MET Office attacks BBC on global temperature standstill

Posted: January 14, 2013 by tallbloke in Analysis, flames, Forecasting, media, Politics, propaganda, weather

I have been intending to follow up on the MET office new forecast story, taking a wry look at the way the media has reported, misreported, spun, wrung, and sliced/diced the issue. But others have found more time and done the job better than I would have, so for now I’ll just repost this from David Whitehouse at the GWPF, as it is excellently written and accurate:

The reporting of the Met Office’s new half-decadal prediction of global temperatures, which now forecasts no rise in warming over the next five years (in sharp contrast to previous record warm forecasts) – has highlighted two lessons in reporting climate change. One is the violation of the old maxim that people are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts – in climate change reporting it seems that facts can be flexible. The other is that it seems you can’t please anyone, anytime. Here is the BBC’s original broadcast of the recent Met Office forecast put out at 7.00 am Tuesday 8th January, BBC Radio 4.

Newsreader: The Met Office has revised downwards its projection for climate change through to 2017. The new figure suggests that although global temperatures will be forced above their long-term average because of greenhouse gases, the recent slowdown in warming will continue. More details from our environment analyst Roger Harrabin.

Roger Harrabin: Last year the Met Office projected that as greenhouse gases increase, the world’s temperature would be 0.54 degrees warmer than the long-term average by 2016. The new experimental Met Office computer model, looking a year further ahead, projects that the Earth will continue to warm, but the increase will be about 20% less than the previous calculation. If the new number proves accurate, there will have been little additional warming for two decades. The Met Office says natural cycles have caused the recent slowdown in warming, including maybe changes in the sun and ocean currents. Mainstream climate scientists say that when the natural cooling factors change again, temperatures will be driven up further by greenhouse gases.

I have said before that I did not think Roger’s script was very good, the use of figures was confusing in my view, but I think he did get the story basically right; that the Met Office has a new projection to 2017, based on a new computer model, and that will mean little additional warming for two decades (although I would have said none). He said the temperature slowdown was due to natural influences and that temperatures would eventually go up again.

‘Headlines Are So Important’

But what people hear and what they think they heard can be two different things, and any mention of a pause in global warming raises the wrath of those who have strong opinions about climate change but who haven’t looked too closely at the details. Some contacted the BBC’s Feedback programme to complain.

Feedback dealt with the global warming story in a programme broadcast on the 11th January. Phone comments from two members of the public were included to kick the piece off; both complained about the coverage for reasons that were either incorrect, off the point or trivial.

“My name is Ruth Jarman, I live in Hartley Wintney in Hampshire. Yeah, I think the headlines are so important, because some people that’s all they listen to. This one is not only not clear, I think it’s actually misleading. This is tosh – well, as near tosh as you can get to, on Radio 4. The research looks only up to 2017, and so may be useful for people who intend to be dead by then, but others of us may be interested in thinking a little longer-term. That slowdown in warming is just that – it’s still a warming. And I don’t think this was made very clear in the programme.”

Personally I think this complaint is nonsense, in poor taste, and not borne out by what Roger actually said. He dealt with all the points Ms Jarman complains about.

The other member of the public said this; “My name’s Hilary Gander. I thought this was rather strange, since I hadn’t heard it from other sources, so I listened to the actual news item. And what it turned out to be was that the Met Office was saying that natural cooling factors – such as ocean currents and things that happen naturally with the sun – were driving this cooling. And that after these changes had, kind of, run their course, temperatures would go up again. So, to preface it with that sort of introduction seems, well, confusing.”

Again I can’t see what she is moaning about. I suspect she just didn’t like the news.

Not long after the broadcast it was pointed out by bloggers that these two members of the public were not your average public: Hilary Gander is a climate activist and founding member of the Campaign against Climate Change. Ruth Jarman is also a climate activist and member of the Hartley Wintney Solar Action Group. It is inexplicable why their affiliations were not mentioned by the BBC but instead as “just some of the listeners who contacted me or tweeted @BBCR4Feedback to raise their concerns.”

The other person interviewed on Feedback was Prof Julia Slingo, the Met Office’s Chief Scientist. She was not happy with Roger’s report either.

Roger Bolton (Feedback presenter): The Met Office, on whose figures the report was based, also had a lot of people getting in touch. Professor Julia Slingo is their chief scientist. I asked her if she thought that the Today headline “The Met Office says it does not believe that global warming will be as severe as it had previously predicted” was accurate.

Julia Slingo: Absolutely not. I mean, just to put the record straight, we had not put out, ourselves, a report. We have, over several years, on an annual basis, placed our decadal forecasts on our research pages. They are experimental, they are research in progress, and these were picked up by the sceptic blogs and the story was taken from there.

