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Barney – The Storm That Was Not

November 18, 2015
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood    




The Met Office is rapidly becoming a laughing stock. Just days after the “will she/won’t she” farce of Abigail, we have now had the ridiculous overhyping of “Storm” Barney.


This is how it has summarised the storm:




It is this sort of information that allows dopey little reporters, like Eleanor Steafel, to blow the thing out of proportion. (In fact, a quick read reveals little more than a few power lines and branches down, the type of thing that happens anytime there is a bit of wind).


The first thing to point out is that all of the sites listed above are extremely exposed ones. Aberdaron is at the end of the long, Llyn Peninsula in NW Wales, and always features near the top of the list whenever gales head that way.

Capel Curig too usually features, due to its exposed position half way up a hill in Snowdonia. I know High Bradfield well, as it is only a few miles away, and again is extremely exposed being at the top of a hill in the Peak District.

All of the other locations mentioned are in exposed, coastal sites, and all routinely appear in these sorts of lists. None of these can be regarded as in any way representative of the country as a whole, so why does the Met Office insist on publishing such misleading information?



So, what about inland or populated areas. There is no mention at all from the Met Office, but the Telegraph report highest gusts of 66 mph at RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire.

To put this into perspective, the St Jude Storm of 2013 brought wind of 80 mph to inland areas, and, as the Met Office pointed out at the time, that was no more than a run of the mill affair.


Neil Catto has this summary of Barney:



Analysis of 56 weather reporting locations from Newcastle in the North East to the Scilly Isles in the South West and the Isle of Man in the North West to Lydd in the South East shows Storm Barney (Beaufort Force 10, 48-55kts) was no more than a strong gale (Beaufort Force 9, 41-47kts).

Out of these 56 reporting stations, Pembrey in South Wales reported a sustained wind speed of 52 mph (45kts) at 1600 UTC on 17th November.

This was confirmed by the Met Office sustained wind chart: With the same wind speeds at Aberporth in South West Wales at 1900 UTC on the 17th November with a sustained wind speed also of 52 mph (45kts).



Fig 1 minimum pressure & maximum wind speeds from hourly reports for 56 locations plotted from North to South



Fig 2 minimum pressure & maximum wind speeds from hourly reports for 56 locations plotted from West to East


Table 1 shows the top 10 lowest pressures and maximum sustained wind speeds from the 56 locations


I have a few questions about the naming of forecast storms which don’t occur. Ok I know Abigail technically reached storm force 10 at Benbecula for 3 hours, but nowhere else on land. Why do it?

How does this reflect on the Met Office?

Is it for insurance purposes that forecasts are over egged?

Is it because of the IPCC Paris conference due to take place at the end of the month to make things seem much worse than reality?

What is the cost to the tax payer when forecasts are less severe than actually occurs?

With Storm Abigail the Environment Agency issued severe flood warnings, meaning loss of life would be possible. How much does it cost to put local authorities and organisations like the EA on standby for events which don’t ultimately occur or are far less severe than forecast?

Is there a danger that “crying wolf syndrome” may take place in the future when authorities and agencies won’t take action because of the cost involved and a real danger does occur?


Note how much lower the sustained wind speeds are at Pembrey Sands and Valley – 52 and 49 mph (45 and 43 kts) respectively – compared to gusts of 79 and 73 mph. Even in those exposed locations, Barney was never more than a “Strong Gale” on the Beaufort Scale.

Similarly, the wind speed at Wittering only reached 35 kts, making it only a “Gale”.

In contrast, the Beaufort Scale classifies a “Storm” as 48 to 55 kts.


If the Met Office is going to give a name to every passing gale, we’ll run out of letters by New Year!

Remember that neither Tropical Depressions or Tropical Storms get names, only when they turn into hurricanes. If the Met Office is determined to carry on naming, names should only be handed out for the most violent of storms.

Otherwise, there is a very real risk, as Neil points out, that the public will simply ignore warnings in future.

