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Climate Scientist Calls For Another Billion

June 5, 2020

By Paul Homewood


h/t Ian Magness/Philip Bratby



A top climate scientist has called for more investment in climate computing to explain the UK’s recent topsy turvy weather.

Prof Tim Palmer from Oxford University said there were still too many unknowns in climate forecasting.

And in the month the SpaceX launch grabbed headlines, he said just one of the firm’s billions could transform climate modelling.

Short-term weather forecasting is generally very accurate.

And long-term trends in rising temperatures aren’t in doubt.

But Prof Palmer says many puzzles remain unsolved: take the recent weird weather in the UK, with the wettest February on record followed by the sunniest Spring.


We keep giving the Met Office millions for new computers, and it is always on the same premise – better forecasting. Yet they still appear to be totally unable to forecast the weather even a month in advance.

As we know, the locked jetstream over the last three months has given us a warm, sunny spring, with the jet looping well to the north of the British Isles, thus locking in high pressure. Such weather is a perfectly common event here, and always has been.

However, the jetstream has already shifted this week, shifting back south and leaving the UK exposed to low pressure to the northeast:



The jetstream forecast for the next fortnight suggests little change, with low pressure never far away, so don’t expect a hot, sunny June.

Yet the Met Office’s 3-month outlook issued on 21st May never saw this coming:



I have commented before that the Met Office used to add a note for the first month of the outlook, but gave this idea up a year or so ago, no doubt embarrassed by its repeated inaccuracy.

But we can look at their graph, which gives a range of forecasts for June, the pink crosses on the right):




The fact that these range from 12C to 16C tells us a lot about the uselessness of their models. But it is fair to say that most scenarios centre around the 14 to 15C range, which is much higher than the 1981-2010 average of 13.0C.

It remains to be seen what the weather will be like at the back end of the month, but given the current jetstream forecast it seems unlikely that June will be anywhere near as hot as the Met Office are suggesting.


Which brings us back to square one. Why should we give them another billion, when they cannot even forecast the weather two weeks ahead now?

  1. tim leeney permalink
    June 5, 2020 11:07 am

    Maybe forward this to the chancellor?

  2. June 5, 2020 11:15 am

    They can’t even get it right within 24 hours. The 24hr forecast for Aberdeen published late Wednesday forecast strong winds starting at noon on Thursday. Good idea to go flying first thing in the morning, I thought. Result: showery morning, light winds throughout the day and a few 15ft gusts later in the afternoon. They want us to believe that we’ll fry and die in the year 2,100 unless we commit economic suicide? Pull the other one…

  3. cajwbroomhill permalink
    June 5, 2020 11:15 am

    Does he not know we are broke and in vast debt, and with no money or resources for futile wild goose chasing?
    Or is he just a usual Green chancer?
    Could he be a leftie seeking national laughing sstock or insanely-based destruciton .
    In any event, he should be working only on a voluntary basis.

  4. June 5, 2020 11:17 am

    “Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted”. ‘Lorenz (1963)

    “The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future exact climate states is not possible.” (IPCC, Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report).

    A £billion of wasted money would keep the scamsters in luxury for a long time.

  5. June 5, 2020 11:20 am

    Because more money means more staff and more staff makes him MORE important! This is the New Green Economy..( I used the word economy in its loosest form). Strangely communist in style where all business is funded by central government who just then tax the bejesus out of the population, or if they can, they just steal it! More of the same old same old marxism in a party dress.

    Note that this supposed scientist dropped in the ” And long-term trends in rising temperatures aren’t in doubt”, without specifying the specific sourceof this warming which of course for general consumption is a deliberate conflation of natural effects and an unknown human effect but hey, let us not let the truth get in the way of a “professor” touting for more cash! Also he has not got a clue how long it will last but oh he sings from the correct hymn sheet full of questionable and deliberately vague and inaccurate quotations which would have got him fired as a junior scientist if he had done that 30-40 years ago!

  6. Gamecock permalink
    June 5, 2020 11:33 am

    ‘Prof Tim Palmer from Oxford University said there were still too many unknowns in climate forecasting.’

    Spend a billion pounds, and they will still be unknown.

    ‘And long-term trends in rising temperatures aren’t in doubt.’

    To him. To others, yes.

    ‘But Prof Palmer says many puzzles remain unsolved: take the recent weird weather in the UK, with the wettest February on record followed by the sunniest Spring.’

    Weather. Not climate.

    And what’s the point? No climate in the English speaking world has changed in over a hundred years. Suppose Palmer could actually predict that there will be a change in the generalized weather of some place 30 years from now. No one would do anything differently. They’d make changes as the changes actually happened.

