Barney – The Storm That Was Not
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.
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.