If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 28 October 2013

The 'Storm' that wasn't

Here's a thought.

There were dire predictions over the past few days of a Great Storm coming to the South of the UK, a great storm to rival the humdinger we had in 1987.  Ground already soaked, trees still almost in full leaf, therefore massive flooding and trees torn up and flung about like matchsticks.  Or something.  Over the days, the predictions of the route the low would take started with Pembrokeshire and Cornwall taking the brunt of the storm when it made landfall, but the predicted route was later thought to be a little further South. Nevertheless, winds of 95 mph were predicted, damage to trees and property, flooding and mayhem.

I'm not one to over-react to scare stories, having over my life found most of them to be unfounded.  But yesterday I got the bikes under cover, the garden furniture in the shed, the bins indoors and everything moveable lashed down.  The forecasts were serious enough to overcome my basic laziness and Pollyanna optimism.

There was some rain in the night, and it was a bit windy.  I haven't read around the news sites yet, and I imagine some places had it much worse, but for Pembrokeshire it was all a bit of a let-down.

This isn't a Daily Mail-type "why can't these fools get it right?" rant.  I accept that most people act in good faith and sometimes people get it wrong.  I don't blame Michael Fish for the hurricane, and I don't blame the surgeon who missed seeing my Father's cancer at a stage where it might have been treatable.  I don't blame the forecasters who predicted murder and mayhem for my neck of the woods last night, either.  They simply got it wrong.  I kept an eye on things with the BBC weather service, the Met Office and a couple of weather apps on the phone, plus a Facebook feed from someone called Winter Weather 2013-14, and they all told the same story.  As the people concerned are experienced meteorologists, and the computers are presumable the best you can buy, this leads me to believe that the models are faulty - or at least much less accurate than the meteorologists think they are.

And that's the point.  I'm told on Sunday afternoon that it's Armageddon by Sunday night, and it isn't.  How can I believe that these same people and models can predict what the weather is going to be like in 2050?

(And yes, I am not an infant and I know that weather is not the same as climate.  But weather is how climate manifests itself in the same way that woodland manifests itself in individual trees.  If you are predicting climate, you are also predicting the specific weather conditions associated with that climate.)


  1. "....... If you are predicting climate, you are also predicting the specific weather conditions associated with that climate."

    Except that 'predicting' climate gets you paid now, whilst the (in)accuracy of your predictions won't be apparent for a decade or two. By which time, taxpayers won't be able to claim a refund.

  2. Nikos, agreed. And that Harold Wilson chap too. Joe, good point.

  3. I found THIS site: last week. There are a number of different model simulations to choose from, and although they were broadly similar, each showed a different track and speed from the other.

    Unfortunately even a 100 mile or less variation in the position of the centre of that low (and the subsequent wind speed & direction), can make a huge difference to what a particular location experiences.

    Rather worryingly, it looks as if we're in for another blast this coming weekend...

  4. Interesting site, thanks. I hadn't seen it before, but it does use a model from yr.no, which is a site I use often. Very detailed, and usually reliable. You're right, of course, and on reflection I was a bit hasty with this post. The storm simply passed along a different path, but the destruction was all there - just 100 miles to the south.


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