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Met Office Did Not See Wet February Coming

February 21, 2020

By Paul Homewood


We’ve been inundated this month by Storms Ciara and Dennis, but did our glorious Met Office see it coming?


They will quite rightly claim that their seven day forecasts have been broadly accurate, something that just about every weather forecaster in the world could boast.

But once a month, they publish their Contingency Planner for the next three months. This is the one issued on Jan 24th for precipitation:






Of course, it is for 3-months, so we await what comes in March and April. Nevertheless, until recently they included a paragraph for 1-month ahead, which ought to be the most valuable and relevant for users of the planners. It appears they have dropped this because it was so often wrong.


But we can get a glimpse of their projections from the chart below:



The range of 1-month model projections is so wide as to be worse than useless, everything from record wet to record dry! [The purple scatter column on the right]

Nevertheless, if you exclude the outliers, you get a range of projections around the average for recent years. Certainly nothing like the rain which has already arrived, with more to come.


We hear that the Met Office is to get another bright, shiny new computer, at a cost to taxpayers of £1.2bn. Perhaps they should first explain why they cannot even get forecasts right a month ahead, before wasting more taxpayer money.


Booker, of course, had it all worked out years ago, when the Met Office promised its super duper new £97m computer would not only forecast short term weather, but also the climate 100 years hence:



Five years after we paid £33 million to buy the Met Office a new computer, we are now to pay £97 million to give them a “world-leading super-computer” – described by its chairman as “our integrated weather and climate model, known as the Met Office Unified Model”. That’s because it will not only “produce the most accurate short-term forecasts that are scientifically possible”, but can also predict how the Earth’s climate will change over the next 100 years.


It’s the same old story now – except for the bill!

  1. February 21, 2020 2:56 pm

    it’s not the shortage of computers but the excess of them that creates a climate change priority of meteorology and sidelines their day job.

  2. February 21, 2020 3:11 pm

    If you want to hear how wonderful the climate computer models are at predicting the future weather and climate (and you don’t suffer from high blood pressure), listen to Myles Allen telling tall tales on ‘The life scientific’:
    (Hint – it’s more BBC climate emergency propaganda)

    • Curious George permalink
      February 21, 2020 4:44 pm

      Weather is not climate. While the Met can not predict the weather a month ahead, their predictions of climate 30, 50, and 80 years ahead are spotless 🙂

  3. Gray permalink
    February 21, 2020 3:15 pm

    Remind me again- how many sandbags that would buy?

  4. Martin Burlin permalink
    February 21, 2020 3:16 pm

    Christopher Booker, RIP

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      February 21, 2020 4:50 pm

      Right In Perpetuity. Man was a prophet without honour in his land. But ‘we’ knew.

  5. Gamecock permalink
    February 21, 2020 3:19 pm

    ‘Nevertheless, until recently they included a paragraph for 1-month ahead, which ought to be the most valuable and relevant for users of the planners.’

    Users? Plural? You think anyone actually did anything different based on what these horoscopes predicted?

    People’s belief in weather forecasts >2 weeks out is zero. Rightfully so. A new computer won’t solve that.

    BTW, if they run the same software in a new computer . . . they will get the same [bad] result.

    Corollary: If the current system is giving them bad results, it’s the software that’s the problem. The new system will give them the same bad result, only quicker. New hardware fixes nothing. For £1.2bn.

    • AllanM permalink
      February 21, 2020 3:24 pm

      But just think how fast they will be able to play Freecell!

    • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
      February 21, 2020 4:26 pm

      BTW, if they run the same software in a new computer . . . they will get the same [bad] result.

      Hmm?! What if they don’t? That’s scary.

    • Mervyn Hobden permalink
      February 21, 2020 5:13 pm

      Quite right gamecock – the new computer will allow them to reduce the linear cell size to about 100 metres. However, the underlying ‘siftware’ is the same old linear algebra beloved of Mann and Co, so the outcomes will be the same. The truth is, that the only thing that can be accurately predicted using the theorems of linear algebra are the theorems of linear algebra! Physical rigour describing a non-linear system is beyond them.

