copies of a book. See more at:

http://craphound.com/?cat=10

Good luck and KUTGW! Also, see kickstarter.com

Jan 30, 2011 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterFan

Stonyground

I did offer the use of my special £ coin at the time for £250 a month.

Jan 30, 2011 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterRetired Dave

Martin A

A supercomputer can only round to the nearest 10 - normally upwards of course though.

I heard a rumour they were thinking of using the Lottery balls instead!

Jan 30, 2011 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterRetired Dave

Thanks Fan

I'll take a look.

Jan 30, 2011 at 1:12 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

A special Limited Edition - Hardback of 'The Hockey Stick Illusion' would look nice..

May be worth a few pounds in 50 Years... ;)

Jan 30, 2011 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Barry

Don't know if Stacey would wear it, but interesting idea.

Jan 30, 2011 at 3:01 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Although the Met. Office's forecasts are risible and well-known to be little better than chance, this time it's no laughing matter. The lack of readiness for the cold weather not only caused massive economic disruption, but led directly to many deaths. They have blood on their hands and "something should be done about it". As there are many other forecasting organisations, all with better accuracy records than the Met. Office, I hope the government will not in future rely solely on this discredited band with their ridiculous climate model.

Jan 30, 2011 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterEd P

I am surprised that the Cabinet Office, and the government in general, has gone so easy on the Met Office after their outrageous lie and attempt to shift the blame onto the Cabinet Office. No doubt sparks are flying in private, but if I were Francis Maude I would want heads on a pike (metaphorically of course, I am not Al Gore or Schneider or Hansen). Guess he just has to persuade Cameron that Napier and Slingo need to go, over Huhne's objections.

Jan 30, 2011 at 6:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

The forecast is about as useful as THGTTG computer answer of 42.

The weather will be cooler, average or warmer. Try planning for that and using it to justify investment in snow equipment and salt/grit reserves.

If that is the best they can do can we save some cash by selling off some of their "supercomputers" and the expensive staff that press the buttons to so little effect?

Jan 30, 2011 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterArgusfreak

It is amazing that for all the money and high-tech computers, satellites and ground-station data, not to exclude the large intelligence with which the Met Office (and other government agencies) prides itself on having, that a 40% "cold", 60% not-cold or even warm, is the best they could get Poor Richard's Almanac goes out on a limb more than that.

The standards of certainty are either frightfully high or the actual certainty is frightfully low and not worth the money it costs. The latter, I'm sure (95% certainty 19 out of 20 times).

Jan 30, 2011 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Proctor

"Sorry to be a pedant but isn't "The Met" the Metropolitan Police? -- Buffy Minton

Wishful thinking, perhaps? Visions of MetOff employees being dragget out in darbies and loaded into a police van?

Why expect anything good from Madame Metoff? Whether it's propaganda or bad forecasts, it all serves the cause and will be rewarded. It's looking more and more as if a wrecking crew is in charge of the UK.

Jan 30, 2011 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

"On 25 October 2010, the Met Office provided the Cabinet Office with an updated three-monthly forecast, which suggested a 40 per cent chance of cold conditions, a 30 per cent chance of near average conditions and a 30 per cent chance of mild conditions over northern Europe."

Not true. The figures the Met Office gave were for a colder START to the 'WINTER SEASON', which is something quite different from 'winter'. We know from Quarmby that the Met Office figure for a cold WINTER was 1-in-20, as Lord Lawson mentioned in his question.

Jan 30, 2011 at 11:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

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