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« Newsnight | Main | Whack »
Monday
Feb172014

Slingo alone

Readers will remember last week's joint Met Office/CEH report on the floods, of which I gave a favourable review at the time. In particular, the report noted that "As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding."

What was not so good was Julia Slingo's "intepretation" of the report's contents. The BBC, among others, reported her as saying "all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change".

Readers will also recall David Rose's report in the Mail on Sunday yesterday, which described the apparent contradictions between the views of Slingo and Professor Mat Collins of Exeter University, who was quoted as saying "There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge".

Last night, Prof Collins tweeted that he and the Met Office would soon issue a joint clarification and all day today we have been waiting expectantly. The promised statement has finally been published at the Met Office blog, and it's fair to say that it's not very impressive.

The report by the Met Office states that “As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding. This is in part due to the highly variable nature of UK weather and climate.”   This agrees with the latest IPCC Report that states: “Substantial uncertainty and thus low confidence remains in projecting changes in Northern Hemisphere storm tracks, especially for the North Atlantic basin.”

This is the basis for Prof Collins’ comment and means that we are not sure, yet, how the features that bring storms across the Atlantic to the UK – the jet-stream and storm track – might be impacted by climate change. As the Met Office report highlights for this year’s extreme conditions, there are many competing factors – from changes in the winds of the upper atmosphere to disturbed weather over Indonesia.

What the Met Office report – and indeed the IPCC – does say is that there is increasing evidence that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense. It is clear that global warming has led to an increase in moisture in the atmosphere – with about four per cent more moisture over the oceans than in the 1970s – which means that when conditions are favourable to the formation of storms there is a greater risk of intense rainfall. This is where climate change has a role to play in this year’s flooding.

With respect to changes in storminess, the good news is that recent advances in climate science are starting to pay dividends. Improved spatial resolution in models – that means that they can model weather and climate in more spatial detail – is allowing the models to represent some of the key factors that drive regional weather patterns. As the Met Office report states ‘With a credible modelling system in place it should now be possible to perform scientifically robust assessments of changes in storminess, the degree to which they are related to natural variability and the degree to which there is a contribution from human-induced climate change.’

See that? Instead of defending Julia Slingo's statement on the floods they have defended the original report. This is very interesting: it seems that the Met Office is unable to come up with any defence of its chief scientist's public statements.

Yesterday I suggested that Slingo's statement had misled the public. This clarification doesn't seemed to have changed anything at all.

It looks bad. Very bad.

http://metofficenews.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/met-office-in-the-media-16-february-2014-response-by-professor-mat-collins-and-the-met-office/

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Reader Comments (89)

Improved spatial resolution in models – that means that they can model weather and climate in more spatial detail – is allowing the models to represent some of the key factors that drive regional weather patterns.

Can anyone remind us what the MET forecast was for this winter , particularity what Slingo said , just to check how well they can 'model weather and climate in more spatial detail'

Feb 17, 2014 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

This is so dishonest. Classic pea and thimble stuff.

If you are a scientist working for the MET and you read this stuff you should hang your head in shame.

Feb 17, 2014 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Slingo's sound bite is repeated again and again in the news cycle & will be quoted ad infinitum, so she is happy. Next stop, retirement if we are lucky.

Feb 17, 2014 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

It would be more believable if the Met Office could actually demonstrate this 'improvement' - or indeed any at all. As far as I can make out, both in terms of weather and climate prediction, its pontifications remain lamentably at variance with reality.

Feb 17, 2014 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Badger

"With a credible modelling system in place it should now be possible.."

So what does that make the modelling systems previously in place - incredible?

Feb 17, 2014 at 5:53 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Slingo won't be penalised or publicly corrected in anyway, since she gave the politically correct answer, regardless of whether it was scientifically correct.

Feb 17, 2014 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

‘With a credible modelling system in place it should now be possible to perform scientifically robust assessments of changes in storminess, the degree to which they are related to natural variability and the degree to which there is a contribution from human-induced climate change.’

Should be possible, eh? We'll see about that.

Feb 17, 2014 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke in Central Illinois

I guess they are, to borrow a phrase

Not. Bovvered.

