Skip to content

Slingo’s Credibility Lies In Tatters

April 23, 2013

By Paul Homewood

 

 

 

Only a couple of weeks ago, Julia Slingo, the Met Office’s Chief Scientist, was in the news claiming that “Climate change was loading the dice towards freezing, drier weather in the UK”, adding “Our climate is being disrupted by the warming of the Arctic that we have observed very dramatically since 2007. “

Her comments were widely reported in newspapers and she was interviewed on ITN news.

I made several critical comments at the time, not the least being that the recent cold winters, which she was referring to, were in fact no colder than winters in the 1960’s and 1980’s.

 

Given that she seemed so adamant about the current situation, I was astonished to read the Met Office report, which was issued last week and written by Slingo, herself. Entitled “Why was the start to spring 2013 so cold?”, it begins:-

 

Summary

March 2013 was the second coldest March in the UK record since 1910, and was associated with a negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. A number of potential drivers may predispose the climate system to a state which accounts for these conditions.

1) The cold temperatures were part of a larger-scale weather pattern in the Northern Hemisphere.

2) This pattern was associated with the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation, which leads to the prevalence of easterly winds and cold conditions over the UK.

3) There are a number of similarities between the climatological context of the March 2013 cold weather and that observed in 1962 (the coldest March on record).

4) A number of potential drivers may predispose the climate system to negative NAO states in early spring. These include:

  • weather in the Tropics
  • the Stratosphere
  • conditions in the North Atlantic
  • the state of the Arctic

5)  These drivers are not necessarily independent, and no single explanation can account for the cold conditions observed.

 

Clearly the situation is far more complex than Slingo had made out a week earlier, and extremely poorly understood.

But it gets worse!

 

The report goes on to compare March 2013 with March 1962, an even colder month. As I have repeatedly challenged, any theories, which attempt to blame cold winters on retreating Arctic ice cover, need to explain how equally cold winters occurred when Arctic ice was expanding in earlier decades.

What the report makes clear is that there is a remarkable similarity between the two years, in just about everything other than Arctic ice:-

 

 It is informative to consider whether there are similarities in the global climate system in 1962  to this year’s situation. Comparison with the equivalent figures for 2013 shows a remarkable resemblance. The hemispheric pattern of the surface air temperature anomalies is almost identical, as is the hemispheric pattern of mean sea level pressure anomalies. Again the negative phase of the NAO dominated the Euro-Atlantic sector in 1962, with the same southwards shift in the jet stream taking the weather systems into southern Europe and the Mediterranean.

 

Let me just repeat that.

 

with the same southwards shift in the jet stream taking the weather systems into southern Europe and the Mediterranean.

  

There is no secret that the southward move of the jet stream has resulted not only in the recent cold weather, but also last year’s wet summer. The factors, which coincided with this occurrence in 1962, have been present again recently. There is absolutely no evidence that this shift has been caused by melting Arctic ice. And there is absolutely no evidence either, that the causes of the latest shift are anything other than the perfectly natural ones which caused previous similar events.

 

And don’t take my word for it! The report goes on to examine the possible influence of Arctic ice conditions, but finds:-

 

There have been some suggestions that the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice, especially during summer, is responsible for this year’s cold spring

This hypothesis remains contentious, however, and there is little evidence from the comparison between the cold spring of 1962 and this year that the Arctic has been a contributory factor in terms of the hypothesis proposed above.

 

Concluding Remarks

 

The report concludes:-

 

