GWPF Calls For Independent Inquiry Into Met Office’s Winter Advice

  • Date: 21/12/10

LONDON, 21 December 2010: The Global Warming Policy Foundation has called on the Government to set up an independent inquiry into the winter advice it received by the Met Office and the renewed failure to prepare the UK for the third severe winter in a row.

“The current winter fiasco is no longer a joke as the economic damage to the British economy as a result of the country’s ill-preparedness is running at £1bn a day and could reach more than £15 billion,” said Dr Benny Peiser, the GWPF’s Director.

“It would appear that the Met Office provided government with rather poor if not misleading advice and we need to find out what went wrong. Lessons have to be learned well in advance of the start of next year’s winter so that we are much better prepared if it is severe again,” Dr Peiser said.

Last summer, the Department of Transport carried out a study of the resilience of Britain’s transport infra structure in the light of the two previous severe winters.

The Met Office informed the government that the chance of a severe winter would be relatively small and that the effect of climate change had further reduced the probability of severe winters in the UK.

The transport minister Philip Hammond said yesterday that he has asked the government’s chief scientific adviser whether the three winters was a ‘step change’ in weather in the UK.

“The Met Office appears to deny this possibility. But the key question is: if there was a ‘step change’ in the UK weather, what would it look like? The answer is, of course, it would look like what we have seen in recent years. Hence there is no logical case to say there hasn’t been a step change – we will have to wait and see but it cannot be ruled out,” said Dr David Whitehouse, the GWPF’s science editor.

In light of the renewed failure to prepare the UK for a prolonged and harsh winter, the following questions need to be addressed in order to avoid future debacles:

1. Why did the Met Office publish estimates in late October showing a 60 per cent to 80 per cent chance of warmer-than-average temperatures this winter? What was the scientific basis of this probabilistic estimate?

2. Has the October prediction by the Met Office that this winter would be mild affected planning for this winter? If so, what is the best estimate of how much this has cost the country?

3. Last year, the Met Office predicted a 65% chance that winter will be milder than normal. Has the Met Office subsequently explained what went wrong with its computer modelling?

4. What is the statistical and scientific basis for the Met Office’s estimate of a 1-in-20 chance of a severe winter?

5. Has the Met Office changed its view, or its calculations, following the harsh winters of 2008, 2009 and 2010?

6. Is the Met Office right to claim that the severe winters of the last three years are not related?

7. Which severe weather alerts were issued by the Met Office and when?

8. Although the Met Office stopped sending its 3-month forecasts to the media, it would appear that this service is still available to paying customers, the Government and Local Authorities for winter planning. What was their advice, in September/October, for the start of winter 2010?

9. Has the Met Office been the subject of any complaints from its paying customers regarding the quality of its advice?

10. Is it appropriate that the chairman of the Met Office is a member, or a former member of climate pressure groups or carbon trading groups?

11. Should senior Met Office staff (technically employed by the MoD) make public comments advocating political action they see necessary to tackle climate change?

12. Has the government evaluated different meteorological service providers and has it ensured that it is using the most accurate forecaster?

13. What plans has the government to privatise the Met Office?