Feb 17, 2014 at 5:59 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Paul Hudson showed 13 out of the last 14 UKMO global forecasts had a warm bias: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulhudson/posts/Met-Office-global-forecasts-too-warm-in-13-of-last-14-years

This is bad news for the professionals, tarred with the same brush as the political appointees trying to save themselves by using floods and 'extreme weather'; so the professionals are subtly undermining. This is great news because the real physics shows Hansenkoism is a rerun of Phlogiston; the politics is aimed at destroying the Enlightenment, as proved by the Green Party's totalitarian views.

Feb 17, 2014 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMydogsgotnonose

The Met Office statement does not link to the Rose article they are criticising.

Here's what the Met Office statement starts off with:

"An article by David Rose appeared yesterday in the Mail on Sunday entitled: ‘No, global warming did NOT cause the storms, says one of the Met Office’s most senior experts’.
In it he says that Mat Collins, Professor in Climate Systems at Exeter University, ‘appears to contradict’ the report released by the Met Office last weekend ..."

But David Rose said no such thing! He said that Mat Collins seemed to contradict Julia Slingo's statement to the press, ‘all the evidence suggests that climate change has a role to play’.
The Rose article did not even mention the Met Office report released last weekend.

Feb 17, 2014 at 6:05 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

... It is clear that global warming has led to an increase in moisture in the atmosphere – with about four per cent more moisture over the oceans than in the 1970s ...

I recall a paper providing data which showed a DECREASE in humidity over the last 30 years. Can anyone find a cite which supports the Met Office?

Feb 17, 2014 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

‘With a credible modelling system in place it should now be possible to perform scientifically robust assessments of changes in storminess, the degree to which they are related to natural variability and the degree to which there is a contribution from human-induced climate change.’

Why don't you, already?

There are so many conditionals in that statement I can't begin to parse it (sound like Mc). A simple question - assuming it is true, undoubtedly it is, that a warmer world means more moisture and, therefore, more rainfall (highly simplistic, as they put it) and, assuming, as we know, that the temperatures have not increased over, at least, the last decade, what is different about this year? Pray, tell.

Feb 17, 2014 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterLewis Deane

The less-verbose version is:-

“As yet, there is no link between climate change and the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding."

Feb 17, 2014 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Bottom line, but the Met Office daren't say it, all politicians and the media blaming the recent weather on climate change (global warming of the human kind caused by burning fossil fuels) are wrong.

It doesn't matter how fine the spatial resolution. When the basic equations they are trying to solve are wrong or are just assumptions not based on evidence, you still end up with GIGO.

Feb 17, 2014 at 6:24 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I'm disappointed to say that I expected a fudge and that is what we got.. Let us hope that some other climate scientist challenges her directly.

"Improved spatial resolution in models." reminds that putting lipstick on a pig doesn't change the fact that it's still a pig.

Feb 17, 2014 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

What I can't get my head around is that, no matter how much Slingo can blame our weather on AGW, it all has to be relative, surely.

I put myself in her place and try to work out what she is saying - or what her political masters would like her to say - and I feel it can only work like this: If CO2 is part of the GHE (accepted), and if a very small portion of that CO2 is anthropogenic, then the effect of that, if indeed there is any effect, must also be proportional.

So, the best that Slingo could claim is that our crap weather is 97% natural and 3% man-made? And allowing for errors, it as good as being all natural. No?

Feb 17, 2014 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

I don't think there is any "fudge"...they have really dropped Dame Julia from view. Or attempted to, in any case.

I just posted this comment at the MetOff blog post (it's in moderation, but that's standard IIRC):

===========================

There are some missing elements that are needed to understand the situation.

First of all the Daily Mail article: www.dailymail.co. uk/ news/article-2560310/No-global-warming-did-NOT-cause-storms-says-one-Met-Offices-senior-experts.html (all links broken to avoid automatic spam filtering)

Mat Collins, a Professor in climate systems at Exeter University, said the storms have been driven by the jet stream – the high-speed current of air that girdles the globe – which has been ‘stuck’ further south than usual. "There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge."

There is no mention of the Met Office report in the Daily Mail article, only of Dame Julia Slingo

Q1: Are those the actual words (or a fair representation of the actual words) used by Prof Collins?

