By Paul Homewood
This is a story that was widely reported yesterday:
Published: 10:36, 4 March 2018
Professor Adam Schaife, head of long-range forecasting at the Met Office, alerted the Cabinet Office to the incoming weather bomb four weeks ago.
He told them that they should expect Britain to be battered by a deep freeze.
In preparation for the polar vortex he stocked up on essentials.
‘I got extra oil, food and logs in, knowing this was coming,’ he said last week.
Prof Schaife’s team spotted the massive storm system, which was later dubbed the Beast from the East, growing near India and the Pacific Ocean.
The heaving mass moved east, spreading outwards and warming the stratosphere, 20 miles above the North Pole, by 50 degrees celsius in two days, bringing icy winds and heavy snow to swathes of Europe.
He also revealed that a similar weather pattern had caused the glacial freezes of February 2009 and 2013.
‘We recognised the pattern because we’d seen it before,’ he said.
He added the Met Office’s modelling had improved allowing it to detect extreme winter patterns much earlier.
The story originally appeared in The Times, to whom Scaife gave his account, and this agree with the Mail version.
Strangely though, Scaife’s (not Schaife!) account does not tally with the official Met Office warnings.
Let’s start with the Met Office’s 3-Month outlook, which was published on 26th January:
Not only did they not predict the SSW event, they even said there was “little likelihood” of one. (It is worth noting that, as long range forecaster, Scaife is responsible for this).
OK, this was at the end of January, and Scaife claims that he knew about it four weeks ago, around 3rd Feb, so maybe there was no signs of the cold weather in the week beforehand.
If we look at the Met Office’s News Release archives, here, we find that the earliest mention of any anything untoward was on 9th Feb. (The previous news release was on 5th Feb, and made no mention at all of anything unusually cold coming).
It’s not unusual to experience cold conditions in February – the last month of meteorological winter.
The current cold weather is being influenced by a polar maritime air mass with its origins over Canada. This is expected to continue affecting the UK for much of the next week, with only brief milder interludes affecting southern parts of the country.
For an insight into the longer-term prospects, our meteorologists are monitoring the stratosphere – a high layer in the atmosphere above the region containing most of our weather. Initial observations are recording a warming of the stratosphere over the North Pole, suggesting an atmospheric event known as Sudden Stratospheric Warming is about to occur, where the stratospheric temperature can rise by 50 °C. When this event has occurred previously it has often led to cold conditions across the UK, linked to a weakening of the polar jet stream – the high-altitude ribbon of air which steers weather systems towards us from the Atlantic.
Matthew Lewis is a Deputy Chief Operational Meteorologist. He said: “A Sudden Stratospheric Warming event is now expected to occur and will peak over the coming week. The resulting impact on the weather in the UK is still hugely uncertain, but there are some signs of conditions that an easterly flow could develop across Europe. Although we wouldn’t expect continuously cold conditions there is a greater chance of cold conditions recurring.”
So, by 9th Feb the Met Office had an inkling of SSW occurring, but had very little idea of how it would affect the UK, just that there was a chance of cold conditions.
Given that this was winter, there was hardly anything alarming or surprising about this. And certainly nothing to justify emergency action on the part of the government.
The next instalment came on 12th Feb:
Last week we highlighted that a Sudden Stratospheric Warming event could affect our weather later this month. This sudden stratospheric warming has now happened and we are monitoring its influence. There is a lag time between a sudden stratospheric warming and any impact it might deliver to UK weather conditions: so it is too soon to determine exactly what impacts it could have on our weather in the UK.
However, there are some signs that high pressure could build over Europe resulting in an easterly flow. Although we wouldn’t expect continuously cold conditions, there is a greater chance of blocked conditions reccurring.
So, little had changed since 9th Feb, they still had little idea of how it would affect UK weather, and there was certainly no indication of any extreme weather heading our way.
It was not till 16th Feb that they said:
There is increasing confidence that the recent Sudden Stratospheric Warming above the North Pole could lead to prolonged cold conditions over the UK, increasing the risk of easterly wind and significant snow
By that stage, this was common knowledge amongst meteorologists around the world.
Scaife has serious questions to answer.
If he really did give the Cabinet Office detailed advice about the severe freeze up at the beginning of February, then why did the Met Office not include the warning in their news releases until just over a week before?
On the other hand, if what the Met Office has said is correct, then Scaife is guilty of misrepresenting his advice to the Cabinet Office. He may well have said that there was a chance of some cold weather arriving, but to pretend he warned them about “the beast from the east”, as The Times claims, is clearly deeply misleading.
This is also an embarrassing episode for the Met Office, not least because they failed to predict the beast in their 3-Month Outlook at the end of January. This is despite Scaife’s claim on 16th Feb that signs of this event appeared in forecasts from late January.
Interestingly the Telegraph, who also cover the story, state “The Met Office said Mr Scaife was referring to a three-month outlook and that the extent of the cold weather only became clear around 10 days before it hit”
Make what you will of the reference to the 3-Month Outlook!!
via NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT
March 5, 2018 at 12:15PM