  1. November 18, 2015 6:50 pm

    Paul, you should have a word with your mate Booker – tell him they need to put a writer on this that can see it objectively, rather than repeating what they’re told by the Met Office and other agencies. After all it is in his interest, seeing that his columns are published in there too!

    • Sceptical Sam permalink
      November 19, 2015 4:59 am

      Spot on.

      Eleanor Steafel described the wave in her photograph as “huge”.

      She’s dreaming. And I suspect it’s not about waves.

      The surfer is crouching. That makes him about four foot high in that position on the face. The wind is blowing into the wave’s and making it “sit up” beautifully. The wave is about a six footer.

      It’s a learner’s wave. A somewhat small Margaret River set.

      Can Eleanor Steafel even swim?

      • AndyG55 permalink
        November 19, 2015 6:41 am

        I’m with you S.S.

        On the bottom of that pic, it says “huge surf”

        I don’t see any “huge surf”.

        Looks like good day with a nice mid size wave on a relaxed day, for some fun.

        What are these guys used to? ripples?

  2. Ian Magness permalink
    November 18, 2015 7:03 pm

    Look you fools, COP21 is the Last Chance to Save the Planet EVAH!!!!!
    Each and every storm like this is a cast iron indication of AGW, err, I mean climate change. SO, each and every indicator must be reported hugely in the media until all you numskulls and all governments world-wide get the message and stop using fossil fuels FOR EVAH!

    • Joe Public permalink
      November 18, 2015 7:31 pm

      “COP21 is the Last Chance to Save the Planet EVAH!!!!!”

      Sorry Ian, you’re quite wrong!

      “UNFCCC COP 22
      The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC is expected to take place in from 7-18 November 2016. Morocco has offered to host this COP. “

      • Billy Liar permalink
        November 19, 2015 12:18 am

        What could go wrong?

  3. November 18, 2015 7:29 pm

    Reblogged this on Wolsten and commented:
    Paul Homewood is absolutely right, this idiotic naming of every high wind that comes along is going to make the MetOffice and BBC look ridiculous.

  4. Stonyground permalink
    November 18, 2015 7:46 pm

    When I first heard about it I thought that naming ordinary storms was a stupid idea. Even I didn’t expect it to get quite so old quite so quickly. The potential for taking the piss is colossal. When cycling home from work I was mildly inconvenienced by Sudden Shower Sharon. Last summer I got slightly sunburned after being taken by surprise by Hot Day Henry. My barbecue wasn’t quite the success that I was hoping for because of High Cloud Cover Colin.

  5. markl permalink
    November 18, 2015 7:46 pm

    ” None of these can be regarded as in any way representative of the country as a whole, so why does the Met Office insist on publishing such misleading information?”

    Because it supports the AGW meme and nothing more. Lacking any real data to support their narrative they make stuff up and anyone who calls them on it is accused of ‘conspiracy theory.’ Are people really being taken in by this misinformation or are they becoming a ‘silent majority’ of skeptics?

  6. NeilC permalink
    November 18, 2015 7:51 pm

    Add the Telegraph, grauniad and Indie to the list of scaremongers. But I do look forward to Storm Dino, Fred, and Wilma

  7. November 18, 2015 8:10 pm

    Storm Blarney. I actually thought that naming storms wasn’t a bad idea but didn’t realise that every ripple on an isobar was to be named.

    When we get to T, that looks like it could be Monday, I nominate “Teacup”. And for P, “Storm Petrol”. And when we get to “T” again before Christmas “Storm Trooper”.

  8. November 18, 2015 8:15 pm

    I am struggling to understand the logic of this naming of storms, it all seems rather arbitrary.
    The area of low pressure currently to the west of Scotland seems likely to produce winds in the North as strong as Abigail but hasn’t been named.

    • CheshireRed permalink
      November 19, 2015 10:08 am

      The ‘logic’ is to raise public awareness by inferring that a storm with a name on it is soooo big that it must be a serious one. A whole succession of named storms will thus allow alarmists to breathlessly claim there’s been an ‘increase in storms due to climate change’.

      Or a shorter one word explanation: propaganda.

