After the revelation: The Met office and the BBC- caught cold that the Met office had issued a forecast to the UK Cabinet office, and that forecast didn’t contain much of anything useful, the least of which was any solid prediction of a harsh winter, I offered BBC’s environmental reporter Roger Harrabin a chance to respond, to tell his side of the story. At first I didn’t think he would, because his initial response was kind and courteous, but not encouraging. I was surprised today to find this essay in my Inbox, which is repeated verbatim below, with the only editing being to fix some HTML formatting in the links he provides at the end. In his essay, he’s proposing a “weather test” of the Met Office, and Piers Corbyn has agreed to be tested as well. – Anthony
From Roger Harrabin BBC Environment Analyst
The latest who-said-what-when saga over the Met Office winter forecast has created a stir of interest and understandable concern.
I offer some thoughts of my own on the matter in my BBC Online column. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12325695
But the row only serves to emphasize the need for better information on the performance of weather forecasters over the long term.
That’s why I am attempting with the help of the Royal Met Soc, the Royal Stats Soc and the Royal Astro Soc to devise a Weather Test in which forecasters enter their forecasts to a central data point, so they can be judged against each other over a period of time.
We’d like to compile records of daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal forecasts. The UK independent Piers Corbyn is the only person to have volunteered so far to be tested in all these categories, though we will be in discussions with others to persuade them to take part.
We, the public, need to know which forecasters and which forecasting methods we should trust for different types of forecasting.
We are progressing with a protocol which will ensure that all participants submit data in the same form. Hopefully we’ll be able to launch the project fairly soon, although it is proving time-consuming.
Before we settle the final protocol we’ll publish it on the web to gather comments from citizen scientists. When it is finally agreed by the steering group it’ll be handed to Leeds University to run the project, with no further involvement in the data from the steering committee members.
In the meantime I’m hoping to avoid further controversies like the Met Office winter forecasts. I have been accused in the blogosphere of having so many different motives that I can’t keep track of them all.
My real motive is to try to do a decent job telling people about things that are important and they probably didn’t already know. For instance I first led media coverage about the value of the Met Office seasonal forecast a number of years ago. (My other motive – for those of you who keep emailing me at weekends – is to have a life with my wife, kids and friends.)
I do need to scotch one particularly bizarre bit of blogbabble, though. Some bloggers depict me as a puppet for the BBC’s pension fund trustees trying to boost their investments in green technology.
This is definitely going in my book – it is the most entertaining and baroque allegation I’ve ever faced. The truth is that BBC bosses issue very few diktats and most programme editors are stubbornly independent. I offered the recent Met Office stories from my own contacts and knowledge. No-one else asked me to do them. I don’t even know the pension fund trustees.
There are some very clever and inventive people out there in the blogosphere. Some are laudably engaged in a pursuit of facts about climate change and weather. Others might serve more use by trying to locate Elvis.
If you want to measure my journalism, you could take a look or listen to some of the articles or radio docs below. And make up your own mind.
Uncertain Climate docs 1 & 2:
Copenhagen doc http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00w6pp4
Articles on Royal Society, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10178454
Met Office, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8462890.stm
Lord Oxburgh, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10507144
And Al Gore, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7040370.stm