      • Frank Everest permalink
        February 22, 2020 11:34 am

        I don’t know why they think they can get output accuracy for 100m cells when the input accuracy over the oceans is lucky to get to 100km cells!

    • Bloke down the pub permalink
      February 22, 2020 11:00 am

      ‘Nevertheless, if you exclude the outliers, you get a range of projections around the average for recent years. Certainly nothing like the rain which has already arrived, with more to come.
      The ‘benefit’ of the new computer, is that it can do more runs of the programme in the time available, to get a wider consensus of the outcome. What this means in effect is that the programme will still produce a wide scatter of possible outcomes, which will then create an average. I could produce a forecast for the next three months just by giving the climatic mean and I doubt if their £1.2bn computer will improve on it.

      • Gamecock permalink
        February 22, 2020 12:45 pm

        The average of junk is . . . junk.

        “I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” – Thomas Carlyle

  6. NeilC permalink
    February 21, 2020 3:21 pm

    If you keep feeding garbage into a computer no matter £399 or £1,200,000,000, it will always turn out garbage GIGO

    • February 21, 2020 4:52 pm

      You’ll just get the answer quicker!

      • Chaswarnertoo permalink
        February 21, 2020 5:15 pm

        The wrong answer. Just pay Piers Corbyn, Jezza’s smart older brother, for a better one. No need for supercomputers when one has a first in astrophysics and a handle on reality.

      • John Lyon permalink
        February 21, 2020 9:42 pm

        Does anyone know what piers Corbin’s predictions were for the same period.

  7. AllanM permalink
    February 21, 2020 3:21 pm

    … below average precipiation is slightly more likely than above average precipiation.

    That one sentence shows just how useless their output is to anyone.

    • Wil Pretty permalink
      February 21, 2020 4:20 pm

      AllanM – You don’t even need a computer at all to generate a forecast like that. Tossing a coin can give you that.

      • Duker permalink
        February 21, 2020 11:55 pm

        You can improve the odds by just re-using the previous forecast with an update of that months actual weather

  8. February 21, 2020 3:22 pm

    I remember reading the original article in 2014. He predicted then that the computer would make inaccurate predictions because the programmers factored in AGW which anyone with any common sense knows is a fiction. He was one of the very few journalists whose columns were absolutely spot on. RIP Mr Booker, sadly missed!

  9. dearieme permalink
    February 21, 2020 3:35 pm

    Bunchacrooks. Privatise the ruddy thing: if it couldn’t make a living in the market then kaput!

    Remember the Great Paxo’s disdain at being asked to read out the Met Office forecast on Newsnight.

    • tom0mason permalink
      February 21, 2020 6:26 pm

      “Privatise the ruddy thing: if it couldn’t make a living in the market then kaput!”

      Exactly my feeling about the Met Office and the BBC for the last 10-15 years. If they can not make it within a competitive environment then they are (were) worthless.
      What’s their Unique Selling Point (USP) — that they are funded by government, and that’s all.

  10. Broadlands permalink
    February 21, 2020 3:47 pm

    But, the really important global warming research is being overlooked?

    Act soon! Bold and decisive action is needed.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      February 21, 2020 5:13 pm

      Broadland: here’s a tale. My village newsletters editor (a sceptic) decided to give voice to an eco-alarmist who, prefictably wrote an op-ed about the climate emergency (you can guess the rest). I decided to take his piece down and debunked it, to the best of my ability.
      This week, the editor got a published (GM) scientist to debunk me and teach me the facts of CO2-caused warming. He had the nerve to tell me that if my scepticism was worth a light I would get published. Oh the irony.
      Anyway, his – sort of solution – was that, just perhaps, man should learn from the bees and group together in mutually supporting groups (hives) where the drones support the queen and are prepared to give their lives for the cause. Face-palm. (Editor has closed discussion!)

