catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

The BBC gets tough

with 29 comments

(HT: Climategate)

Written by Sinclair Davidson

January 8, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

29 Responses

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  1. A bit unfair but fun to watch.

    Ken Nielsen

    January 8, 2010 at 5:12 pm

  2. I smell roast bureaucrat.
    A bit unfair in the sense that the interviewer was more at ease with the medium than was his guest.
    The questions seemed quite appropriate, given other forecasters appear to more accurate and reliable.
    I liked the bit about how the forecast for 2050 is OK, because “the model is a product of highly refined science” or words to that effect. I hope he bought enough carbon credits to emit that kind of crap.


    January 8, 2010 at 5:20 pm

  3. How can they forecast for 2050 not for this NH winter?


    January 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm

  4. Tal – to be fair, a lot of short term variation washes out in long-term forecasts, so they are more confident about their LT forecasts than the ST forecasts. So in the ST we might want to know the actual temperature tomorrow as opposed to the average temperature over a whole year in 40 years time. So we’re not quite comparing apples and apples. But they don’t ever explain that well and our ‘roast bureaucrat’ was caught unawares – I think the BBC is having a change of heart over the kid-gloves approach to climate that they have adopted.

    Sinclair Davidson

    January 8, 2010 at 5:37 pm

  5. Yes, long term forecasts can be made more confidently … when the probability of being called on them is remote.
    No one is going to go to Met office to recover their wasted taxes in forty years times, and they know it.

    Some long term forecasts actually include seasonal information (I remember Lennox Walker among others doing so), not sure about the UK Met office though.


    January 8, 2010 at 5:45 pm

  6. he seems pretty certain that short term forecasting and long term forecasting is accurate but is there any empirical evidence that long term forecasting is accurate. maybe it is just as bad as the medium term but we haven’t witnessed it.


    January 8, 2010 at 5:48 pm

  7. Keith,do you mean that most of the forecasters will have carked it? 🙂


    January 8, 2010 at 5:52 pm

  8. What is making the Brits so angry is how unprepared they are for …weather. The infrastructure for snow and ice removal is poor and there are no reserves of salt(grit). And it is no wonder as the Met keeps predicting barbecue summers and mild winters,


    January 8, 2010 at 5:54 pm

  9. The long-term forecast in the 70s was a new ice age.


    January 8, 2010 at 5:54 pm

  10. tal – the Met have no incentive to get it right and no disincentive to get it wrong. On the other hand, orange juice traders have every incentive to get it right (gated unfortunately).

    Sinclair Davidson

    January 8, 2010 at 6:04 pm

  11. Here is an article from March, 2000, that was featured in UK’s “The Independent”

    “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”


    January 8, 2010 at 6:16 pm

  12. And the head of the Met office gets a bonus for making the wrong predictions?

    How the hell can one get into that caper. That would be trader’s dream. Make or lose money and you still receive a bonus. I want in.

    The more and more you hear about this the more you see just how compromised the government is. There’s no way that idiot from the Met office would ever make comments or announcements that run counter to government policy.

    This whole climate things especially with the Brits is a freaking racket.


    January 8, 2010 at 6:17 pm

  13. Good article, Sinc. I guess you get access to JSTOR thru the university.
    Membership of the London Library works, too.

    The lesson from the interview is that short term forecasting is getting quite accurate – here and in the UK.
    Beyond 5 days they have little clue and the met people should not try to do medium or long term forecasts
    I am not saying that AGW is wrong but that it is based on quite different science to that met people are trained in. But there is so much money in AGW work that mission creep is inevitable.
    Even some economists are holding out their bowls.

    Ken Nielsen

    January 8, 2010 at 6:18 pm

  14. Why are government workers receiving a bonus? How and why are bonuses paid to government, not for profit workers?

    bonuses in the met office. Goodness gracious.


    January 8, 2010 at 6:20 pm

  15. Tal,

    Well that would be one way to avoid answering difficult questions, but generally the public mood is one of “Oh well the Met got it wrong 40 years ago… I’m sure they’re doing a much better job these days…. Pity those projections were wrong, but what can you do ? Just cope I suppose ”

    chrisl, that’s an important point. While 5 day forecasts can alert emergency services, utilities, etc., they need to be prepared and provisioned long before they are called on. In this case they would have been better off with Piers Corbyn’s forecasts of several months ago. (that’s not a recommendation, just an example of an accurate forecast this time) It’s a bit precious (and next to useless) of the Met to issue a January forecast in late December.


    January 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm

  16. Chrisl – that a great find. Well done.
    Jeez it’s unfair how the internet archives all this stuff so it can be dragged up again.
    The Cut & Paste column in the Oz is my favourite reading these days.

    Ken Nielsen

    January 8, 2010 at 6:29 pm

  17. “How the hell can one get into that caper. ”
    That’s easy jc, become a banker.


