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Martin Rosenbaum of the excellent Open Secrets blog at the BBC has been looking at some information extracted from the Met Office under FoI.

The documents we requested show that scientists within the Met Office were uneasy about the language of [the barbeque summer] prediction. One internal report states:

"The strapline 'odds on for a barbeque summer' was created by the operations and communications teams to reflect the probability of a good summer. Concern over the use of the strapline and its relationship to the scientific information available was expressed by the scientific community, who were not consulted prior to the media release."

The Met Office then resolved to use "more conservative terminology" in future. But its seasonal prediction for last winter was also awry, failing to signal sufficiently the long and severe cold spell.


Acton and UEA in the pillory

The Information Commissioner has required the University of East Anglia to sign a written undertaking to obey the Freedom of Information laws in future.

The University shall, as from the date of this Undertaking and for so long as similar standards are required by the Act, the Regulations or other successor legislation, ensure that requests for information are handled in accordance with Section 1 of the Act and regulations 5 and 11 of the Regulations. Internal reviews are to be handled in accordance with part VI of the section 45 Code of Practice, or regulation 11 of the Regulations as appropriate.

They go on to state that proper training and IT procedures must be put in place.

Because FoI laws don't allow in practice for the punishment of civil servants who flout them, this kind of public humiliation is the only option available to the Commissioner. But at the end of the day, civil servants are not held responsible for their misdeeds.



Climate skeptic shop

Slightly late for Christmas, but once you get the urge to start spending in the new year,  Michael Cejnar's Climate Skeptic Shop looks like the perfect place to get equipped with the look of the moment.


Tip jar live again

...if anyone fancies it...


The Quarmby audit

I am grateful to commenter "hmc" for pointing out that David Quarmby has also produced an audit on the country's response to the start of the cold weather a month or so ago. This includes some further interesting information about the Met Office's advice to government:

The Met Office gave ‘early indications of the onset of a cold spell from late November’ at the end of October, but detailed forecasts of snow were not possible until a few days before the first precipitation. The amounts of snow were generally well captured, although in some areas were considerably underestimated by some weather forecast providers.

I find the quotation marks at the start of this excerpt particularly interesting. What this suggests to me is that Dr Quarmby was advised that such an "early indication" was given, but that he didn't see it himself.

I've emailed to check if this surmise is correct.


GWPF calls for inquiry into Met Office

From Benny Peiser

LONDON, 21 December 2010: The Global Warming Policy Foundation has called on the Government to set up an independent inquiry into the winter advice it received by the Met Office and the renewed failure to prepare the UK for the third severe winter in a row.

"The current winter fiasco is no longer a joke as the economic damage to the British economy as a result of the country's ill-preparedness is running at £1bn a day and could reach more than £15 billion," said Dr Benny Peiser, the GWPF's Director.

"It would appear that the Met Office provided government with rather poor if not misleading advice and we need to find out what went wrong. Lessons have to be learned well in advance of the start of next year's winter so that we are much better prepared if it is severe again," Dr Peiser said.


Winter resilience

Updated on Dec 21, 2010 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

With the whole of the UK apparently grinding to a halt with the cold and snow, it was interesting to be pointed to an official review of the UK's winter resilience capabilities (H/T John B).

A small team was set up under the leadership of Dr David Quarmby, a member of the "great and good" with background in transport. The team published its terms of reference here; an interim report was published last summer, and the final report appeared just a couple of months ago.

For our purposes the interim report is more interesting since it has a whole section entitled "Weather forecasting and climate change". All emphasis below is added by me.

12.7 The science of forecasting up to 30 days ahead and beyond has made great progress in recent years and will continue to develop; comparison of outturns against probabilistic predictions out to 30 days suggests that the information is of increasing value for winter service resourcing and planning.

Click to read more ...


Quote of the day

How can aviation be operated to minimise the impacts of emissions...? routing it through Heathrow.

Commenter tty


New New Zealand temperature records - no warming

Via Scoop, sceptics in New Zealand have persuaded the country's weather bureau to revise their temperature records.

NIWA has abandoned the official national temperature record and created a new one following sustained pressure from the NZ Climate Science Coalition and the Climate Conversation Group.

Spokesman for the joint temperature project, Richard Treadgold, Convenor of the CCG, said today: “We congratulate NIWA for producing their review of the NZ temperature record — more than a year after we challenged it — and we think it’s great that NIWA have produced a graph with full details behind it.

“But we note that, after 12 months of futile attempts to persuade the public, misleading answers to questions in the Parliament from ACT and reluctant but gradual capitulation from NIWA, their relentless defence of the old temperature series has simply evaporated. They’ve finally given in, but without our efforts the faulty graph would still be there.”

Congratulations to everyone involved in this effort.  What a triumph for citizen science.

