The Daily Mail may be a vicious, lying rag that encourages the limp-brained British public to ever-higher levels of ignorant spite (see our current Wanker of the Week page), but it nevertheless manages to employ one or two decent journalists. God alone knows how.
Among them is one Richard North, who this week wrote ...
It has a gigantic supercomputer, 1,500 staff and a £170m-a-year budget. So why does the Met Office get it so wrong?
'Cold of a variety not seen in over 25 years in a large scale is about to engulf the major energy-consuming areas of the northern hemisphere. The first 15 days of the opening of the New Year will be the coldest, population weighted, north of 30 degrees north worldwide in over 25 years.' That is the chilling (quite literally) verdict of Joe Bastardi, a weather forecaster on the American TV channel AccuWeather.
Yet, while many months ago he and several of his rivals correctly forecast a pre-Christmas freeze, the organisation that told us last year to prepare for a 'barbecue summer' was getting it wrong again. This is our own famous Met Office, which last September confidently predicted a warmer-than-average winter for Britain. Tell that to Eurostar passengers stuck in the Channel Tunnel for 18 hours before Christmas, the breakdown of their trains blamed on the coldest weather for 15 years (mind you, said Eurostar passengers' response to the emergency was, apparently, to fight among themselves, so I doubt if some of them possess the intellectual capacity to appreciate any kind of irony. Makes you proud to be British, really, doesn't it? - GOS).
Not until late November did the Met Office tone down its prediction by saying that there was a '50 per cent chance' of a mild winter. Spinning a coin could have given the same result - not one you would expect from an organisation that spends nearly £170million a year, has 1,500 staff and a team of scientists operating a £30million supercomputer capable of 1,000 billion calculations every second, with a carbon footprint the size of a small town. Yet even with this brand-new computer in action since last August, on December 10 the Met Office predicted that it was 'more likely than not that 2010 will be the warmest year in the instrumental record, beating the previous record year which was 1998'. That prediction stands unchanged.
How could the Met Office be so wrong, both about its barbecue summer and the mild winter? And could the answer to that question have anything to do with its remarkable transformation in recent years?
From a fuddy-duddy organisation created in 1854 to provide a service to mariners, and then aviators when the aeroplane was invented, the Met Office became an arm of the Ministry of Defence. But it has since transmuted into a powerful advocacy unit that sees its main mission to convince the world that we are prey to 'dangerous climate change'. Much of this is down to one man - John Houghton (now Sir John) who was the director-general and later chief executive of the Met Office between 1983 and 1991. It was he, way back in 1988, who attended the first World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in Toronto and later became the first scientific chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
It was Houghton who, with one of her senior advisers, Sir Crispin Tickell, convinced the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to fund a new Met Office unit called the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research. Opened in 1990, it is now based in Exeter and employs more than 200 staff, having become a temple to what many regard as the climate change 'religion'. Its pivotal role is now well-recognised as it is this centre, working with the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, that produces one of the most relied-upon data sets used to track the global temperature and tell us that the planet is heating up.
Crucially, it is that same CRU that has been embroiled in the so-called 'Warmergate' scandal, where leaked emails suggest that climate scientists may have manipulated the evidence when it did not give the answers that proved that global warming was continuing. The University of East Anglia has ordered an independent review into the Warmergate row and the allegations made against the CRU.
The point of this row - which is often poorly understood - is that the so-called 'global temperature' which these scientists produce, upon which rests the whole case for 'dangerous global warming', is not a matter of observed fact. The data collection system is far from perfect, designed primarily for weather recording, not long-term climate prediction. Reflecting the military origins of the Met Office, many weather stations are situated on airfields. They are there to provide real-time observations for aviators and to provide the basis for short-term forecasts. They are not climate monitoring stations and arguably should not be used as such.
Furthermore, the likes of Manchester and Aberdeen airports, which were once grass airstrips, are now vast stretches of concrete, ramping up temperatures well above the surrounding countryside. This is known as the urban heat island effect. Because of this effect, instrument changes, inbuilt errors and the huge gaps in the record, the crude data has to be 'adjusted' - sometimes several times. Then sophisticated statistical techniques have to be applied before a single global figure can be produced.
