BBC admits its big freeze forecast was wrong

BBC admits its big freeze forecast was wrong

January 9, 2022

Stormy times at the BBC as it admits its big freeze forecast was wrong: Forecaster backs down in a ‘weather war’ between two respected meteorology firms over the conditions people can expect this winter

  • DTN – the forecaster used by BBC – has revised its prediction that Britain would have a ‘cold, dry and calm winter’
  • It now brings it closer to that of forecasting rival the Met Office’s prognosis of a much milder picture
  • Experts suggested the U-turn would embarrass BBC, which ditched the Met Office as its weather provider in 2019

The forecaster used by the BBC has backed down in a ‘weather war’ between two respected meteorology firms over the conditions people can expect this winter.

The company, DTN, has revised its prediction that Britain would have a ‘cold, dry and calm winter’, bringing it closer to that of forecasting rival the Met Office’s prognosis of a much milder picture.

Experts suggested the U-turn would embarrass the BBC, which ditched the Met Office as its weather provider in 2019.

John Hammond, who worked for both the BBC and the Met Office and now co-runs the forecasting agency Weathertrending, said: ‘There was huge disagreement between the winter forecasts.

The forecaster used by the BBC has backed down in a ‘weather war’ between two respected meteorology firms over the conditions people can expect this winter. The company, DTN, has revised its prediction that Britain would have a ‘cold, dry and calm winter’, bringing it closer to that of forecasting rival the Met Office’s prognosis of a much milder picture. (Above, a woman runs past a cherry blossom tree already in bloom in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, on January 1)

The first few days of January in central England were the warmest since 1772, according to the Government-owned Met Office. (Above, swimmers take part in a New Year’s Day swim in  New Brighton, Wirral)

‘Some were confident of cold and dry, while others were backing mild and wet.

‘I know which side I’d rather be on. Winter has been mild so far.’

The average UK temperature in December was 1.1C above normal, with 90 per cent of the average rainfall, and New Year highs of 16C. 

The first few days of January in central England were the warmest since 1772, according to the Government-owned Met Office.

Mike Kendon, of the National Climate Information Centre, said: ‘We have seen less of the cold weather you’d expect at the start of winter. December will be remembered for unseasonable warmth.’ 

Experts suggested the U-turn would embarrass the BBC, which ditched the Met Office as its weather provider in 2019

DTN, formerly MeteoGroup, said in its original long-range prediction: ‘Rain and winds will likely be below average. But because it will be cold, there will be more wintry precipitation days than usual.’

Renny Vandewege, vice-president of weather operations at DTN, admitted last night the firm’s outlook had altered. ‘We’ve kept this winter a little more mild than the initial forecast,’ he said.

‘The polar vortex has been a little stronger than initially indicated and when that happens it tends to lead to a more mild winter.

‘We still believe there could be stretches of cold weather, especially in the last half of winter, but as a whole, we are anticipating around average temperatures.’

DTN forecaster Donal Considine said: ‘Our forecast went for a different story from the Met Office.

‘December had some mild conditions and after this week’s cold snap, above-average temperatures are favoured next week in an Atlantic flow. 

‘After a possible brief cold spell, above-average temperatures and wet and windy conditions are expected later in January.’

The winter forecast is regarded as the most important of the year because it informs preparations by businesses including those in the energy, transport, retail and aviation sectors. 

But the disagreement between DTN and the Met Office meant TV channels, businesses and industries that pay for the forecasts were divided over what to expect.

The Met Office is standing by its prediction. Its original November to January forecast said: ‘A mild three-month period is more likely than a cold one.’ 

Its outlook for January to March says: ‘Westerly or south-westerly winds are more likely, meaning a greater chance of mild, wet and windy weather. There is a reduced chance of a cold period as a whole, but impacts from cold weather are still possible.’

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