    In other words, even – the impossible – accurate prediction will change nothing.

    • June 5, 2020 12:01 pm

      Quite so!

    • Joe Public permalink
      June 5, 2020 3:29 pm

      “‘Prof Tim Palmer from Oxford University said there were still too many unknowns in climate forecasting.’

      Spend a billion pounds, and they will still be unknown.”

      Yes, but they’ll be unknown sooner than if a slower computer was used.

  7. Geoff B permalink
    June 5, 2020 11:35 am

    Professor is just a pay grade at university, you do not have to be very bright to get the title. Enough said!

  8. Mad Mike permalink
    June 5, 2020 11:48 am

    You have got to give this guy some credit. Firstly he is being brave enough to highlight the many variables affecting weather and secondly he managed to get a smidgen of doubt about ” The science is settled” in to a BBC story. The reporter will no doubt be subject to re-education classes very soon.

  9. Gerry, England permalink
    June 5, 2020 11:53 am

    ‘Unknowns in climate forecasting’ Sorry, there can’t be – ‘the science is settled’. Top climate expert Al Gore said so. So do all the alarmists say so. The message from on high is that this is not for discussion – we just need the action and money to stop the earth from melting.

    Short term forecasting accurate? LOL OK, it is 11.45am on Friday so it can’t be hard to forecast the weather for Sunday, barely 48 hours away. Going to Ventusky you can get the models from ICON, GEM and GFS and with the short term accuracy that Palmer speaks of they are all the same. LOL If you want some rain for the garden and stock up your waterbutts then GFS is the one for you in my corner of the South East, because both ICON and GEM say other wise. They have limited areas of rain and at much lowers levels meaning that you could work out in the garden whereas GFS says expect to get very wet. Of course, these could change between now and Sunday morning, and probably will. So much for forecasting. The best tool is the rainfall radar where you can actually see what is about and where it is going such that you might get a passing shower or a rain band in an hour or two that might pass quickly.

    • Philip Mulholland permalink
      June 5, 2020 2:37 pm

      Except of course in a weather crisis the Met Office removes the weather radar.
      Yes, that actually happened.

  10. June 5, 2020 11:57 am

    ”And long-term trends in rising temperatures aren’t in doubt”. And when hasn’t that happened in Earth’s 4.6Bn year history, and also ‘long term trend in falling temperatures’ to match? Funny though how he’s given his answer (‘settled science’ of ‘rising temperatures’?), yet wants another billion to find the answer. Talk about confused.

    • Broadlands permalink
      June 5, 2020 1:42 pm

      ”And long-term trends in rising temperatures aren’t in doubt”. Indeed. The global long-term amount is a plus 0.83°C anomaly, ± 0.5°C. A climate emergency in need of more research??

  11. June 5, 2020 12:13 pm

    I’m a circumnavigating sailor, so have personal experience of the accuracy of forecasting, 24 hour accuracy is about right for this country, where instability of systems creates that issue. its bad enough in the more stable climatic systems of the tropics. Complexity would make modelling horrendously difficult in our latitudes, so I can understand the problems for the Met office. What I do have an issue with are the huge sums being spent on hardware without any noticeable difference in the software which create the forecasts, and the staff who put all this together. I was on an Antarctica expedition ship with Dame Julia Slingo 5 years ago. She gave a talk on her domain with lots of the normal garbage on AGW and which we should all know fuels the engine of tax payer funding which she and others like her benefit from. She was extolling the virtues of the huge investment being made in new computing power which was apparently to improve forecasting, but it became clear that the models weren’t changing, just the speed of the computers running them. So rubbish was just being processed faster. That seems like progress – NOT! But our incompetent politicians obviously never check the validity of their investment of our money.

  12. Pancho Plail permalink
    June 5, 2020 12:14 pm

    You don’t need a £Bn computer to access databases of historical weather records which will tell you that the explanation of “this topsy turvy weather” is that it has always been like this, with a slightly upward temperature trend for the last few centuries.

  13. June 5, 2020 1:13 pm

    What’s he comparing? Apples with Pears?
    Why not wettest followed by driest?
    Or perhaps that would muck up the narrative?

    But Prof Palmer says many puzzles remain unsolved: take the recent weird weather in the UK, with the wettest February on record followed by the sunniest Spring.

    It can’t be that unusual as this explains as it was happening in 2013;
    From the Met Office 19 June 2013
    The UK Met Office recently held an emergency meeting:
    “Weather and climate experts from across the UK came together at the Met Office’s HQ in Exeter today for a workshop to discuss the recent run of unusual seasons in Europe.”