Then there are the statements issued to the media on the 8/9 Feb weekend by Dame Julia Slingo, which statements the Daily Mail article refers to. Among them, as quoted by the BBC: www.bbc.co. uk/ news/uk-politics-26084625

Dame Julia Slingo said the variable UK climate meant there was "no definitive answer" to what caused the storms. "But all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change," she added.

Q2: Are those the actual words (or a fair representation of the actual words) used by Dame Julia?

Assuming the answers to Q1 and Q2 are "yes" in both cases, may I point to page 22 of the Met Office report:

The persistence of the recent storminess is unusual, and although clustering of storms is quite common, the continued run of deep depressions, through December, January and on into February, is not. It is this continued run of storms that has created the exceptional flooding conditions experienced in the Somerset Levels, for example.

Therefore:

Q3: If flooding has been created by the storms persistence, and the storms have been driven by the "stuck" jet stream, and there is no evidence that global warming / climate change can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter, on what basis can "all the evidence" suggest there is a link between the storms and climate change? (apart from a generalistic "there is a link between any storm and climate change" - something that would make the 8-9 Feb statements totally disconnected from the Met Office report)

Alternatively:

Q4: If all the evidence suggests there is a link between the storms and climate change, how is it possible that it is outside of our knowledge if climate change has caused the jet stream to the stuck in the way it has, therefore driving the storms towards Britain and causing the flooding?

Thank you for your explanation.

Feb 17, 2014 at 6:41 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

"Improved spatial resolution in models...." actually means thay can get their predictions wrong in greater detail. Big deal apart from thr great waste of public money on computing capacity. They can't predict behaviour of the jetstream over more than a few days, it's chaotic, and anyone who says that can or will be able to is being dishonest.

Feb 17, 2014 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

we are not sure, yet,

I'd love any serious scientist from the Met Office to try and defend that yet. It clearly hints that they are somehow getting there, but in fact means nothing.

Feb 17, 2014 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

'what is different about this year?'

I suppose that's a rather stupid argument. Since, if we are talking about moisture being held by the heavens it could deluge anyday or not. Hence, it does not 'explain' this weather (I suppose that's what I meant - it fails as an explanation of the 'particuliar' even while it presumably 'explains' the 'general'). No, the real difficulty for Dame Slingo et al is that their so called 'evidence' is either on falsified models (they are wrong not only about temperatures but about every other parameter - those they model for! - and when they are right - in hindcast - they are wrong, by any scientific, never mind rational, judgment) or on a none-falsifiable 'gut' wish. And their 'evidence' is only the models! Give me a theory I can test and prove wrong or let us join the barbarians and stick pins in our dolls.

Feb 17, 2014 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterLewis Deane

When you consider technical competence, scientific integrity, honesty and objectiveness, does the Met Office measure up as world class scientific organisation? I think not.

Feb 17, 2014 at 7:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

The lack of common sense, plus scientific and basic maths knowledge among the world's politicians (and I include Dame Julia in that category, even though she is a scientist) is woeful. As an example of this, a UK Labour politician during 2002 while having his turn with the Education portfolio, was critical of UK teachers for their students' inability to all score 'above the average' in maths. Good joke material in teachers' common-rooms around the world, but the statement demonstrated a very serious lack of what should be basic survival knowledge in the late twentieth century. As for the credulous BBC reporter doing the interview, 'nuff said!

Feb 17, 2014 at 7:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

"See that? Instead of defending Julia Slingo's statement on the floods they have defended the original report.

As Steve McIntyre says from time to time "Watch the pea".

Feb 17, 2014 at 7:12 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

omnologos

Perfectly put. Do they not teach logic to scientists anymore? Are they just all spineless or terrified of sticking their heads above the parapet?

Make no mistake, if you're quiet when this stuff is done in your name, you are equally responsible for misleading the public. 'Noble cause' excuse won't cut it in the future when your reputation has sunk as low as politicians and you're trying to convince the public that 'science' is important over some future event.

This is not science.

Feb 17, 2014 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

I'm not surprised. In fact, I would have been more surprised had they been genuinely open and honest about their knowledge and their models but, as their scouts have shown by their comments on this and other blogs, honesty and facts do not leave their pens and lips without considerable distortion.