    January 8, 2010 at 6:31 pm

  18. The lesson from the interview is that short term forecasting is getting quite accurate – here and in the UK.

    It doesn’t seem so in the UK where the interviewer asked the bald geek why his office was still sending out “predictions” late December -it was still going to be a mild winter- despite north their american counterparts saying it was going hit the northern hemisphere pretty hard.

    Meanwhile the geek receives a bonus for sending out shitty forecasts and 20 people are dead in the UK as a result of the cold weather.

    I guess the bonus must be based on the number of dead people he and his office can muster over the year.

    Less than say 200 dead brits dying of cold or heart related issues and the geek receives an huge bonus.

    This whole thing is so fucked up you need a demolition crew with tactical nukes to clean that entire part science out and stick in new people who don’t have the ethics of Bernie Madoff. In addition the financial motivations need to be examined.

    I’m not kidding you need a hedge fund manager of an ex-senior trader in there to figure out the motivational racket and then advise how to cut this shit out.


    January 8, 2010 at 6:36 pm

  19. You gotta be careful with compensation keith. There’s no possible reason to be paying that geek from the met office a bonus. You pay him a higher salary but never any sort of bonus. Ever!

    Bonuses work in banking as they are a great way to keep down fixed costs and you can “variablize” the cost base with variable, volatile income.

    Why on earth would you need that sort of pay arrangement for a freaking geeky meteorologist. It makes no sense. It destroys their impartiality and makes them poodles to the government.


    January 8, 2010 at 6:42 pm

  20. Look at this stuff:

    And geek central gets a bonus for making the wrong prediction.


    January 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm

  21. Ho boy, jc, I must get a print of that for the wall.
    A great picture.

    Ken Nielsen

    January 8, 2010 at 7:03 pm

  22. Yea, there’s probably three square miles that isn’t under snow and the Head of the Met office gets a bonus for not predicting it even when the cold spell started.


    January 8, 2010 at 7:05 pm

  23. I read somewhere that on the coldest day of the year it was completely calm in Britain. Wind power was only at 1 percent of capacity. When it was desperately required….nothing.
    A lot of money wasted on windmills and no money spent on snow/ice removal infrastructure.
    There are people strandedin villages for 3 weeks! who no doubt have had a lot of time to mull over these issues.


    January 8, 2010 at 7:33 pm

  24. I Australia, BoM is considered the expert in weather forecasts, and CSIRO in climate forecasts. Neither are all that much chop at seasonal forecasts, particulary for northern Australia.

    I think you need to look at weather and climate forecasting in this way:
    1. weather forecasts out to seven to ten days (fairly accurate) that observe current conditions and predict how they will change given what has happened in the past (statistical);

    2. Seasonal forecasts out three to six months, observing current measurements such as the El Nino Southern Oscillation Index and the Indian Ocean Dipole and extrapolating out using statistical methodology but more recently has begun including some dynamic modeling taken from climate models (seasonal forecasts are less accurate, and can end up wrong a fair bit of the time, such as recent forecasts (Queensland hot and dry, mild winters in the UK);

    3 Climate model forecasts out to fifty to one hundred years using dynamic computer modeling much like economic GCMs.

    it is thought that climate modeling should be able to get global annual temperature fairly right as annual temps do not change much from year to year, all other things being equal. Where climate scientists get in to trouble is trying to pick ( in descending order of confidence) winter/summer temps, diurnal temp ranges, regional temperatures, rainfall and intensity of weather events. In fact, anything beyond annual temps is usually statistically indistinguishable from current means. It is a travesty that some of these ‘scientists’ get away with statements like ” the south east will get progressively drier, with more frequent droughts” or “cyclones will be more frequent and more intense”. There is no evidence of this, it is all speculation from a person who should know better. Next time some clown makes a statement like that, ask them if this forecast is statistically different from current means. And don’t let them get away with saying “no, but the trend is…..”


    January 8, 2010 at 7:56 pm

  25. jc,
    re : banking
    I was thinking of the bailouts, government guarantees, etc. Banker miscalculates, government steps in, disincentive for getting it wrong goes away. Sweet.

    point 1. I disagree. BoM short term forecasts have a poor hit rate (<25%) especially with regard to rain. They're ok within the 1-3 day timeframe, but still not much good forecasting rain. (around Canberra anyway)


    January 8, 2010 at 8:38 pm

  26. “it’s the bit in the middle that’s tricky”


    Abu Chowdah

    January 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm

  27. JC would make a good weatherman – most everything he says is wrong


    January 8, 2010 at 9:41 pm

  28. Rogette:

    you’re really getting to be absurd. Worry about your creditors, not me.


    January 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm

  29. Wow, Rog. Cutting.


    Abu Chowdah

    January 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm

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