    • Gamecock permalink
      June 5, 2020 5:07 pm

      Malus aforethought.

  14. June 5, 2020 1:21 pm

    Just an observation – when I spent a time in Colorado, it was typical to have hot, sunny summer days but with a torrential downpour in the afternoon for an hour or so after which the sun came out and dried everything off so you wouldn’t have known it had rained. So record rainfall and record sunshine at the same time for the same month.

  15. Alan Haile permalink
    June 5, 2020 1:47 pm

    A new, more powerful computer will give the same wrong answer much faster.
    Doesn’t the Met Office realise that our weather depends greatly on the position of the Jet Stream? When it was hot recently I assumed it was because the JS was to our North and it was. Now the JS has moved South and the weather is much cooler. It’s not rocket science and doesn’t require a powerful computer.

  16. bookymatelot permalink
    June 5, 2020 2:17 pm

    Perhaps the good Professor should consult his advanced mathematics department abd study “Chaos Theory”, its all in there and has been studied for years!

  17. Tony Budd permalink
    June 5, 2020 3:15 pm

    Dear Paul, Thanks for all your efforts. What amuses me is that the Met Office are absolutely stuck on calendar months, which actually have no relationship to the weather at all. If we had had the first two weeks of May still cold and wet and then the last two weeks blazing hot, followed by two blazing hot weeks at the beginning of June and then a return to cooler wetter weather for the end of June, it wouldn’t be statistically significant. But four hot weeks within the same calendar month registers as exceptional! Yours, Tony Budd

    • June 5, 2020 4:53 pm

      Excellent point – another example of “how to lie with statistics”.

  18. June 5, 2020 4:25 pm

    “But Prof Palmer says many puzzles remain unsolved: take the recent weird weather in the UK, with the wettest February on record followed by the sunniest Spring”

    Translation: climate scientists don’t really understand climate and that is what makes it so scary. The less they know the scarier it gets.

  19. Mad Mike permalink
    June 5, 2020 5:37 pm

    Here’s something on modelling and they try to tune the models with data as time goes on. Its mainly about CV19 but CC gets a going over as well.

    There are some juicy things to quote in the article but I’ll highlight just one.They are talking about tuning the models here (submodes).

    “If it is hard to model a single phenomenon, it is exponentially more difficult when a given model contains submodels, each with its own uncertainties. “Each time you add a new submodel, you are adding new degrees of freedom to the system with new feedbacks,” says Judith Curry, former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Then when you couple the new submodel to the larger model, you add additional degrees of freedom to each variable that the new submodel connects with.” In other words, with every submodel added the possibility of error compounds, multiplying the chance that the main model veers off target. “This issue,” Curry says, “remains at the heart of many of the problems and uncertainties in global climate models.”

    The article should be required reading for every politician and perhaps should be on every school curriculum. Thinking is a difficult business but someone’s got to do it.

  20. avro607 permalink
    June 5, 2020 7:37 pm

    Gerlich and Tscheuschner are a good read,where they mention that the initial equations for the starting point,consist of partial differentials that are unsolvable.
    They are known as the Navier Stokes equations. The fudge is therefore to parameterise the required unknown input values which is of course a posh sciency word for “best guess”.So when a scientist asks for a bigger computer,explain to him/her that the result will be just a bigger pile of er,dross.

  21. Gamecock permalink
    June 5, 2020 7:43 pm

    “If you can’t do it in 128k, it isn’t worth doing.” – Gamecock, working on PDP-11s, late 1970s.

    Palmer, and his ilk, were taught brute force computing. Why create intelligent software when you can get a big computer to grind it all out?

    If I were in charge, I wouldn’t give Palmer a penny until he published the software he intended to run*. For the world to look at.

    Sorries we didn’t get Ferguson’s code before the lockdowns.

    *Probably still wouldn’t give him any money. He’s already admitted complete fakery.

  22. June 7, 2020 2:28 am

    We must give the climate scientist what he wants as he is here to save the planet.

  23. M E permalink
    June 8, 2020 2:05 am

    Ill informed comment coming !
    Crystal balls left over from
    the Extinction Rebellion confidence trick would be better than a faster computer without better data to work on. No one knows what we need to know to put into the computer .
    When that conundrum is solved a fast computer may be needed.

  24. Ivan permalink
    June 9, 2020 1:39 pm

    Climate forecasting and weather forecasting are not the same. I think it is implausible to give a weather forecast more than a few days ahead, because of what is colloquially known as the “butterfly effect”.

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