  11. February 21, 2020 4:30 pm

    My wife and I went on an expedition ship around Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands in 2015, and Dame Julia Slingo was on board. She gave a talk about forecasting and would you believe climate change, spouting all the usual drivel to a largely gullible audience, after all she is a scientist!. My wife had to hold me down! But I do recall clearly her droning on about the super new billion pound computer the Met office were getting, and how that was going to do miraculous things. Not able to stand it any further, I and another fellow questioned her closely about what models the Met office used in forecasting and quickly got to the admission that the new computer was using exactly the same models as before, with no apparent plans for any new ones that we could establish. So she had to admit that all the new processing power was doing was running the model faster. So we got faster drivel!
    Not sure if the tax payer was also funding her trip (for research purposes don’t you know). But I wouldn’t be surprised. We worked hard all our lives to arrive at a position to do it.
    We pay our taxes to fund these people, and our gullible politicians take it all in and spend our money ’willy nilly’. You couldn’t make it up could you!,

  12. Dave Cowdell permalink
    February 21, 2020 4:35 pm

    Anecdotally some years ago I worked in Bracknell where there was the HQ of the Met Office. Staying in a hotel I met up with a forecaster from Belfast who had come over for 6 weeks to be responsible for the UK weather. He came into the bar after work in a foul mood and after enquiry for his temper he said ” if I had known it was going to be so sunny I would have had the day off”
    Nothing changes.

  13. February 21, 2020 4:36 pm

    Don’t forget the £33m. and £97m. mentioned for earlier computers. Now £1.2bn. so what next? Is there a second hand market for these white elephants?
    Bit miffed they missed our snowstorm yesterday – blew my front door open. Lasted nearly 10 minutes and didn’t even get a name.

  14. dennisambler permalink
    February 21, 2020 4:57 pm

    “Ever wondered why our forecasts for 5 days and beyond are written on the scale of the UK as a whole? When looking at forecasts beyond five days into the future the chaotic nature of the atmosphere starts to come into play – small events currently over the Atlantic can have potentially significant impacts on our weather in the UK in several days’ time.”

    “The Met Office has said people should be wary of ‘coldest winter in 50 years’ and snow predictions.

    Some media outlets have been forecasting a cold snap that will bring plunging temperatures and snow storms, but meteorologists at the national weather service have said there is no way to be certain.

    The science is just not there. What you are trying to do is look at weather systems on the other side of the globe and how they might affect this tiny island.

    The science for long-range forecasts simply does not exist.

    The spokesperson for the Met Office, though, said: “What you can do is look at trends in regions for 30 days ahead. And at the moment, it is looking like typical autumnal weather, with temperatures average or slightly above.

    They also added that we will be likely to see snow in winter, but because that is normal for the season, and it is too early to tell when and where.”

    The spokesperson was probably still at school when we had the famous “End of Snow” prediction:

    March 2000
    “According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”. “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.”

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      February 21, 2020 5:45 pm

      Where the devil does the MO find trends in a chaotic system?

  15. Mikep permalink
    February 21, 2020 5:07 pm

    My father was a weather man all his life, worked his way up from observer, to forecaster, to head of centre. The good forecasters of his generation (my father was one of them) had a real weather-wisdom which I think has been lost these days. To be honest, with all the computing power available, I don’t think the forecasts are any better now than then (maybe not even as good?).
    He was never keen on producing long-term forecasts, he felt that anything beyond five days was not reliable and should not be published. That most certainly is still the case…. the 14 day forecasts on the BBC are basically useless, you may as well flip a coin!
    His view on climate change – there’s been some warming in the last 100 years, how much of that is due to man and how much to natural cycles, who knows? His hunch is the latter.