And the punchline is this:

“NIWA makes the huge admission that New Zealand has experienced hardly any warming during the last half-century. For all their talk about warming, for all their rushed invention of the “Eleven-Station Series” to prove warming, this new series shows that no warming has occurred here since about 1960.

Read the full story here.

(H/T Messenger)


More evidence of climate change

Hat tip to several readers who sent this list of questions and responses from last night's University Challenge programme.

1 Which New York City borough gives name to declaration that a scientific consensus on climate change does not exist? Queens. No, Manhattan.

2. Author of Cool It? Bjorn Lomborg, correct

3. Which former Conservative chancellor wrote An Appeal to Reason? Don't know.


Maybe their computer is too small?

Delingpole has picked up on the Met Office's claims of innocence over the issuing of "mild winter" predictions and notes just how much money we are spending on not getting a long-range forecast.

So let’s get this right. We paid for 90 per cent of the Met office’s £30 million computer; we also fund a hefty chunk of its annual £170 million running costs. And now the Met office tells us that it is incapable of providing the effective long range forecasts we could get for a fraction of the price from Piers Corbyn or Joe Bastardi?

Interestingly, the other day I came across this paper produced by Sir John Beddington and his team, calling for more money to be spent on the Met Office. The Review of Climate Science Advice calls for £90 million to be spent on upgrading the Met Office's Hadley Centre, including the purchase of a shiny new supercomputer. Still, it will enable some important questions to be answered...

Q4: How can confidence in the most uncertain aspects of large-scale climate projections be improved? Answer needed perhaps by 2015, although the sooner the better to answer questions such as:
• Are current global climate projections for mitigation decisions accurate?
• What are the sign and magnitude of key cloud feedback processes?
• Is geo-engineering a safe option?
• How can aviation be operated to minimise the impacts of emissions?

I must say I agree that it would be useful to know if current global climate projections are accurate. Presumably not though, if the "sign and magnitude of key cloud feedback processes" are unknown.



Scientists and bureaucrats

Speculation alert.

As one tries to understand the behind-the-scenes manoevres that are driving the climate change campaign, I find myself looking at the actions of bureaucrats far mor often than I do the actions of politicians.The BBC's coverage of today's announcements on science spending is a case in point.

In response to the announcement of deep cuts in capital budgets for science, our old friend Bob Ward pops up:

Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change said that the Chancellor's announcement was misleading:

"Government spending on research will in fact be about 14% lower in real terms," he said.

"Today's announcement confirms that the government is planning to slash capital expenditure for research. It looks like we could be returning to the dark days of the 1980s and early 1990s when researchers were forced to work in laboratories and facilities that were starved of investment."

Other people have questioned Ward's role at the Grantham Institute - it is unusual in the extreme for a university to employ someone to denigrate anyone who might question a particular point of view, as Pielke Jnr has pointed out. Yet here we have a different aspect to Ward's role - attacking the government cuts with a degree of vigour that even the official opposition don't seem to have managed yet.

How then to make sense of this dual role - climate rottweiler and public spending doberman? One feasible explanation is that he is employed to denigrate climate sceptics, but is a "concerned citizen" as regards the public spending round. But then again, perhaps this is all just part of a single role - one in which Ward is simply paid to defend the considerable vested interests of the scientific bureaucracy.


Met Office says they kept mum

GWPF is reporting a press release from the Met Office in which they say they did not predict a mild winter. As far as I remember the Met Office stopped issuing long-range forecasts last year, which would tally with the press release. But I have a nagging feeling that I heard something said about it being mild again this winter.

Does anyone remember anything?


Cold weather payments

I was reading (I forget where) of concerns that the government's budget for cold weather payments to pensioners was being spent far faster than had been envisaged when the budget was put together. Was this, I wondered, something to do with a dodgy Met Office forecast?

So, as is my wont, I contacted the Department of Work and Pensions and got a swift response.

...this year's budget for Cold Weather Payments for Great Britain was based on the average number of payments made over the last ten years and with a payment rate of £25 for each week of cold weather. This year's budget is £76 million. However, Cold Weather Payments will be made to all those entitled to receive them.

The budgeting process does not include a forecast of winter weather.

I guess we should be relieved that the Met Office were not involved. Somebody at DWP probably deserves a pat on the back for keeping them on sidelines. That said, you wonder whether using the average of the last ten years is a sensible metric.

What do you think?


Plus ça change... c'est la même chose.

This review of Benjamin Greene's Eisenhower, Science Advice, and the Nuclear Test-Ban Debate is rather interesting.  Take this excerpt for example:

Greene draws upon the private papers of the President and many of his key advisors and argues that, although Eisenhower sincerely wanted a test ban as early as 1954, he failed to obtain one primarily because he allowed policy to be captured by scientists and science advisors for much of his presidency.


Greene depicts Eisenhower as a well-intentioned leader overwhelmed by issues beyond his comprehension.