"BBQ Summer" - where did it go wrong?

Another rather wet day here yesterday with 40.5mm of rain - almost a month's worth - falling during the course of the day. So much for our barbeque summer.
Most British summers are unsettled. Most are wet. Most are not particularly warm. The public infatuation and media obsession with long, hot summers are bound to end in tears more often than not.

It is against this background that in April the Met Office issued its summer forecast – the infamous "odds on for a barbecue summer" forecast. The "barbecue" tag was a public relations rhetorical flourish unsupported by the content of the forecast itself. Along with many other meteorologists, I groaned when I first heard it. It was bound to come back and bite them.

Philip wasn't the only one who groaned, believe me! His article is one of the best I've seen and should be read by everyone in the country, but especially all journalists. And everyone at the Met Office. I fully endorse his conclusion:
The advice I would give the Met Office is this. Carry on with research into seasonal forecasting. Carry on making the forecasts available to organisations who might find them useful on the understanding that they have limitations. Ignore the crackpots, instead of trying to engage with them. And stop the over-hyped press releases and rein in your public relations people. We expect spin from politicians, but not from one of our premier scientific institutions.
Others however - who probably never even read the actual Met Office forecast - are more directly critical: Sammy Wilson pours scorn on the Met Office whilst in The Times, Steve Keenan argues the Met Office should be sued - because he blames the media headlines of a BBQ summer for persuading millions of people to not holiday abroad this summer. Personally I blame the fact they've been made unemployed due to the recession .... And anyway, shouldn't we be supporting the UK holiday industry first and foremost? Not the Algarve.

To be honest, the full probability charts - indeed the whole powerpoint presentation - should in my opinion be made readily viewable to the general public on the Met Office websites, along with the caveats contained in the presentation - which were not reported at all by the media. The BBQ headline did not even really match with the forecast - it was epxected temperature would be average or above (when aren't they these days) with a few days reaching 30c+ (which was the case earlier this month, so spot on there). The main failing of the forecast was for rainfall to be below average and certainlt drier than recent years. The Met Office were expecting a blocking high to develop over Europe and give much of the UK, especially the SE, spells of warm, dry, settled weather and for the the jetstream to take most Atlantic depression away to the NW. Instead, the southern block never really developed and after the ebginning of July we've seen the jetstream return to a similar position to the last two summers and directed those Atlantic system straight across the British Isles. The Met Office do need to look at why this scenario developed yet again, and why it was not predicted.

But the biggest mistake the Met Office made was with their soundbite headline that was doomed to be an albatross for them unless we had nearly 3 whole months of sunshine and warmth. They should have stuck with simply saying they expected the summer to be a bit better than the last 2 years. Which even if wrong would not have led to media misinterpretation and public scorn.

I did say back in Spring that I didn't expect a hot summer this year and that it would be similar, but perhaps a little drier - to last year. I think I've been wrong so far only in that July has seen more rain than I expected. I expected August to be a better month than recent years and only time will tell if that's the case or, after a brief dalliance with warmth in the SE later next week, the unsettled and often wet and cloudy conditions continue.

It's worth adding that the likes of Piers Corbyn have been no more accurate, whatever they may try and claim. Just because you predict a 'Spanish Plume' event with hot weather in the SE breaking down into thundertorms, flash floods, hail and 'whirlwinds' and we coincidentally get heavy rain off a frontal system - and a tornado a couple of days earlier in the Outer Hebrides (see below) - does not mean you are right. For that you need to predict the specific synoptics that gave rise to the rain.

Other News

House damaged and power cut as tornado hits Stornoway or, as the Scotsman put it twisting the night away in Stornoway. Not a bad piece from the Scotsman, that. The BBC on the other hand thought it was a story about a model of car - idiots!

Those wanting a BBQ summer could do worse than head for the Pacific NW and British Colombia as the BC heat wave gets worse and Seattle breaks temp record.

Gulf of Mexico dead zone smaller than expected

Did an ice age boost human brain size?

And the stating the bleedin' obvious award this week goes to: scientists expect wildfires to increase as climate warms in coming decades.


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