  9. November 18, 2015 8:17 pm

    It’s too much of a coincidence that the Met Office should start naming windy days at the same time as the popular BBC weather page changes from displaying average wind speeds which the public are familiar with, to displaying totally unfamiliar and highly misleading gust speeds (with no option to switch back to the old familiar average wind speed display). And all the changes are timed to occur just before the Paris COP at which politicians will tell us how much we will be taxed in the name of preventing bad weather?? Coincidence?

    • November 18, 2015 8:23 pm

      Gust speeds shouldn’t be reported in that way – they are highly misleading and, if they didn’t have the intelligence to make their own decisions, would influence fisherman in not putting to sea. May I suggest you use xcweather and weatherobs for ‘live’ readings – much quicker than the clunky BBC site.

    • November 18, 2015 8:33 pm

      I too find this particularly annoying.
      It is interesting that up until January 2014, the mo web forecasts didn’t even show gusts unless they were 11 mph (10 knots) more than the mean speed.
      Consequently, during periods of strong winds, they displayed “no gusts”.
      They still don’t in observations, so “-” doesn’t mean no gusts, it just means they were less that 10 mph higher than wind speed.

      • November 18, 2015 8:35 pm

        The above was in reply to “Chilli”.

    • CheshireRed permalink
      November 19, 2015 10:09 am


  10. rifleman1853 permalink
    November 18, 2015 9:08 pm

    I used to live on the coast of West Pembrokeshire, and all the people I knew had back-ups for when the power lines were blown down; camping stoves, Tilley lamps, solid fuel stoves – many had generators, so that they could keep the fridges and freezers going. 80mph winds were considered a right nuisance, but nothing special.

    As a mark of how unspecial such weather is, it is a common feature amongst cottages in coastal villages for them to have no windows facing out to sea – just a blank wall. And, mark you, I’m talking of cottages built a couple of hundred years ago, and more!

    And I notice that the Daily Telegraph has adopted its usual policy when publishing blatant propaganda;

    “Propaganda is sacred – so comments are verboten!”

  11. November 18, 2015 9:41 pm

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News.

  12. dearieme permalink
    November 18, 2015 10:04 pm

    That’s all very well, but our sweet pea netting took quite a tossing.

    • AndyG55 permalink
      November 19, 2015 6:43 am

      Just for you.. 🙂

  13. November 18, 2015 10:30 pm

    It can’t have been anything out of the ordinary ‘cos my fence didn’t blow down and nothing fell off the roof, unlike some other storms I can remember over the years 😉

    • November 18, 2015 10:44 pm

      I’ve just taken the dog out, and it seems just as windy as yesterday!

  14. rwoollaston permalink
    November 18, 2015 11:09 pm

    If I was a commercial customer buying Met Office services, I’d be thinking at least twice about buying their propaganda – sorry, forecasts.

  15. SteveB permalink
    November 19, 2015 1:08 am

    Abigail. Barney. It all sound a little bit Play School to me. Maybe the next storms will be named Humpty, Jemima or Hamble. I can’t wait for storms Big Ted and Little Ted.

    Perhaps the Beeb could bring back Brian Cant and Floella Benjamin to read (or maybe sing) the evening weather forecast to us?

  16. stargazer3920 permalink
    November 19, 2015 4:30 am

    It seems like the Met Office is trying to reach the same level of ridiculous (alarmism?) as The Weather Channel here in the states. They name winter storms!!!

    Paul, you need to make a correction. Near the end you said neither tropical depressions or tropical storms get named. Tropical storms do get named.

  17. eliza permalink
    November 19, 2015 6:15 am

    Wow looks like we may have finally nailed them. This is VIP because there are WHISTLEBLOWERS at NOAA

    Mr Homewood this is much much bigger than previously thought that is why Mr Smith is pursuing it

  18. Streetcred permalink
    November 19, 2015 9:18 am

    That is a “huge wave” … that thing is barely surfable!

    These are huge waves …

  19. john cooknell permalink
    November 19, 2015 10:15 am

    What would be useful if the displayed forecast gave the average wind speed as well as the forecast max gust speed on any particular day.