How the story came out is not as important as the story itself. When asked what headline she would have preferred to hear Prof Slingo said: “Our headline would have said that our latest forecasts for the next five years show that the Earth will continue to be at record warm levels, similar to those we’ve seen over the last decade, and with a fair chance that new records will be made during that period.”

This goes to show that in general one should not let scientists be journalists. It misses the whole point of the story, and it is in itself misleading. To say the Earth will continue to be at record warm levels similar to that seen over the past decade is a long-winded way of saying the next five years will see the same global temperature as the past ten’ (actually the past 15 years.) In other words no significant warming for two decades. Roger is right, and Slingo is spinning.

Roger Bolton: “However, the Today Programme also say to us: “Roger Harrabin’s subsequent report, within the news, explained fully the time scale of the revised figures and the reasoning behind it.” Do you think he did?”

Julia Slingo: “No he didn’t, because he didn’t – he still presented this as a projection of climate change, and these forecasts are not that. They are actually a forecast of how the natural variability of the climate system may affect the trajectory of warming, just in the next five years. And we are absolutely clear that this in no way changes our long-term projections of climate change and the seriousness of the situation.”

Here again Slingo misses the point. The key aspect of the story was that a 5-year prediction of no additional warming (or if you must, “the Earth will continue to be at record warm levels, similar to those we’ve seen over the last decade”) will mean 20 years of no warming trend. This fact is significant as climate models strain to explain it if they can explain it at all. The five years into the future is just a part of the story.

Slingo added: “I think it’s the interpretation of the forecasts that we are very unhappy about and that totally misrepresent the integrity of the science that we undertake and the messaging that we would have given on these forecasts, if we had had an opportunity to comment.”

In other words the BBC interpretation put on the decadal forecast was inconvenient although not in itself wrong. The comment about misrepresenting the integrity of the science is waffle. Slingo also said, “If, of course, we’d had the chance to present the story ourselves, we would have of course put the appropriate messaging around it.”

That’s why we have journalists – so that people can’t put the “appropriate” message on a story. The BBC’s report was not perfect but it was in essence correct. Journalists have a duty to be correct, not to be liked or approved of.

Feedback: david.whitehouse@thegwpf.org

Comments
  1. oldbrew says:

    They are still clinging to the idea that there’s some over-riding force leading to everlasting warming, that somehow had a short-term brake applied to it by mysterious ‘natural factors’ which are bound to vanish in a few years or so. Absurd.

    Quoting another commenter here:

    ‘Over 80% of the emissions have been since 1940 and the emissions have been increasing at a compound rate. But since 1940 there have been 40 years of cooling with only 28 years of warming. There’s been no significant warming since 1995, and global temperature has fallen since the high it had 10 years ago’

    http://judithcurry.com/2013/01/12/draft-u-s-climate-assessment-report/#comment-285119

    (worth a read imo)

  2. UK Met Office

    “UK Outlook for Monday 28 Jan 2013 to Monday 11 Feb 2013:

    There is greater than average uncertainty through this period, with no strong signal for any one weather type to dominate. However, on balance colder conditions are more favoured rather than the milder weather experienced so far this winter.

    Issued at: 0400 on Mon 14 Jan 2013″

    As it’s winter it might be cold! And their computer only cost 30 millon pounds! And they expect us to have faith in their long term models?

  3. HR says:

    I suspect we won’t see Richard Betts back here given Slingo’s wish to control the message, which would be a shame.

  4. tallbloke says:

    And the awkward questions asked of him. :)

    If Slingo wanted to control the message, she shouldn’t have sneaked the graph out on Christmas eve with no press release to go with it. The talkshop scoop engendered a bunch of unforced errors from the MSM and the METo.

  5. clivebest says:

    The editorial in the Observer repeated the original BBC mistake, interpreting forecast values 0.43 relative to now and not the long term average. Dave Britton from the Met Office actually pointed this out to them – as reported on the Met Office Blog (see below). Well done Dave !

    The Observer editorial (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/13/no-one-can-deny-global-warming#start-of-comments) has incorrectly interpreted that ‘Met Office figures indicate that most of the years between 2013 and 2017 will be hotter than those of the hottest year on record’ ( 1st sentence of 2nd to last para). This is not what our latest findings show.

    What the latest decadal forecast, issued in December 2012, show is that the Earth is expected to maintain the record warmth that has been observed over the last decade. This means temperatures will remain well above the long-term average and we will continue to see temperatures like those which resulted in 2000-2009 being the warmest decade in the instrumental record dating back to 1850. Furthermore a substantial proportion of the forecasts show that new record global temperatures may be reached in the next 5 years. You can find more information at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/news/decadal-forecasting.

    The observer carried an Editorial on sunday which Dave Britton from the Met Office corrected.

