Met Office Prediction Sunk By Its Own Data (Again)

  • Date: 29/06/14
  • Christopher Booker, The Sunday Telegraph

On climate predictions, the Met Office has shown itself to be “not fit for purpose”.

We are familiar with how consistently the Met Office has, in recent years, been getting its seasonal and medium-term weather forecasts so spectacularly wrong. We recall that soaking “barbecue summer” of 2009; their “warmer than average” December 2010, which turned out to be the coldest on record; last year’s “drier than average winter”, which led to the wettest January ever; and many more.

In January 2013, I was writing about the “forecast the Met Office hoped you wouldn’t see”, after it had, on Christmas Eve, tried to smuggle out a wholly new version of its computer prediction in 2011 that, over the following five years, global temperatures would rise by 0.8C, greater than the entire net rise in the past century. The Met had amended this, without explanation, to show that the current 17-year “pause” in warming might continue for years to come.

Its latest embarrassment, picked up by various climate blogs, led by Die kalte Sonne in Germany, is also worth noting. In 2007, when global warming hysteria was at its height, the foremost US scientific journal, Science, published a paper from a team led by Dr Doug Smith, the Met Office Hadley Centre’s head of “Decadal Climate Prediction”, entitled “Improved surface temperature prediction for the coming decade from a global climate model”.

Smith’s computer had shown how temperatures would rise between 2004 and 2014: its central prediction being that the world would heat up by 0.3C, possibly even as much as 0.5C, and that four of the five years after 2009 would break the 1998 record as “the hottest year ever”.

What Die kalte Sonne had spotted was that now we are able to compare that computer prediction with what actually happened, as measured on the Hadley Centre’s own Hadcrut temperature record. Overlaying a graph of the real data on those predictions from 2007, it can be seen how, in the past 10 years, average temperatures have slightly fallen. Not one of the past five years has beaten that 1998 record.

One reason this is significant, as I noted last year, is that it yet again confirms how seriously the Hadley Centre’s forecasting strategy has been skewed – by the way its computer models are programmed to assume that a steady rise in CO2 levels must inevitably lead to rising temperatures. This is the core reason why it has been getting all those forecasts of “hotter summers” and “drier winters” so dismally wrong.

A second point of concern is that the same unquestioned assumption has been allowed damagingly to reshape the energy policy of so many governments, above all our own. Yet, such is the power of group-think, not one of our leading politicians, from Barack (“the science is settled”) Obama down, has had the independence of mind to question that flawed assumption.

A third lesson that might emerge from this is that we should recognise that the Met Office’s blind acceptance of this scientific error has – in view of the disastrous influence it exerts on public policy – become a national scandal. In that popular buzz-phrase, the Met Office, for which we pay £200 million a year, has shown itself to be “not fit for purpose”. Yet never, by politicians or even the media, has there been any proper attempt to call it to account.

The Sunday Telegraph, 29 June 2014