March 2013 was exceptionally cold in the UK, as well as the North Atlantic and European region more generally, in the context of the last 50 years. Such climate ‘events’ lead to increased interest from the public, media, government and businesses in both the impacts of the weather on our livelihoods and infrastructure, and in the drivers of significant weather.
As is ever the case, the conditions that led to a cold March are linked to a number of different and often inter-related factors. This can also be said of the cold winter of 2010/11, the UK drought in 2010/12 and extreme summer rainfall in 2012. This makes it difficult to definitively attribute a particular ‘event’ to one simple explanation, which can make communicating the science drivers more complicated and nuanced than some audiences may wish. On the other hand, this simply reflects the richness and complexity of our climate system, which drives the weather that we experience on a daily basis.
This report has shown remarkable similarities between the climatological context of the March 2013 cold weather and the coldest UK March on record in 1962. These have been associated with a negative phase of the NAO and a southwards shift in the jet stream and North Atlantic storm track. Other similarities include notably warm sea temperatures in the Labrador Sea and down the coast of Newfoundland, a warm Arctic, and evidence of warmer than average conditions in the equatorial West Pacific, characteristic of La Nina. The influence of an active MJO in February/March 2013 through the Indian Ocean and into the West Pacific is also noted.
A number of potential drivers of the cold weather have been discussed, including:-

i) weather patterns in the Tropics
ii) the Stratosphere
iii) conditions in the North Atlantic
iv) the state of the Arctic

These are all active areas of research, with new understanding emerging from observations and modelling studies.
Whilst the cold March weather is certainly unusual, it is not unprecedented or outside the expected natural variability of our climate. There is particularly heightened interest in the role of the Arctic on the UK’s weather, given rapid changes in Arctic sea ice, and on the likely changes we may observe given future decline. It is worth re-emphasising, however, that while changes in the Arctic are consistent with predisposing the climate system to cold weather in northern Europe, this is only one possible driver among several potential factors which could account for the cold March weather. What we have still to understand is the degree to which our changing climate may alter the likelihood and intensity of extreme events. With the rapidly changing Arctic, this is now high on the research agenda.

 

The reference to “particularly heightened interest in the role of the Arctic on the UK’s weather” is telling. There is clearly a desire to blame every bit of bad weather on Arctic sea ice changes, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary. Such behaviour will surely lead to confirmation bias. Would not the Met’s resources be better employed in understanding all of the natural factors, described above?

 

Final Thoughts

 

This latest report from the Met, which I should add is freely available on their website, seems to be an honest assessment of the current situation. It acknowledges that conditions this year have been very similar to 1962, but accepts that we still know very little about what drives our climate, and why it changes from decade to decade.

As a personal and, maybe brutal, assessment, I would suggest we don’t know much more now than Hubert Lamb and co knew 40 years ago.

Regardless, I have two questions:-

1) Although this report is on the Met’s website, I am not aware that it has been disseminated to the MSM. It certainly does not appear in the Met’s News Release Archive.

So, I ask why? Is it because it runs counter to the usual propaganda?

2) Why was Slingo so adamant a week earlier, that declining Arctic ice was responsible for the recent freeze, when she knew full well that there was no evidence at all to back up her claims?

 

These concerns pose serious questions about Slingo’s competence, honesty and objectivity, both on a personal level, and in her role as Chief Scientist. Her position is surely becoming increasingly untenable.

 

 

 

The full report “Why was the start to Spring 2013 so cold?” is available here.

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/i/2/March2013.pdf

13 Comments
  1. Keitho permalink
    April 23, 2013 2:15 pm

    I wonder how much of a role the MSM plays in this continuous drip of disinformation. Still, I suppose Slingo could have distanced herself from the original reports had she felt they misrepresented her position.

  2. mitigatedsceptic permalink
    April 23, 2013 2:18 pm

    Perhaps she should spend more time with her family?

  3. April 23, 2013 8:48 pm

    On 10th April, Julia Slingo appeared via webcam on that rather alarmist ITV News item about the mooted cold winter/Arctic ice connection, and said the following:

    “When you see climate disruption of the nature that we’ve had in the UK in the last few years, with extreme drought, floods, now, you know, cold winters, cold springs, then we need to get to grips with it, and quickly. Because if this is how climate change could manifest itself, then we need to understand that, as a matter of urgency.”

    Full-on alarm mode on the 10th (“climate disruption”!), then “not unprecedented or outside the expected natural variability” a fortnight later. This is surely climatic change of a bewilderingly rapid kind!

  4. Otter permalink
    April 23, 2013 10:50 pm

    Upon clicking the link from Tom Nelson, my eyes very quickly scanned across the page.
    What did I see?