Feb 17, 2014 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Last night, Prof Collins tweeted that he and the Met Office would soon issue a joint clarification and all day today we have been waiting expectantly

Should be 'last night prof collins received a missive from his paymasters and would be rewriting and righting his early terrible mistake with their assistance.

Feb 17, 2014 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

This is pretty ironic:

With respect to changes in storminess, the good news is that recent advances in climate science are starting to pay dividends. Improved spatial resolution in models – that means that they can model weather and climate in more spatial detail – is allowing the models to represent some of the key factors that drive regional weather patterns.

Actually the excess of funding for climate models has made it harder for us to model weather more accurately, simply because climate models are very different beasts than long-range weather forecast models.

More here.

Feb 17, 2014 at 7:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterCarrick

Pea & thimble?

They forecast a drier than average winter. Their excuse is that if they were allowed (more money) to better understand Warble Gloaming then they would have forecast a wetter than average one.

Sheesh!

Feb 17, 2014 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Dame Slingo:-
"all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change".

Matt Collins:-
"There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge".

No contradiction..... yeah right.

Followed by I'm in the sh1t get me out of here, published statement:-
"which means that when conditions are favourable to the formation of storms there is a greater risk of intense rainfall. This is where climate change has a role to play in this year’s flooding".

Feb 17, 2014 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

"with about four per cent more moisture over the oceans than in the 1970s –"

Where are the measurements - and error bars?

4 % seems very stable to me with CO2 up 25 % since then.

Feb 17, 2014 at 8:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBengt Abelsson

I wonder if Noah blamed global warming/climate change?

Feb 17, 2014 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterbufplt

While it is true that you cannot disprove the possible involvement of AGW, however remote, . . .

the public will better understand what happened to government science, if we publicly invite leaders of the scientific community to publicly discuss the precise experimental data they have ignored for decades on pages 19-27 of my autobiography.

http://informthepundits.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/happy-birthday-to-the-stimulus/#comments

Those data are from Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University of Bern, Chicago, California-Berkeley, etc. and they falsify sixty-eight years (2014 - 1946 = 68 yrs) of "Settled Science of Standard Models of Atoms and Stars.

The Climategate emails and documents that were released in late Nov 2009, and official responses to clear evidence of manipulated experimental data, convinced me that

The inhabitants of the third ball of dirt orbiting the Sun will honestly collect and share reliable information with others, or

We will die separately of sudden, unexpected causes !

Oliver K. Manuel

Feb 17, 2014 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterOliver K. Manuel

Garth Paltrigde and others show a negative trend in atmospheric humidity since 1973:
http://www.klimatupplysningen.se/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/paltridgearkingpook.pdf

Feb 17, 2014 at 8:26 PM | Registered CommenterPatagon

The fact that the Met Office has had to issue a 'clarification statement' is just more evidence of incompetence. And they forecast below average precipitation for this winter :-)

Feb 17, 2014 at 8:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Biggs

@Patagon

Garth Paltrigde and others show a negative trend in atmospheric humidity since 1973..


Which is what I thought. Can ANYONE find a justification for the Met office's 4% increase?

Feb 17, 2014 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

If Slingo's cameo keeps getting repeated, and if the actual meaning of the Met Office's statement of gobbledegook does not penetrate the public's consciousness, then Slingo's views will become the mainstream.

This is how PR works in the hands of governments the world over, when the media is your close friend.

Until the Met Office admits and publicizes that there have been many wetter winters in England and Wales, we can rest assured that their PR needs trump their need to discuss a complete set of facts.

Feb 17, 2014 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

"It is clear that global warming has led to an increase in moisture in the atmosphere – with about four per cent more moisture over the oceans than in the 1970s"

Show us the data please.

Imho, the above quote is some boggle of the imagination, moisture @ 4% which is such a precise figure and "over the oceans" at that...............compared to the 1970's - really?

That's some assumption and a desperate reach.

Slingo, it seems has been quite unceremoniously marooned, left high and very dry by the aforementioned MO statement, is it not time, for the fat lady to fetch her hook and slingo it?

Feb 17, 2014 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

steveta_uk wrote:


... we are not sure, yet,

I'd love any serious scientist from the Met Office to try and defend that yet. It clearly hints that they are somehow getting there, but in fact means nothing.