The complexity of the calculations, and the considerable element of human judgement in choosing which of the limited number of specific temperatures to use from the thousands of weather stations all over the world, leave the process wide open to error and bias. Thus, the final results may actually reflect, to one degree or another, no more than the opinions of the scientists producing them. This is where the good faith and the impartiality of the scientists involved is so important, and why the Warmergate scandal was so damaging. Far from being impartial custodians of the truth, some scientists were shown to have feet of clay, guarding their own patch rather than the science.
This was reinforced shortly after Warmergate, when Russian analysts complained that the Hadley Centre had been 'cherry-picking' temperatures from the Russian data-set, using only those that were untypically high. Similar complaints have been made of the United States' data set, where urban heat island effect and positioning errors may taint as much as 80 per cent of the weather station records. Last month the Met Office denied 'cherry-picking' and said it used data from a network of individual stations designated by the World Meteorological Organisation.
But there is an even greater reason to doubt the impartiality of the Met Office and the Hadley Centre. Having had at its helm Sir John Houghton, a conviction 'warmist', in 2006 it acquired a new and highly controversial chairman - Robert Napier. Described as a 'committed conservationist' and then a 'passionate environmentalist', before taking over the most senior position at the Met Office Napier had for seven years been the chief executive of World Wildlife Fund-UK, one of the foremost activist groups in the climate-change business.
Up to then, WWF was primarily concerned with wildlife issues and conservation. It is widely acknowledged that Napier put climate change on the map during his tenure, using his position to 'leverage the power and experience of the whole organisation', changing its focus to the extent that campaigning on this issue became its main activity.
Among other things, he was particularly effective in making alliances with big business, doing deals with the likes of the insurance giant Allianz and convincing the company that there was money to be made out of climate change. Bizarrely, although the Met Office is still part of the MoD and its staff are civil servants (who, as the Met Office itself says, 'cannot support individual campaigns that actively lobby for policy change'), the organisation has taken its cue from its new leader. It has become a powerful and vocal climate-change lobbyist, contributing hugely to the climate-change conference in Copenhagen last month, at which it launched its prediction that this year would be the hottest on record.
That raises the question whether the Met Office can still be relied upon to give accurate forecasts. Predicting the weather - both short-term and long - is not an exact science. Computers can do the number crunching but the programs or 'models' they work to are devised by human beings.
Exactly the same computer models that are used to forecast that we will fry by the year 2030, 2050 or even 2080, are also those used to produce the shorter-range forecasts. It was these models, back in September, that told us we were going to have a mild winter.
But the problems do not stop there. From a technical body, the Met Office has now become the producer and purveyor of endless propaganda on climate change. Its latest production is an expensive, glossy, 20-page pamphlet. It is packed with highly controversial and disputed assertions that are delivered with the authority of a government agency as if they were unarguable fact.
There is no room for doubt, for instance, in the assertion that humans are causing climate change. 'Human activities like burning coal, oil and gas have led to ... extra warming. As a result, over the past century there has been an underlying increase in average temperatures which is continuing.'
Yet no discernible warming has been recorded since 1998.
Indeed, it has snowed in the UK for the past three years, famously last October as MPs were voting through the Climate Change Bill. Each winter has been harsher than the last, and many independent meteorologists, including Joe Bastardi, believe the Earth has entered a cooling cycle.
What was once a highly respected organisation risks becoming a laughing stock in the weather community and a danger to the rest of us. Farmers who rely on the Met Office risk their animals dying and their crops being destroyed. Local authorities, who ran down their grit stocks because the Met Office said it would be mild, are putting the lives of motorists and pedestrians at risk. Airlines, unprepared for the snow, have lost millions of pounds, while the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people have been disrupted.
The Met Office seems to have forgotten what it was set up for - to predict weather day by day. Instead, it is devoting it energies to the fantasy that it can predict climate decades ahead when it cannot even tell you whether it is going to snow next week, or whether we might have a barbecue summer.
