Winter Forecasting – The Broken Clock Conundrum

As I sit here gazing out of my window this fine January afternoon, with the rays of the sun growing warmer with each day that passes, I wonder whether my proud purchase of space-aged snow boots last winter was a costly mistake. It was a 50%-off mistake, mind you.

This is the first time in my thirty-something year lifetime where I’ve stumbled through a winter, arriving into the final ten days of January, and have yet to see a snowflake gracing our green and pleasant land. Granted, my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, but that’s beside the point.

boots
Sexy snowboots.

Now, nestling in southern England as I do, I’m not in prime position for earth-shattering snowfalls. That said, via the magic of the interweb, I’m acutely aware that many others are left rather head-scratched after an almost snowless winter thus far. Granted, the Highlands have seen snow, and some of the hills elsewhere have had a day or two of the white stuff, but more about that later.

Linking this to my musings a few days ago, regarding the vast array of weather companies giving the atmosphere a punt, I’ve been wondering what the forecasters have been predicting so far this winter. Thankfully, my failing memory has been nicely re-railed by the exciting archive of the tabloid press, glowing with their weekly-winter-weather forecasts as far back as August last year.

express

Sadly, try as I might, I cannot find any exciting predictions from the majority of weather companies, not in terms of supporting a Dickens-style winter, in any case.

One weather “company”, however, has held a remarkable record of consistency throughout the winter, starting in August last year and continuing to this very day. Exacta Weather, an online-based forecasting outfit, headed by James Madden, have performed such a truly remarkable feat of forecasting over the last six months, I’ve decided to award it a monopoly in my “Ode to a winter of forecasting”.

Exacta Weather are so confident of their meteorological predictions, they’re happy to leave them archived within their Facebook group for all to see. Either that, or they cannot be deleted. I’m not certain. Anyway, I digress.

The autumn months, comprising September, October and November, were a fairly mixed affair. There was some decent warmth to be had at first, then some wintry conditions from mid November. The official figures from the Met Office reveal that temperatures for the autumn as a whole were around 0.4C above the 1981-2010 average. That sounds rather boring to me so, for statistical sticklers (try that one after a port or two), here are the monthly breakdowns:

September: 0.1C above average
October: 1.7C above average
November: 0.7C below average.

In terms of weather, November was just about the only month that could be described as housing some wintry conditions, with many of us seeing frost. There were also some snowfalls across Northern Ireland and Scotland between the 17th and 21st but these were almost completely hemmed in to the mountains.

All monthly and seasonal data obtained here: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/2013

So then, how did Exacta Weather’s autumn forecast pan out? Well, we started very early, in the middle of August:

01

Right then, we start optimistically for those who love a bit of hypothermia in the morning, with a promise of record-breaking cold for “autumn and winter”.

However, a couple of weeks later, on September 1st:

02

That’s ok, autumn has only just started. There’s three months to go so admitting a warm start to the season of mist and mellow fruitfulness is admirable.

Right then, let’s keep things on track with an update on 20th September:

03

That’s good, the snow’s still coming. Hurrah. In fact, so serious was the Arctic doom becoming that a much larger photograph was needed in an update a week later:

04

In this most recent update, we also see what can only be described as frigid, frosty fighting talk from Exacta Weather, who proclaim “standard meteorology will not recognise this [the snow] until the last minute”. I’m not sure what standard meteorology is. More to the point, what’s non-standard meteorology? Is it similar to describing astrology as the non-standard form of astronomy? Anyway, I digress once again.

The next significant update graced our Facebook screens a couple of days later, with a shiny, British farm-food standard warning graphic:

05

You have to hand it to Exacta Weather. With their autumn forecast appearing rather unfortunate, guns are still blazing (or refrigerating) for a winter of cold discontent.

However, things started to become a little unstuck by mid October. Exacta Weather, clearly under pressure from its “clients”, set their sights on other forecasting companies in a bid to surround itself with equally mistaken friends:

06

Thankfully, however, Exacta Weather took a deep breath, thought better of a flame-war and resumed business as usual. A mid-October update, promising us all some nifty snowfalls in November (fingered in snow from 2012, most likely):

07

Now, on the final day of October, something different for the punters to get their teeth into. Apparently, bonfire night was going to be a cold and very windy affair and Exacta Weather didn’t want us to blame them for correctly predicting it weeks in advance.

