(December 26, 2010) The Met Office’s commitment to warmist orthodoxy means it drastically underestimates the chances of a big freeze, says Christopher Booker.
By far the biggest story of recent days, of course, has been the astonishing chaos inflicted, to a greater or lesser extent, on all of our lives by the fact that we are not only enjoying what is predicted to be the coldest December since records began in 1659, but also the harshest of three freezing winters in a row. We all know the disaster stories – thousands of motorists trapped for hours on paralysed motorways, days of misery at Heathrow, rail passengers marooned in unheated carriages for up to 17 hours. But central to all this – as the cry goes up: “Why wasn’t Britain better prepared?” – has been the bizarre role of the Met Office.
We might start with the strange affair of the Quarmby Review. Shortly after Philip Hammond became Transport Secretary last May, he commissioned David Quarmby, a former head of the Strategic Rail Authority, to look into how we might avoid a repeat of last winter’s disruption. In July and again in October, Mr Quarmby produced two reports on “The Resilience of England’s Transport System in Winter”; and at the start of this month, after our first major snowfall, Mr Quarmby and two colleagues were asked to produce an “audit” of their earlier findings.
The essence of their message was that they had consulted the Met Office, which advised them that, despite two harsh winters in succession, these were “random events”, the chances of which, after our long previous run of mild winters, were only 20 to one. Similarly, they were told in the summer, the odds against a third such winter were still only 20 to one. So it might not be wise to spend billions of pounds preparing for another “random event”, when its likelihood was so small. Following this logic, if the odds against a hard winter two years ago were only 20 to one, it might have been thought that the odds against a third such “random event” were not 20 to one but 20 x 20 x 20, or 8,000 to one.
What seems completely to have passed Mr Quarmby by, however, is the fact that in these past three years the Met Office’s forecasting record has become a national joke. Ever since it predicted a summer warmer and drier than average in 2007 – followed by some of the worst floods in living memory – its forecasts have been so unerringly wrong that even the chief adviser to our Transport Secretary might have noticed.
The Met Office’s forecasts of warmer-than-average summers and winters have been so consistently at 180 degrees to the truth that, earlier this year, it conceded that it was dropping seasonal forecasting. Hence, last week, the Met Office issued a categorical denial to the Global Warming Policy Foundation that it had made any forecast for this winter. Immediately, however, several blogs, led by Autonomous Mind, produced evidence from the Met Office website that in October it did indeed publish a forecast for December, January and February. This indicated that they would be significantly warmer than last year, and that there was only “a very much smaller chance of average or below-average temperatures”. So the Met Office has not only been caught out yet again getting it horribly wrong (always in the same direction), it was even prepared to deny it had said such a thing at all.
Christopher Booker, The Telegraph, December 26, 2010
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