What sort of forecast does the Met Office Supercomputer make?

WUWT readers may recall  the story by the Daily Mail about the new supercomputer.

The Met Office has caused a storm of controversy after it was revealed their £30million supercomputer designed to predict climate change is one of Britain’s worst polluters.

The massive machine – the UK’s most powerful computer with a whopping 15 million megabytes of memory – was installed in the Met Office’s headquarters in Exeter, Devon.

With a total peak performance approaching 1 PetaFlop — equivalent to over 100,000 PCs and over 30 times more powerful than what is in place today. It is capable of 1,000 billion calculations every second to feed data to 400 scientists and uses 1.2 megawatts of energy to run – enough to power more than 1,000 homes.

The Met Office supercomputer - Image: Daily Mail

With all that power, surely it must produce some quality digital reckoning.

Bishop Hill has located the “supposedly secret” winter forecast sent to the British government. The details of the forecast produced are nothing short of astounding.

Bishop Hill writes:

When the kerfuffle over the Met Office’s winter forecast blew up, I wrote to the Quarmby team to see if they had actually received a copy of the Met Office’s cold-winter forecast, which was apparently sent to the Cabinet Office. It is alleged that the forecast should have provided sufficient warning to the government machine to ensure that everyone was ready for what happened in December.

Today, rather later than I expected, the Quarmby team have responded and have helpfully provided a copy of the forecast:

Met Office Initial Assessment of Risk for Winter 2010/11

This covers the months of November, December and January 2010/11, this will be updated monthly through the winter and so probabilities will change.


3 in 10 chance of a mild start

3 in 10 chance of an average start

4 in 10 chance of a cold start


3 in 10 chance of a wet start

3 in 10 chance of an average start

4 in 10 chance of a dry start

Summary: There is an increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season.

Looking further ahead beyond this assessment there are some indications of an increased risk of a mild end to the winter season.

Yes that seems clear, doesn’t it? Seeing the numbers produced, personally, I think this less expensive computer, using Digital Advanced Reckoning Technology (DART) can do the job of making odds equally well, using less power, less space, and less money:

DART - Digital Advanced Reckoning Technology

I really love this one:

Looking further ahead beyond this assessment there are some indications of an increased risk of a mild end to the winter season.

I think its been done, something about “March coming in like a lion and out like a lamb” IIRC. But really, I never thought that a “mild end to winter” could be categorized as a “risk”.

But this forecast for the start of winter still doesn’t square with the Met Office map output.

Here’s the Met Office supercomputer enhanced model output forecast from October 2010:

See the story about that controversy here and here


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Henry chance

Dr. James [snip . . . hey that’s not funny or clever and WUWT will not tolerate such pointless insults so cut it out.]
I suggest you open a U.K. franchise and sell weather forecasts.


All is not lost . . . . it can be donated for “cloud computing” . . . .


Classic. As the song goes: “nice work if you can get it….”


the UK’s National Grid printed this (page 7) in their Oct 2010 report:
Met Office Weather Forecast
25. The Met Office have now ceased publication of their long term winter weather
forecast however their website1 continues to provide long term analyses. For the
period of December through to February the data presented suggests:
• a 60 – 80% probability of above normal temperatures
• a 20 – 40% probability of near normal temperatures
• a 0 – 20% probability of below normal temperatures
26. In terms of UK precipitation their forecasts are weighted towards above average. For Europe average temps are typically 0.5-1.5°C above average. For North America
average temps are up to 2° above average except for a cooler west coast

You’d think the Met Office would be kind enough to keep the national grid informed, wouldn’t you?


Maybe with all that energy consumption, their super computer is throwing off enough BTUs to make a warmer end of winter a self-fulfilling prophecy. They’re not announcing it because they don’t want to appear culpable.


So, their forecast was that the temperatures are just as likely to be warm, average or cold and precipitation could just as likely be wet, normal or dry? That seems to cover all of the bases.
Not much chance of missing that forecast.


No one really expects any of these bozos to be able to predict the weather.
What’s even more amazing to me, is that they can’t even agree on real time temperatures.
They can’t agree on 2010 being the warmest, being tied, not being the warmest….
….and expect everyone to believe they have accurate temperatures from 50 years ago

Charles Duncan

So rather than warning of a cold start, as has been suggested, they actually said it was 60% likely to be average or mild. Dishonest or just covering their backsides?


Are you sure they didn’t mistakenly use the odds for the dog track that day?

J. Glanton

How embarassing. They have the nerve to deliver a report like that. They must think that the politicians are stupid. Oh, wait…
If I interpret the superdupercomputer report correctly, there is a nearly equal chance for it to be wet, dry, or in the middle; a nearly equal chance for it to be cold, mild, or in the middle.
It may appear that they are using the stopped-clock theory to justify their massive expenditures and carbon emissions. Clever boys. No matter what the outcome, they can point to this report and say “we predicited it, see, here it is right here on line X”. And to build on that success and get more lines of resolution in the report, please give us another 25 million quid. Then you can have:
2/10 chance of cold
2/10 chance of average-cold
2/10 chance of average
2/10 chance of average-mild
2/10 chance of mild
This is much better, because they don’t have to have that oddball unmatched remainder on the final line to make it look like one prediction has a higher probability of occurence than the others.
I do give them credit for having it all add up to 10/10. They must have a somewhat competent PhD supervising the grad students.

Doctor Gee

So 1 Whattaflop of computing power basically says that winter surface temperature has an approximately equal probability of being mild, average or cold. Similarly, precipation has an approximately equal probability of being wet, average or dry. Hmmm?!? I predict that the average cloud cover for the next quarter has a 3 in 10 chance of being cloudy, a 4 in 10 chance of being partly cloudy, and a 3 in 10 chance of being clear. Hardly any kW required for that calculation.


I wouldn’t laugh, the MET is one of the better UK goverment department’s,

Colin in Mission BC

THAT’S considered a forecast, essentially placing one third probability on each potential outcome? How these people look themselves in the mirror with any semblance of self-respect will forever elude me.


I predict a 1 in 1000 chance that the met office have learned anything.


A further 1 in 10’000 chance that they will admit error. A 1 in 1’000’000 chance that Madame [snip . . *sigh*] gets fired. It’s a dead certainty that we’re knackered.

Ranger Rick

I think they should rename the the supercomputer the “Climate Research Alarmism Prognosticator” of better know as CRAP!

As I’ve just pointed on Bishop Hill, the forecast sent is completely inconsistent with what Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s environmental correspondent (an old friend who blows hot and cold on AGW), wrote in the Radio Times:

Why didn’t the Met Office tell us that Greenland was about to swap weather with Godalming? The truth is it did suspect we were in for an exceptionally cold early winter, and told the Cabinet Office so in October. But we weren’t let in on the secret. The reason? The Met Office no longer publishes its seasonal forecasts because of the ridicule it suffered for predicting a barbecue summer in 2009 – the summer that campers floated around in their tents.

The forecast the Bishop has ain’t sayin’ “exceptionally cold early winter” by any stretch of the imagination. So what gives?


Anthony you may want to take a look at physicsworld.com, because it appears that the computer models will have to use a new starting number for the solar input. Its only 3 tenths of one percent lower, but over a long range forcast small changes could add-up.


I think my mark-one tossed coin could provide a better forecast.


That’s pretty funny. Reminds me of George Carlin’s weather forcast. Today will be followed by scattered dark.

walt man

From Piers pdf
2011 – Another year of weather extremes warns Piers
“Solar-lunar driven major jet stream blocking will continue through January and the whole of 2011 giving more extreme cold and snowy / blizzardy spells in parts of USA, Britain and Europe though January continuing into February and then not the sort of Spring and Summer the warmists want. “The warmists will fail and fail again to predict what is coming and are now writing scripts to deceive the public into believing that cold is warm by showing you “data” which has had 62% of recording station they didn’t like removed (see videos & link below).
On Britain & Europe he said (7 Jan) the mild(er) spell now is “as we forecast and it will end from around 12th Jan”.
15th now what happened to the accuracy, perhaps the moon moved!!!?
From the met office
UK Outlook for Wednesday 19 Jan 2011 to Friday 28 Jan 2011:
The start of this period looks to be relatively settled for much of the UK, with a good deal of dry though rather cloudy weather, but with a risk of overnight frost and fog. More unsettled in the northwest with outbreaks of rain and a risk of gales. Into the weekend and the following week, rather more unsettled conditions are likely more widely across the UK, although amounts of rain in the south should be small. Also, a risk of precipitation turning wintry across more northern and northeastern parts, particularly over high ground, where it is likely to be accompanied by strong winds. Temperatures starting off rather cold, although will recover to near normal, especially in the northwest, before tending to cool off somewhat into the start of next week.
Still waiting for that blocking 21 jan 2011

So in other words, they gave a 6 out of 10 chance of the weather being warm/normal?
That is some cold warning….

Phil's Dad

Maybe it will forecast an increase in electricity consumption.

Fred 2

All that’s missing is a 10-sided dice to generate a really precise forecast. Is there any chance one was provided with the 30 million pound price tag?


At least they went to the trouble to make sure the probabilities added correctly.


Statistically equal chances of having a cold, wet, dry, hot, mild winter. Now that is what I call ‘skill’.

Schrodinger's Cat

Julia Slingo of the Met Office is complaining that they don’t have nearly enough computing power. Four times more would be good…

R Dunn

Hopefully, all of the heat it is generating is not going to waste this winter – that and the other hot air in the building.


This super computer has played a major role in heightened skeptical awareness. The excesses of its cost and pollution footprint, combined with its complete inability to predict, is Exhibit A for the gross scam perpetrated on the people of the world. This single device has made many more people take pause, and say “now wait a minute…”


I wonder if I could interest them in a subscription to “The Old Farmers Almanac” Small enough to put your bib overalls pocket and uses zero electricity. Oh, also more accurate and detailed . And it’s only $15.95/year + tax!
But wait! You also get a Free Recipe Calendar and Free Shipping.
From: http://www.almanac.com/
Subscribe Today to The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2011 Hardcover Collector’s Edition! Get a FREE Gift Plus FREE Shipping!
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Peter Miller

One thing we all tend to forget is that if we were ever to fight a global conventional war again, these types of bozos would be thrown out on their butt.
In wartime, you have to have people who know what they are doing when they are running things, in peacetime you can sort of get away with layers of bumbling incompetent bureaucrats.
The problem is the UK Met Office trough has now become so big with overpaid (with performance bonuses!!) bureaucrats feeding from it that it has taken on a life of its own. But this growing organism needs to be fed, so it uses climate scare stories, the way farmers use fertilisers to get better crop yields.


What a joke. How can any agency in the forecasting business issue a forecast like that? Sombody in Parliament should be putting some crosshairs on the Mets Office. Yes. It needs killing.

Jay Curtis

Are they stupid, or do they just think WE are stupid?


Maybe it’s a Rube Goldberg supercomputer… it consumes vast quantities of energy to blink lots of pretty lights but not much else.

Retired Engineer

“To err is human. To really foul things up, you need a computer.”
Unrealistic models, bad input data, and what do they expect for output?


Don’t worry the reputation for weather and climate predictions in the UK have been saved and no it’s not mystic Meg, no its not our Gav nor is it Nostradamus.
Yes! you guessed it, is the one and only Phil Jones weighing in at 15 ounces to the pound :-
“In an interview with Reuters today, Professor Phil Jones from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia said last year was the world’s second hottest behind 1998 in their temperature record going back to 1850.”
The boy done good again.

So we now know for sure that the Met Office was lying. What is clear from the above report is that there could have been no “secret warning” given to government to expect a sudden harsh winter.


It is not the computer’s fault: it is the buffoons using it.


Considering that it was the coldest December in Britain for 100 years this is a woeful forecast.

The Met Office computer works exactly as well as all the others …

Bill Jamison

Looking at those numbers another way, the Met forecast predicted a 40% chance of a cold dry start to winter.
That would have to be classified as a failure in any business.

1 petaflop of calculating power and it spits out whole numbers…no decimals? I feel gypped.


your DART analogy is flawed, it contains the possibility that a skilled operator could actually group his findings with much more accuracy than the Met office is capable.
You need to specify that the DARTS will be tossed by a chimpanzee from 10 paces to truly represent the skill on display currently.

Mike Jowsey

@walt man says: January 21, 2011 at 10:23 am
So Corbyn might be out by a week or two. Met office may be able to give reasonable predictions for the next few days, but when it comes to long-range forecasting, they are out by a decade or two. Epic fail.

richcar 1225

My old bosses would always ask me the risk of a dry hole and I would respond 50-50, either it is a dry hole or not, all the while thinking that they could not handle the truth.

Laura Hills

I’ll send them an evenly balanced dice if they agree to stop wasting my taxes. Darts require skill and are open to experimenter bias.

George E. Smith

Well if you use the stick in the sand method, it’s obvious what happened. All the ruckus caused them to shut down their 1.2 megaWatt room heater; just to save face; and the result was the big ice storm, because of the lack of heat in Britain.


Using Met Office techniques, I’ve come up with a real blockbuster of a forecast of my own:
It will get darker this evening, but there’s a good chance it will become lighter by morning.
…and not a supercomputer in sight! Pretty impressive, eh?

R. Gates

The Met Office Super Climate computer, after running non-stop for weeks on end came up with the ultimate answer to the puzzle that is the climate…the answer was:
And your not going to like this….
(sarc off, and my thanks to Douglas Adams and the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy at http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/answer.shtml)