Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Met Office defends forecasting

April 2012 became the wettest on record despite a forecast sent to contingency planners suggesting it was likely to be drier than usual

The Met Office has defended its forecasting after an email emerged showing that it had admitted giving the Government weather advice that was "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 despite a forecast sent to contingency planners suggesting it was likely to be drier than usual.

Met Office chief scientist Julia Slingo said the long-range forecasts were "probabilistic" and "experimental" and were helpful on around 65% of occasions.

According to the BBC, the three-monthly outlook 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."

The Met Office memo said: "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."

The prediction was made as part of a three-month forecast that is no longer made public after the Met Office was lampooned for its "barbecue summer" claim ahead of the less than balmy summer of 2009.

"You have to, of course, with probabilistic forecasts, look over a large number of events and we do that and on about 65% of occasions we do give indeed very helpful advice," Ms Slingo told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"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 I would be not being fair 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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