Rosy U.K. cheeks mean red faces at the Met Office

(December 22, 2010) Let’s hope Santa isn’t relying on weather forecasts from the U.K. Met Office. The British deep freeze of recent weeks (which has also immobilized much of continental Europe) is profoundly embarrassing for the official forecaster. Just two months ago it projected a milder than usual winter.

This debacle is more than merely embarrassing. The Met Office is front and centre in rationalizing the British government’s commitment to fight catastrophic man-made global warming with more and bigger bureaucracy, so its conspicuous errors raise yet more questions about that “settled” science.

When you’re making confident global projections for the year 2100, you can only be contradicted on the basis of alternative hypotheses, of which the vast majority of people have no comprehension. But pretty much anybody can look out of the window and tell the difference between light drizzle and a snowbank. Moreover, private forecasters strongly disagreed with the Met Office’s winter projections as soon as they were made (which should add fuel to calls for the organization’s privatization).

Yesterday, the British-based Global Warming Policy Foundation, one of the world’s leading advocates for climate objectivity, called on the U.K. government to set up an independent inquiry into the Met Office’s failures. It also wants an examination of the institution’s politicization, although that is hardly likely to come from the very government that is manipulating it. Still, bias can be expensive. Dr. Benny Peiser, the GWPF’s director, noted that the price tag on the country’s unpreparedness for this winter could reach $15-billion.

At the recent Cancun climate meetings, the Met Office presented a study suggesting that the outlook for global climate was, on balance, worse than projected in the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Given its short-range accuracy, this forecast might be taken with a pinch of road salt, or a tot of de-icing fluid.

Significantly, the Met Office is closely associated with the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, home of Climategate. Both organizations are deeply involved with the IPCC. When it comes to the CRU’s crystal ball, one of its official declared a decade ago: “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.” No danger of that for little Britons this year.

The Met’s blunder follows similar cockups last year and the year before. In February, Met Office scientist Peter Stott declared that 2009 was an anomaly, and that milder and wetter winters were now — for sure — to be expected. He suggested that exceptionally cold British winters such as the one that occurred in 1962-63 were now expected to occur “about once every 1,000 years or more, compared with approximately every 100 to 200 years before 1850.” Now, the Met Office is admitting that the current December may be the coldest in Britain in the past 100 years.

No doubt the warmist crowd will be quick to express outrage at this blatant confusion of global climate with local weather, but that won’t wash. The Met makes its short-term forecasts on the basis of the same brand of massive computer power and Rube Goldberg modelling used to project the global climate. The suggestion that forecasting the climate is easier than forecasting the weather comes into the same category as acknowledging that governments couldn’t run a lemonade stand, but then believing that they can “manage” an economy.

Confusing weather with climate isn’t always condemned by alarmists. In March, Al Gore deemed it disgraceful that “deniers” dared to suggest that North America’s East Coast Snowmageddon in any way undermined the Inconvenient Truth of man-made global warming. More snow was obviously due to man. The very next day, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell declared that the lack of snow at the Vancouver Olympics was due to … man-made global warming.

Another example of one-way theory was provided three months later by climatologist Michael Mann, concoctor of the infamous “Hockey Stick” graph, and one of the reluctant stars of the Climategate emails. In an interview, Mr. Mann claimed that the then current North American heat wave was clear evidence of hand of man. So you see the principle: If it supports the warmist cause, it’s climate; if it doesn’t, it’s just weather.

The Met’s red face comes at the end of a very bad year for climatism. It started with Climategate and ended with the utter collapse of the Kyoto process at Cancun. In between, there was a United Nations report that admitted that the IPCC process was deeply flawed, followed by projections from the International Energy Agency that confirmed that bold commitments to slash fossil fuel use were so much political pollution. Meanwhile, the vast costs of government promotion of alternatives such as wind and solar have also become increasingly apparent, along with the fact that green jobs are a mirage.

Mirages definitely aren’t a problem this week on the runways of Heathrow.

Peter Foster, Financial Post, December 22, 2010

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Categories: Climategate

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