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Met Office defends its forecasting

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: February 23, 2014

The Exeter-based Met Office is scrambling to reclaim its reputation

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Its predictions of a "barbecue summer" heralded one of the most miserable holiday seasons ever.

Now the Exeter-based Met Office is scrambling to reclaim its reputation after it was revealed that the agency predicted a "drier than usual" winter – ahead of one of the wettest, stormiest periods in living memory.

As Prime Minister David Cameron was urged to lead a revolution in flood planning by a panel of experts, the weather forecasters were explaining how they got it so very wrong.

The three-month forecast, issued to help councils and other organisations, spells out what could be expected on the weather front from December.

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The forecasters – using "cutting-edge science" – assured councils there would be a "significant reduction in precipitation compared to average" for most of the country, adding that there was only a 15 per cent chance the winter would fall into the "wettest category".

The prediction was revealed shortly after the Met Office confirmed that the past 90 days have seen the heaviest rainfall in more than a century.

There has been 19.2in of rain since December, making it the wettest winter since records began in 1910.

A Met Office spokeswoman said the long-range forecast was not regionalised in any way and was "experimental."

"They can be a guide for a whole three-month period, but they are not used to make day-to-day critical decisions during times of severe weather." she said.

"The outlook assesses the level of risk connected to five different scenarios for both temperature and rain/snowfall for the UK as a whole; they do not mention specific areas such as the Somerset Levels. "It's a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race."

Meanwhile as the Somerset Levels remained on "risk to life" flood alert, Prime Minister Mr Cameron was urged to resist "knee jerk" short-term prevention policies which may create more problems than they solve.

In an open letter signed by leading professional bodies involved in flood prevention and water management, led by the Landscape Institute, which represents landscape architects, Mr Cameron is asked to think about the long term.

"The commitment to provide essential funding is a useful step, but it is even more essential that this is invested appropriately, and provides the best and most sustainable outcome to both society and the affected communities," the letter states."

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  • PAWB46  |  February 23 2014, 10:21AM

    It is now understood that based on the Met Office forecast that this winter was likely to be drier than normal, extra water was stored on the Somerset Levels. So the wonderful Met Office forecast, together with the Environment Agency's policy on not dredging the rivers, is partly responsible for the flooding in the Somerset Levels, the misery of residents and farmers and the economic damage. When do we get an apology from the Met Office for the damage it is creating? Taxpayers should get their money back from the Met Office. Better still, cut the Met Office back to a few short-term weather forecasters and give them some seaweed.

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  • rolandsmith  |  February 23 2014, 9:37AM

    Here's my two-penneth. The Met Office would probably do better at short term forecasting if they spent less time gawping at computer screens and more looking out of the window. As to long-term forecasting, forget it, other than it's likely to be colder in winter than during the summer and the odds are that spring and autumn will to be somewhere in between.

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  • StanStill  |  February 23 2014, 7:07AM

    The Met Office cannot get the weather correct for more than 48 hours, so how the hell do they think they can tell what the summers or winters will be like 6 months hence. I agree with PAWB46, I have sent them a twp pence piece to predict next summer.

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  • PAWB46  |  February 22 2014, 1:33PM

    It has beens found that the Met Office three-month forecasts would be more correct if based on a coin toss rather than on its faulty computer model, which costs us taxpayers millions (ie will it be wetter than normal this winter - toss a coin to decide, 50% probabilty of being right. Will it be warmer than normal this summer - toss a coin to decide, 50% probabilty of being right. etc etc). A coin toss is on average right 50% of the time. The Met Ofice is right about 10% of the time. So next time you see a Met Office 3-month forecast, believe the opposite and you are more likely to be correct.

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