Ah, but they must be getting somewhere because, as they keep telling us, the science has never been more settled.

Actually, something seems a bit fishy. If the science is settled, or semi-settled, they don't really have anywhere to get to, do they?

Feb 17, 2014 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Integrity is just a thing of the past

Feb 17, 2014 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterIbrahim

Dodgy Geezer

"Can ANYONE find a justification for the Met office's 4% increase?"

Not me, but have found the following that maybe of interest:- Paltridge 2009 was "challenged" by Dessler and Davis 2010

".....Based on the available evidence, it is our judgment that negative trends in the tropical mid and upper troposphere in response to long term climate change are spurious.... ."

Paltridge not impressed and followed up at JC's Climate Etc

Trends in tropospheric humidity

Feb 17, 2014 at 9:08 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

I remain suspicious that this putative 4% increase is humidity is not actually derived from empirical measurements, but may be just a theoretical modelled assumption. I base this purely on parsing the text of the following Metoffice statement:

'There is also an increasing body of evidence that shows that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense, and that the rate of increase is consistent with what is expected from the fundamental physics of a warming world.
More research is urgently needed to deliver robust detection of changes in storminess and daily/hourly rain rates and this is an area of active research in the Met Office. The attribution of these changes to anthropogenic global warming requires climate models of sufficient resolution to capture storms and their associated rainfall. Such models are now becoming available and should be deployed as soon as possible to provide a solid evidence base for future investments in flood and coastal defences.

Feb 17, 2014 at 9:17 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

This does look like a hasty fudge to paper over some internal dissonance so surely we should take some small comfort from it. The fact that a (diluted) clarification has been necessary does suggest that not everyone is happy to be "on message" and maybe the Met Office will have to use more cautious language in future. I know that Dame Slingo's headline message will be recycled ad-nauseum but this new statement is at least something that can be referenced in future. Not ideal but perhaps a slightly better position than a few days ago.

Feb 17, 2014 at 9:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterShrdlu

'Stormniess'? Is this a scientific term? I would have thought 'nutiness' was as valid. Or how about 'battiness'. Even 'loopiness'?

They sound about as valid.

They are making it up as they go along.

Feb 17, 2014 at 9:50 PM | Unregistered Commenteragouts

Green Sand
Dessler and Davies paper states "First, the newer reanalyses include improvements specifically designed to increase the fidelity of long‐term trends in their parameters, so the positive trends found there should be more reliable than in the older reanalyses"

That sounds like nonsense to me or a veiled recognition of data fudging.

Feb 17, 2014 at 10:05 PM | Registered CommenterPatagon

my comment is still in moderation - maybe it's a 9-to-5 job. Somebody ought do a FOI on the flurry of exchanges going on right now at the Met Office. :)

Feb 17, 2014 at 10:12 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Dessler and Davies paper states "First, the newer reanalyses...

"Reanalysis" means analysis of the output of a computer model, not analysis of real observations from the real world.

Feb 17, 2014 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

The "four per cent more moisture over the oceans than in the 1970s" presumably is drawn from AR5 WG1 3.4.2.1.

Feb 17, 2014 at 10:41 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Ah, the old 'don't link the artixle you're making a straw man of' trick.

Feb 17, 2014 at 10:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterTallbloke

Is this the same Met Orifice that predicted a "drier than average 3 months" in November?

The words a*** and elbow spring to mind,

Feb 17, 2014 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&Twisted

I attended a joint day conference, arranged by British Hydrological Society & Royal Meterological Society, about three years back where a met office prof. showed us how our 30 million pound computer is used to predict/project future UK 'climate'.

I was gobsmacked.

All that they do is to run the model some 300 times with slightly different parameters which generate about 300 completely different scenarios ranging from no rise to 10C rise; from monsoons to droughts and all stations inbetween (something I could have done for them in an hour with 300 cards simply scribbling random temperatures and precipitation figures over a map of the UK). Then, and here's the really clever part, they sit down with the 300 scenarios and, using their judgment, arrange them in an order of 'likelihood'.

That was it. And it cost the UK tapayer £30,000,000.

Feb 17, 2014 at 11:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

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