Why the Met Office ‘forecasts’ are pointless

With those who do the long range weather forecasting like the wonderful yet eccentric weatheraction.com (based on looking at what the Sun is doing) constantly being accurate with their ability to forecast almost to the exact week, 6 months ahead, and the Met Office being constantly shown to be completely incompetent (read my previous article from only a month ago here), some years ago I was interested to watch an interview with a Met Office man who had just received some massive pay bonus for something or other.  This wasn’t the ex-WWF (the highly funded eco-advocacy loonies that make personal fortunes out of crazy ideas like windfarms and taxing anybody emitting life-giving CO2) hippy currently controlling the Met Office, but the one before him, I think.

In this interview he said that long range forecasting was a new science and in its early stages, which is why they kept getting them so horrendously wrong. You’ll remember how we were supposed to be having a mild winter after a promised barbecue summer. Oh, and how April 2012 would be drier than average and about average temperatures for May 2012.  Yep, 100% fail there by the Met Office, despite the fortune it costs to run and the huge amount of super-computer tech they’ve spent our money on.

Anyway, he continued to talk up the Met Office weather forecasts, homing in on their “Five day forecast” as being wonderful and accurate and worth all the money we were paying them and the trust we gave them.

Like a red rag to a bull, I decided to test this. I mean, this was the Met Office, the same insitution that wanted us to believe all the mumbo jumbo about future global warming. They must know about climate and weather in the future or they wouldn’t be “forecasting” global warming would they? Or would they?

On closer inspection I discovered that the words “5 day” and “forecast” are a tad bit misleading. What they actually provide is a “nowcast” plus the four next days. Yes, that totals five, but surely it’s “forecasting” only four of them. Bit cheeky that, indeed, some might say ‘deliberately misleading’.

So I picked a random date in January and carefully watched the feeds and web predictions from the Met Office via their own site and the BBC Weather site. I’d picked the generic term ‘Liverpool’ as what I wanted one of these world famous “forecasts” for. That seemed big enough and easy enough compared to a far smaller and more specific, say, “Number 6 Hedgeway Cuttings” address type demand on my part. Surely I was being fair?

The first ever appearance of the forecast for my chosen day was at just after Midnight with now just under four days to go. This told me that my target day would be Sunny, maximum temperature 3, overnight low 1, with a Northerly wind at 18mph. Hmmm. Not a bad day then, a bit cold, not too windy, but at least it would be dry. So, I could wrap up warm and sit in my garden in the sunshine. That’s what I decided I would do when the target date arrived.

Within a day I noticed that the overnight low had changed from being 1 degree and was the colder 0 or freezing! Mind you, there’s not a lot of difference really. But, what’s this? Just two days to go and it was no longer Sunny but Light Rain Showers that were predicted. What? So, in other words they were wasting my time with the original forecast. I was going to sit in my garden and get wet. That’s a big radical difference to what I’d been promised. Temperatures were now going to be 4 and 2, so that’s warmer by day and no longer freezing by night. Winds were dropped a bit to 17mph, but this time coming from the North-North-West.

Yes, I guess you could argue that as we got closer and they were able to tweak the forecast that not a lot had changed beyond the rain replacing the promised sun, and I’m sure a spin doctor could say it’s all only a general trend guide.

With just 24 hours until my target day and the Met Office removed the prediction of rain and replaced it with “Sunny Intervals”. What on earth does that mean? What is a “Sunny Interval”? Is that still saying rain, but now and again there’d be sun? Should I still be thinking it would rain or what? Anyway, the wind was now going to be Northerly again and 14 mph. The daytime temperature would now be 5 degrees and overnight it would be 0. Ah, so freezing again. I wish they’d make their mind up. Freezing point or not freezing point can make a big difference to vegetables and water pipes, y’know.

This was getting exciting. With less than 6 hours to go, I checked in and to my relief my target day was again going to be Sunny. No mention of rain, or these mysterious “intervals”, just “Sunny”, so no getting my head wet when I went out in my garden tomorrow. I was looking forward to it. The temperature was now going to be 4 and it would drop to 2. Winds would again be North-North-Westerly and this time 20mph. Hmmm. A bit breezier than first ‘predicted’.

Finally my target day arrived. According to what was now a “nowcast” it was 2 degrees out there. Hmmm. But only yesterday they’d said it would be 2 degrees at night, not by day. Ok, fair enough, but yesterday they’d promised me “sunny” and I didn’t like the look of that dark overcast sky I was now seeing. To my dismay the words “Sunny Intervals” appeared to have returned to the “nowcast”. Oh well, out to the garden I went. The cold sea air did make it a bit nippy, but I was ok in the dull sunless cold waiting for one of these “intervals”.

Well, I was ok for about 20 minutes until I was forced to beat a hasty retreat into the warmth of my house.

It had started to snow quite thick fluffy snow which appeared to be settling.