  16. February 21, 2020 5:25 pm

    This computer will be a Garbage in Garbage out exercise for weather modelling with an incidental aside of short term prediction. Whoever has control of it will be able to coerce the agenda. It’s just another way of propagandising for the committed. I see that at MIT they have used computing power to break new ground in the search for new antibiotics. Here we are stuck with this absolute mania of the bien pensant attempting to prove their theorising. The indications are that they have the ear of our law makers. Yes, it does indicate concern but in a very narrow manner. Will it do anything to make road transport move faster or rehabilitate our water catchment areas? The essence of caring surely is to alleviate the tiresome struggle of every-man and not used as something resembling alchemy especially when we cannot live in a detached manner; where Germany can trash its clean energy, stop nuclear production and opt for the certainty of lignite! When we think back on the time that Michelangelo, Newton spent on that dark art of alchemy we have an indication of the things that drive the self-obsessed, even the brilliant. Only here we are talking about government and funds and the search for un-contestable proof. It’s weather for goodness sake. Live with it.

    • dennisambler permalink
      February 22, 2020 9:18 am

      Garbage in Garbage out…. but so much quicker.

    • Mervyn Hobden permalink
      February 22, 2020 4:02 pm

      Europeanonion, You can’t blame Isaac Newton for the present mess and muddle. Take down your copy of the ‘Principia’ and you will discover the work of a mathematician at pains to point out the limitations of the art. Many of Newton’s demonstrations are non-linear and he points out that no closed solution exists and that therefore we have to rely in an ‘approximation’ that is usable. He states, ‘In Mathematicks there will always be little errors which should not be neglected.’
      The present reliance on a ‘certainty’ that has never existed, dates back to French mathematicians at the end of the 18th century, who failing to solve these problems, replaced reality with a system called ‘linear algebra’ in which such problems could not exist. This is the basis of all computer programming and where a non-linear problem is found, an approximate sulution is employed aka Newton but without the understanding that the real solution and the approximate will diverge as the solution develops with time. A much greater French mathematician, Henri Poincare, showed that in such cases, a better approximation could be formed by making time itself a variable, allowing a ‘closed’ solution to be formed. This is much closer to the real solution than the ‘steady state’ predicted by linear algebra.

  17. Gamecock permalink
    February 22, 2020 1:14 am

    Save a billion. Buy a Farmers Almanac.

    You will suffer NO LOSS IN ACCURACY!

  18. OldCynic permalink
    February 22, 2020 2:29 am

    1 I presume the $97m is to program it as well as just buying the hardware. (Hardware is cheap).
    2 What is the job spec for the Met Office. Shouldn’t it be to forecast WEATHER? When did scope creep into climate modelling creep in? Who approved it?
    3 Why are they never called upon to justify their poor performance? (Rhetorical question – public service organisations are never held accountable for squandering public money)

  19. February 22, 2020 6:57 am

    Funnily enough, the Met Office doesn’t want to tell us how wet it has been so far this winter compared to their forecasts (the one thing we are interested in):

  20. 4 Eyes permalink
    February 23, 2020 2:56 am

    The BoM in Oz said when everyone was lamenting the heat and the fires were spreading that we wouldn’t see rain until April. Well the east coast went underwater soon after that. The BoM is quite accurate with its 7 day forecasts but it got it wrong about the 4 month wait for rain because they failed to predict the very rapid collapse of the Indian Ocean dipole. Why didn’t they predict the collapse? Because they don’t know enough about the dipole and yet they want us to accept long term predictions about changing weather patterns i..e. climate. They also don’t know enough about El Ninos and La Ninas and the PDO and the AMO and the sun and Milankovitch cycles and they, and their IPCC overlords, cannot tell us categorically (i.e. scientifically!) how much of the warming seen so far is natural and how much is caused by humans producing CO2 – they just proffer a guess. And yet they don’t raise a murmur when an economist or a politician or an activist tells us that we have to change our world entirely because we produce too much CO2. One scientist in Oz said on TV they have found no direct link between droughts and global warming – he was rapidly pulled into line and has not made a public utterance since that I am aware of. Everything being done is precautionary, just in case. And no-one addresses the downside of all this precautionary mitigation and that is the extraordinary stupidity of it all. When you don’t even try to evaluate if the cure is worse that the disease you can be considered stupid.

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