    ….. Slingo Lies……

  5. Streetcred permalink
    April 24, 2013 9:39 am

    Mein Himmel ist die Putzfrau der Fahrtleiter?

  6. A C Osborn permalink
    April 24, 2013 10:35 am

    Do you know anyone who can bring Delingpole and Brooker’s attention to this?

    • April 24, 2013 11:17 am

      I’ve contacted Dellers with this, and also David Rose of the Mail.

  7. A C Osborn permalink
    April 24, 2013 1:45 pm

    That is great, let’s just hope they run with it.

  8. David permalink
    April 28, 2013 9:04 am

    Paul,

    You quote Dr Slingo as follows:

    “Our climate is being disrupted by the warming of the Arctic that we have observed very dramatically since 2007. “

    From the ITN link the entire sentence she said was (my emphasis):

    “There COULD be, it’s NOT PROVEN YET; there’s a LOT MORE RESEARCH TO DO; but if you look at the way in which our weather patterns have behaved over, say, the last four or five years, we’re BEGINNING TO THINK that there is something happening; that IN A SENSE our climate is being disrupted by the warming of the Arctic that we have observed very dramatically since 2007. “

    She then goes on to explain that “early” Met Office research suggests that winter and spring warmth in the Arctic is tending to set up cold winters in the UK, but she preceded this again with the caveat that there was still “a lot more research to do”.

    The proper form for you selected quote above should have been “… our climate is being disrupted… “. Instead you chose to start it by capitalising the ‘o’ in ‘our’, indicating that it was a stand alone comment and robbing it of context. You simply ignored the five separate caveats Dr Slingo used in the words preceding the part of her sentence that you chose to use.

    Do you think this is an entirely fair way to represent Dr Slingo’s comments?

    • April 28, 2013 9:32 am

      Yes!

      A responsible Chief Scientist would have gone on TV to say that :-

      1) The cold winter weather we have experienced in the last few years is not unusual, and no different to much of the 20thC.
      2) There are many possible causes of this, and we really have no idea why.
      3) We have consistently forecast mild winters, so now need to examine why we got this so badly wrong.

      What a responsible Chief Scientist would not do is to make idle speculation about Arctic warming when her own report says “there is little evidence for this“, and “If low levels of Arctic sea ice were found to be affecting the track of the jet stream, for example, this could be seen as linked to the warming of our climate – but this is currently an unknown.”

      I believe she knew exactly how her comments would be reported and how they would be interpreted.

      • David permalink
        April 28, 2013 10:08 am

        But my point Paul is that Dr Slingo was already issuing caveats about the Met’s view of the Arctic’s possible impact on recent winters in the very passage you quoted from.

        She clearly states terms like “it’s not proven yet” and “there’s a lot more research to do” (twice).

        Surely no fair minded interpretation would conclude from this that Dr Singo or the MO had dogmatically ruled out all or any other possible cause or contributing factor?

        Also, if you’re going to mount what is effectively a personal attack on an individual’s competence and/or integrity, then in my view you should take care to quote them fully and exactly.

        You shouldn’t quote words plucked from the middle of a sentence without using the normal conventions for indicating that this is what you have done. It leaves you open to accusations that you are deliberately taking the words out of their proper context.

      • April 28, 2013 10:28 am

        I have simply quoted what has been widely reported across the media, including ITN itself.It is inconceivable that Slingo would not have known the effect her words would have.
        Words like “It definitely seems like the warming of the arctic is “loading the dice” over cold dry winters.”

        e.g. The Huff Post

        http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/04/11/climate-change-colder-winter-met-office-chief-scientist-_n_3059116.html

        I am not aware that she contacted any of these sources to complain she had been “misquoted” or “taken out of context”.

        I repeat, a reponsible Chief Scientist would not make these sort of idle speculations in public, when she knew there was no evidence behind such claims.

  9. Brian H permalink
    May 6, 2013 9:32 pm

    Perhaps she wanted to be able to later claim she had been mis-excerpted? 😉

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: