The outlook...well, we're not sure actually: Met Office email admits long range forecasts are 'not helpful'
A note uncovered by a BBC News Freedom of Information request showed the organisation made the concession after April 2012 became the wettest on record
Friday 29 March 2013
The Met Office has admitted that it gave advice that was “not helpful”, having forecast that April 2012 would be drier than usual – in what turned out to be the wettest April since records began.
The admission was discovered in an internal memo, which was revealed by a BBC News Freedom of Information request.
The memo stated: “The forecast for average UK rainfall slightly favours drier than average conditions for April-May-June, and slightly favours April being the driest of the three months.
"Given that April was the wettest since detailed records began in 1910 and the April-May-June quarter was also the wettest, this advice was not helpful."
Last April’s incorrect prediction was yet another embarrassment for the Met Office. In early 2009, it predicted its infamous “barbecue summer”, which turned out to be nothing more than a cold, drizzly disappointment.
The Met Office chief scientist, Julia Slingo, defended the Met Office’s experimental long-range forecasting methods on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.
Ms Slingo told the programme: "You have to, of course, with probabilistic forecasts, look over a large number of events.
“We do that, and on about 65% of occasions we do give indeed very helpful advice.
"I think it was quite right that we looked at this particular forecast last year because in March we were facing really very serious pressures on water resources - a major drought that had been going on for nearly a couple of years - and I felt, when I looked at the seasonal forecast at that time, that it would have been unfair to the government if I didn't emphasise the fact that we did see a slightly enhanced risk of the drought continuing.
"Likewise, I did also emphasise that there was also quite a chance that April would also be wetter than normal but in the context of where we were at that particular point as a country I felt it was right to emphasise the risk of dry conditions continuing as a precautionary principle."
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