Monday, 30 December 2013

Fantasy Weather Forecast: Don't believe the hype

(Posted by Roy)

So where’s the mega winter that some forecasters have been predicting ?

“100 DAYS OF HEAVY SNOW: Britain now facing worst winter in SIXTY YEARS warn forecasters”
“Worst winter for decades: Record-breaking snow predicted for November”
“WINTER 2013 TO BE LONGEST IN HISTORY: Heavy snow could fall until MAY warn forecasters”

The above headlines are from the Daily Express during autumn 2013, need I say any more?

As an aside: If you read that daily rant then you shouldn’t be on this web site, same to goes for Daily Mail readers: Please navigate your browser elsewhere.

But behind these sensationalised leaders is there any actually scientific factual evidence to support them ? Answer;  yes and no.

Let look at the Yes’s:
  1. It’s winter, so there’s a good chance it’s going to get cooler.
  2. Some independent forecaster who got it more or less correct in 2009/2010 say’s so.
  3. The Met Office have to justify their spending; millions of pounds on climate modelling software and super computers
  4. There’s been a similar weather pattern(s) in the Pacific Ocean as there was last time.
  5. Solar activity
  6. Global Warming
The No’s
  1. Predicting the UK weather more than 10 days in advance is a lottery.
  2. Even if we had data models spanning 1000’s of years, processing them with a finite (even clever infinite) computer algorithm is just not going to work.
  3. We can’t emulate a natural process such as weather  to predict some outcome weeks, months in advance, see the above point.
  4. Solar activity
  5. Global Warming
The Daily Express seems to take its expert advice from two “freelance” forecasters namely James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather and Jonathan Powell, forecaster for Vantage Weather Services. Now to say that these two gentlemen are prone to exaggerations is an understatement of hurricane proportions.
“Never in the field of weather forecasting has so much crap been written by so few”.

If you’ve monitored Mr Maddens web site Exacta , you’ll read some very well put together forecasts and predictions. Quotes about model runs, oscillations, negative index, etc. All very nice technical sugar but that’s all it is.

Quote “The Arctic Oscillation (AO) is also now switching to a strongly negative phase, and The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is also trending towards a more neutral/weakly negative phase, in-line with the expectations of the original long-range winter 2013/14 forecast for the most significant snow and cold this winter

What on earth is this crap? It means nothing, the events are observed and their data is then fed into a computer or several; the forecast is coming from a computer model/simulation that in itself is floored. The last few words “the most significant snow and cold this winter”. You don’t say batman, after all it is winter, I’d expect some sleet perhaps some snow at a push…state the bleeding obvious why don’t you.

At the bottom of the Exacta home page you’ll read about their exploits; how in their opinion they got it correct several months in advance. These are bordering on paranoid rants to justify their existence. The majority of the time they got it wrong. Why do they do this? Well there’s no surprise is there, commercial reason i.e. money and then there’s ego, in making a name for themselves.

A couple of years ago a leading supermarket in the UK took the advice from one of these maverick forecasters. It was actually shown in a BBC documentary about the then forthcoming UK winter. The supermarket put its weather contingency plans into operation on the weather forecasts given to them. The predictions were way off and the supper market lost millions. The forecast were along the lines of “significant disruption”, “major snow events”, “severe storms lashing the UK”. In fact we had a rather benign winter.

In a nutshell, avoid these fantasy web sites, treat UK forecasts longer than 14 days as pure works of fiction. Better off looking into your tea leaves or observing which ways the cows are facing.

As an interesting aside: It was mentioned to me a few years ago by my local farmer. He reckoned that migratory birds coming into the UK from Scandinavia was a good indication of cold weather from the east within 21days. He’s not been wrong since and I can vouch for that.

I leave you with a quote from the Exacta web site

"Due to the overall severity and nature of the expected weather developments for the first quarter of 2014 (January – March), it must be noted, that it is now of very high confidence, that many parts of the UK and Ireland will experience a significant and prolonged period of exceptionally cold and very snowy weather, that standard meteorology will and have to date (underestimated)."

Which parts of the UK and Ireland ? Do they mean the highlands of Scotland and upland northern UK in general ? Do they mean Northern Ireland (which cops for snow every winter) ? Of course it’s going to snow in these regions it always does it's f*****g winter, no forecast needed here really is there.

They are being typically vague and non-specific, very easy to do that.

I hope I'm wrong and their predictions of a near apocalyptic January - March 2014 happen. Ski touring over the West Yorkshire tundra can't be beat

(Posted by Roy)