    At the moment the hour by hour displayed forecast switches between the average and max gust, and can be misleading. I abandoned my planned cycle ride due to the forecast for Barney, if I had gone I would have been OK the actual weather was relatively benign.

    The Met office forecast both average and max gust figures so why not display them?

  20. November 19, 2015 10:49 am

    “Huge waves”? I don’t think so. Any Cornwall regular knows that waves such as the one in the picture at Porthcurno (where they are exaggerated by the way the beach falls away steeply) are very common.

    They can’t help themselves, the BBC, can they?

  21. NeilC permalink
    November 19, 2015 11:04 am

    The photo in the Telegraph article says “these waves were whipped up by storm Barney”. As there is obvious sunshine depicted in the photo, I looked at satellite imagery for the period of the storm and up to date. There has not been any sunshine in Porthcurno over any of the period, The photo strap line is false, it was not taken since Barney occured.

  22. November 19, 2015 11:42 am

    Just look at the long list of journalist that have been forced out or left the telegraph over the last few years and you have all you need to know about this rag. It can’t even be called a shadow of its old self.

    • November 19, 2015 11:58 am

      Indeed, I have worked on a few nationals and the morale of those that remain is on the floor. It is a sad state of affairs and many issues are no longer being covered correctly. A couple of reports I have subbed recently are basically press releases that have been top and tailed by the correspondent. This is not a slight on them – they simply don’t have the time to write stuff in the old fashioned objective manner.
      Those they point this out are shown the door and are replaced by a long line of willing graduates who are only too happy to work at prestigious titles, often at a fraction of the correspondent’s wage, and to toe the line and repeat, parrot-fashion, output from agencies.
      That probably sounds quite bitter – and there are a few honorable examples – but it is the way that nationals have gone.

  23. catweazle666 permalink
    November 19, 2015 8:54 pm

    Here you go, folks!

    Another reason people opposed naming winter storms had to do with named-storm deductible clauses in insurance policies. These clauses stipulate that an insurer can charge a higher deductible than normal once a weather event becomes a named storm.

    So once again, the Met Orifice is conniving with big business to stitch up the public at large.

    Wow, what a surprise!

  24. November 20, 2015 11:03 am

    What’s Paul Hudson say ?
    Hey his blogging stopped in August ..wonder if the shouting about Heathrow hotest got to much ?

    He’s still tweeting but not answering questions like
    “@Hudsonweather Who came up with the idea of naming our winter weather systems? So over dramatic. It’s winter, get used to it!”
    “@Hudsonweather Paul, do you not agree that the latest Met Office gimmick of naming storms in Britain is a bit silly?”

    “@Hudsonweather Met office golden boy Thomaz Schafernaker mentioned “Barney” 5 times in tonight’s forecast. Great performance. WEATHER EVENT!”

    • November 20, 2015 12:16 pm

      I do wonder if some presenters have been muzzled – it’s a shame as Hudson’s analysis is usually excellent.
      As for Shafernacker his presenting style drives me potty. He has also driven the WeatherWatchers similarly questionable project – so is most politically on-message presenter

  25. Grels permalink
    November 20, 2015 3:33 pm

    I don’t disagree with the naming of storms, I just think they’ve followed the wrong model. The Met Office and Met Eireann have near enough copied the Weather Channel model from North America, which means they can rope the public in to naming and tick public engagement boxes. A better model to me is the Norwegian one (and even the Danish one) which have phases (which can be recalled once begun) and/or hierarchical classes of storms. Even the classification of Pacific Northwest windstorms of peak gusts and likely recurrence period in North America is more informative. Hubert Lamb even came up with a 4 class system in 1991. Even though I think naming and classification is always going to be more of an art than a science. I’m slightly annoyed that the Met isn’t producing summary reports after each (Barney got a blog with highest winds, Abigail didn’t). Eumetsat wiped up some of the mess, with a meteorological summary of Abigail. In short I don’t really see much value to these names except for twitter trend corporate backslapping.

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