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BBC Weather Test: Update

A cloud

By Roger Harrabin
BBC Environment Analyst

The organisers of the BBC's Weather Test have offered to re-open discussions on details of the test after some key players expressed doubts about the methodology of the project.

The idea of the Weather Test, backed by the Today Programme, is to compile a long-term record of comparative forecasting methods to help the public understand more about the reliability of different forecasts.

The test's technical protocol sets out how it will work and has been developed openly over many months of public meetings and public consultation


It was devised by independent academics and nominees from the Royal Meteorogical Society and the Royal Statistical Society. The data analysis will be carried out by the University of Leeds.

From the outset, different forecasters have expressed different views of how the data should be measured.

In a letter to the invited forecasters Professor Paul Hardaker, Chief Executive of the Royal Meteorological Society who are providing the secretariat to the project, says:

"Of course, weather providers have different views on the final details of the protocol. This is understandable, but if any outstanding difficulties can be ironed then it would provide the public with more useful information about weather forecasts. That would be in tune with recent moves towards more openness in science."

Professor Hardaker says a further round of consultation could add value to the process.

The Met Office has consistently said it is broadly in favour of the Weather Test, subject to technical details. Piers Corbyn, the maverick climate sceptic forecaster, has pledged from the outset that he would take part.

The Meteo Group was quoted at the weekend expressing misgivings about the project, but the firm has publicly declared its interest in the Weather Test and a desire to take part if they can practically meet the protocol.

Joe Bastardi, a prominent climate sceptic forecaster based in the US, has told newspapers that he does not want to be involved in the project - which would have seen his forecasts pitted against the Met Office, a pillar of the scientific establishment.

David King, an amateur forecaster who uses weather lore, said he was pulling out of the test because he wanted to avoid any controversy.

The UK's major forecasters are still involved in the test - and the organisers hope the remaining issues can be sorted out so the test can start in the Spring. Hetan Shah, executive director of the Royal Statistical Society, has re-stated the society's support for the project.

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