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01-07-2011, 01:01 PM
Met Office 'kept winter forecast secret from public'

The Met Office knew that Britain was facing an early and exceptionally cold winter but failed to warn the public, hampering preparations for some of the coldest weather on record.

By Steven Swinford 6:00AM GMT 04 Jan 2011

In October the forecaster privately warned the Government - with whom it has a contract - that Britain was likely to face an extremely cold winter. It kept the prediction secret, however, after facing severe criticism over the accuracy of its long-term forecasts.

The Met Office eventually issued a public warning about the early onset of winter a month later, just days before snow and ice covered much of Britain and temperatures plummeted to the lowest on record. Motoring organisations and passenger groups said yesterday that the delay hampered preparations for winter.

It has also been disclosed that the BBC has decided to publish independent assessments of the Met Office's performance on its website.

Roger Harrabin, an environment analyst at the BBC, told the Radio Times: “The trouble is that we simply don’t know how much to trust the Met Office. How often does it get the weather right and wrong. And we don’t know how it compares with other, independent forecasters.

“Can we rely on them if we are planning a garden party at the weekend? Or want to know if we should take a brolly with us tomorrow? Or planning a holiday next week?

“In a few year’s time hopefully we’ll all have a better idea of whom to trust. By then the Met Office might have recovered enough confidence to share with us its winter prediction of whether to buy a plane ticket or a toboggan.”

The decision to publish the assessment was welcomed by rival forecasters.

Piers Corbyn, the owner of WeatherAction, an independent forecaster, said: “This is a step in the right direction. The Met Office has got it repeatedly and yet it remains the public service forecaster. There needs to be greater competition. I hope this will encourage but it is vital that the assessors and their measurements are independent and objective.”

The Met Office stopped making its long-term forecasts public in March after a series of major gaffes.

Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/8237397/Met-Office-kept-winter-forecast-secret-from-public.html)