    [edited to remove doubled paste... might be wrong, oldbrew (comment snipped) kindly pointed this out --Tim]

  6. tallbloke says:

    Thanks Clive. The other part of the story was that the Meto Press officer Dave Britton, after some prompting from Barry Woods, placed a comment on the observer article comments section, and tweeted to say he had done so. I pointed out that this would soon be lost in the flow of comments and that he should contact the Observer direct, which he then did and tweeted that. The Observer then sat on its thumbs allowing the incorrect article to stand until everyone had read it.

  7. tallbloke says:

    Piers Corbyn @Piers_Corbyn

    @Piers_Corbyn What’s the fuss? MO-BBC lie together. This is a tactical split. BBC ‘do truth’ at times. MO want a consistent pack of lies.

  8. michael hart says:

    So what Slingo et. al. should have spoken of, IMO, is “Forecasting ANOTHER five (or more) years of cooling or no warming, ON TOP of the previous 15 years which we did NOT forecast”.

    It is all very well, as Tallbloke highlighted, Fred Pearce pointing to a few scientists who did say something similar in a 2008 New Scientist article. But their views did not appear to influence the models or the “official” view as presented to the rest of the world.

    We are going to see more of that: Claims that such predictions were made, but without acknowledgement that those views were discarded or ignored. Predict everything and then you will always be correct, as long as nobody realizes the duplicity involved.

    …And predicting the continuing likelihood of “record” temperatures is equally as facile, and probably worse. The hottest day of summer is very likely to be adjacent to the second or third hottest day of summer. Does nobody in the MSM realize this may also apply to whole years as well? D’oh ! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6GuEswXOXo

  9. The MET office will be a subject of mockery as long as Slingo and those of her ilk remain. I feel sorry for those genuine scientists that must cringe whenever she makes a statement.

  10. tallbloke says:

    Barry Woods @BarryJWoods

    . @rogtallbloke other ‘listener’ Ruth to @BBCR4Feedback has a number of pictures of her handing in petions to Downing st on a CaCC March

  11. Doug Proctor says:

    The 24 December posting and the foo-for-ah that ensued shows the politicos who the Met Office asnswers to, including Slingo, are very sensitive to the lack of strong observational support of the CO2 models built into both their and the IPCC/government models.

    They have changed the goalposts again.

    It is not warming that counts, but that since 1997 the temperatures of a global, not regional, scale are the highest since 1850, despite the CO2 signal not supposed to be coming through until after 1965.

    CO2 is being regroomed as a background forcing equal or less powerful than natural forcings, and one that only shows its demon head when natural forcings are in a positive, temperature rising situation. So it is not CO2 that gives us a problem, but that CO2, at times, has a positive reinforcement to nature.

    The unfalsifiability becomes complete. If it is cooler, it is natural. If it is warmer, it is CO2. Circular reasoning added to that of ice melting in the Arctic, proveing CO2 radiative forcing, whereas it is just an effect of warmer temperatures, regardless of their cause. Circular reasoning

    The only thing that will really crimp the CAGW style is a serious cooling in the next couple of years , of 0.25C or so. Anything less will be explainable within their new “natural variability” mantra. And the only reason a cooling of 0.25C will get attention is that the natural variability they suggest is larger than that in their current models. Which means that on the positive side the warming will get worse!

    For all our sakes, we have to hope that Archibald’s solar predictions of cooling are good, even though he is also a catastrophist in the amount of cooling he expects in the northern, wheat-growing areas of the US. We need a sustained period of global cooling and Arctic ice expansion to get this monkey off our backs.

  12. tallbloke says:

    Barry Woods @BarryJWoods

    . @rogtallbloke just google “ruth jarman” with seperate key words. climate camp “downing street letter” “operation noah” CEL Copenhagen

  13. DaveR says:

    I was more than a bit surprised to first hear coverage of the Meto story whilst listening to BBC Radio 5 live’s ‘Up All Night’ news bulletin last Tuesday, 8th, at three a.m. So much so, I had to get out of bed for a good laugh and a cup of tea :-).

    “The Met Office has revised its projection for climate change. It now projects a rise of just under half of one degree caused by greenhouse gas emissions between nineteen ninety-seven and twenty seventeen, far less than earlier estimated.”

    It’s at 2:02:36 :

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pr64n

    Rhod Sharp and Doktor Karl – your slips are showing… ;-)

  14. J Martin says:

    Julia Slingo: “~ the trajectory of warming~”

    Does that include down ? If it does I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Julia continued to describe that as warming.

    Julia Slingo: ~”the integrity of the science that we undertake”~

    Integrity of science ? Wot,? The Met Office !

    Julia in the UK and Julia in Oz. Twins perhaps ?

    I can’t wait for the projections of Landscheidt, Abdussamatov, Archibald et al to arrive, at least in sufficient measure to consign the various Julia’s to a future of ignominy and obscurity.

  15. Brian H says:

    Whew. The Beeb vs. the Met. Two geriatric blind sumo wrestlers, in fumbling battle. What a show!