Well said, that man, even if you do work for a paper I wouldn't wipe my arse with.
Meanwhile, those of you who have the stomach for some hard sums might care to browse through this letter, written by Lord Monckton to Dr.R.K.Pachauri, the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Monckton accuses Pachauri of distorting data. Surely that can't be true ... I mean ... Pachauri's a scientist, isn't he?
Mind you, scientists are very ignorant. They're even rather proud of being ignorant. Us ordinary oiks are ignorant about ordinary things - who won the FA Cup in 1957, for instance, or where the next meal is coming from. Scientists are ignorant about really difficult stuff like the Higgs boson which may or may not exist and even if it does no one knows what the hell to do with it, or whether it'll wash out at 30 degrees with an ordinary non-bio powder ...
One rather heartening consequence of the great Dopenhagen fiasco, when the GW hysterics failed to persuade world leaders to give them the keys to the safe and pop out for a few minutes, is that George Monbiot has actually lost his reason. Not his reason to be, or his reason for living, or his reason to be thankful, mark you. He has lost his marbles, he is mad, loony, bonkers ...
Here he is, foaming at the mouth in the Guardian last week ...
"This is bigger than climate change. It is a battle to redefine humanity
This is the moment at which we turn and face ourselves. Here, in the plastic corridors and crowded stalls, among impenetrable texts and withering procedures, humankind decides what it is and what it will become. It chooses whether to continue living as it has done, until it must make a wasteland of its home, or to stop and redefine itself. This is about much more than climate change. This is about us.
The meeting at Copenhagen confronts us with our primal tragedy. We are the universal ape, equipped with the ingenuity and aggression to bring down prey much larger than itself, break into new lands, roar its defiance of natural constraints. Now we find ourselves hedged in by the consequences of our nature, living meekly on this crowded planet for fear of provoking or damaging others. We have the hearts of lions and live the lives of clerks.
The summit's premise is that the age of heroism is over. We have entered the age of accommodation. No longer may we live without restraint. No longer may we swing our fists regardless of whose nose might be in the way. In everything we do we must now be mindful of the lives of others, cautious, constrained, meticulous. We may no longer live in the moment, as if there were no tomorrow.
The angry men know that this golden age has gone; but they cannot find the words for the constraints they hate. Clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged, they flail around, accusing those who would impede them of communism, fascism, religiosity, misanthropy, but knowing at heart that these restrictions are driven by something far more repulsive to the unrestrained man: the decencies we owe to other human beings. I fear this chorus of bullies, but I also sympathise. I lead a mostly peaceful life, but my dreams are haunted by giant aurochs.
So here we are, in the land of Beowulf's heroics, lost in a fog of acronyms and euphemisms, parentheses and exemptions, the deathly diplomacy required to accommodate everyone's demands. There is no space for heroism here; all passion and power breaks against the needs of others. This is how it should be, though every neurone revolts against it."
Guardian readers didn't fall for it, though. As one wrote, "George, this is such bullshit. You want to sound all inspired, woogie-woogie, and full of special insight, and you make yourself look like an idiot as a result."
It's a great paper, the Guardian. Six of the first fifty responses from readers had been deleted by "The Moderator", presumably because the views expressed didn't accord with the Guardian's. The Moderator even managed a little threat, by saying that the responses had been deleted and that any replies to them might also be expunged. There's nothing the liberal left hate so much as dissent. I suppose the Moderator would claim that the deleted messages were "abusive", but I'm not so sure: one bemused reader managed to slip a second comment through the censorship net; "So what exactly was wrong with my little essay on the importance of evidence?"
Silly question, you silly man. What has the Guardian, or George Moonbat, to do with evidence? We spit on evidence! Our minds are made up! Do not attempt to confuse us with facts!
Come to think of it, perhaps we were a little harsh on the Daily Mail at the top of this page. Perhaps it isn't the worst newspaper in Britain. Perhaps the Guardian is. Moonbat's ravings attracted no fewer than 1,032 reader comments. I think that's some kind of record. I'm surprised there are that many people who actually read the Guardian.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
Copyright © 2009 The GOS