Well, there wasn’t any risk of that happening:

08

For the record, it was a very wet and unsettled few days around bonfire night, and it was also very windy. Temperatures were around average for early November and many events were rained off. Classic, autumn conditions. To my knowledge, not many displays were delayed by organisers digging deep in crisp and even snow-cover to find their ground-based fireworks.

Right, if you’re still with me, onwards we go. An early-November update for the coming winter months:

09

Oh good. Autumn was a right spoilsport for us snow-lovers so at least we can rely on winter to deliver.

The next update from Exacta Weather showed just how dedicated it was to its snowy cause, and blasts all forecasting opposition in one sad-smiley graphic. Exacta Weather were forecasting serious snowfalls for late November and through December. No other weather company were doing so. Imagine the embarrassment when we’re digging ourselves out of a suffocating blanket of powder.

10

Next up, a late-November update, promising that our cold and heavy snow WILL happen in December (together with a bonus meteorological-pop at the opposition):

11

An early-December update maintained the stance, something that can only be admired:

12

In the days that followed, meteorological models were beginning to hint at some colder weather through mid-December. Many forecasting agencies hinted that a period of colder weather was indeed possible in a week’s time, with the chance of night-frost and a few wintry showers. Catapulted with enthusiasm, Exacta Weather were quick on the uptake:

13

To be fair, Exacta Weather, “blizzards” isn’t exactly the term that was being used but, granted, somewhat colder conditions were anticipated.

Exacta were so excited, it was joyous tidings all round:

14

And to that end, there was a white Christmas! Sadly, it wasn’t a widespread white Christmas and was largely confined to the hills and mountains of Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England and Wales, with sparse settling away from some very lucky areas. I retrieved my lump of coal and slightly rotten clementine from the bottom of my threadbare stocking on Christmas Day, glum with the realisation that my promised deep snow cover had gone the way of Santa Claus 20 years earlier. Yes, I still believed in Santa Claus at a worryingly old age. We’re not here to discuss that.

Exacta round up the “widespread” Christmas snow:

15

Even before the big day itself, Exacta were self-congratulating with a headline they’d triggered three months before Christmas, warning of widespread Christmas snow. Perhaps they could have tried a little harder than a report of snow over the very highest, thin-atmosphere mountains of Scotland, but hey, snow is snow, irrespective of whether its too inhospitable for life!

16

We should, at this point, sum up December’s weather. According to the Met Office, it was the warmest December across England and Wales since 1988 with temperatures around 1.8C above the norm. Of course, most of us will remember December for kicking off storm-season, with high winds, heavy rain and sea water that decided to relocate many miles inland.

Full December round-up here: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/2013/december

Given the cold (or warm) light of day, Exacta Weather held their hands up gracefully and accepted that December didn’t exactly go to plan. However, not going down without a fist-full of snowballs, they were taking everyone else down with them with an early January update:

17

It is true, other forecasting agencies did hint at a risk of frost and the odd wintry shower in December. Wintry shower, country-wide blizzard; it’s the same thing.

Right then! A new year, a new forecast. Exacta weather promised us in early January that the cold and snow would arrive within days!

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A few days later, and at fever-pitch, the snow was apparently on the horizon:

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In a similar manner to the bullish predictions back in the autumn, Exacta were so confident of their predictions that they sought to spear-tackle those pesky “standard meteorologists” again, that were doomed to failure in predicting the obvious snowfalls we’d see in mid January:

20

Ok. A small stumbling block. The snow didn’t arrive on cue and it was still wet and windy by mid-January. No matter, the snow IS coming, it was just a little later, as Exacta went on to let us know:

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A day or two later, Exacta seemed to hint at a forecast failure and actually suggested that the winter so far had been mild. That said, there was good news, as a mild winter could lead to a cold spring:

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The atmosphere in Exacta HQ seemed to be darkening through the next few days. People had started leaving doubting messages on their Facebook pages but, unlike the forecast updates themselves, these niggling comments could be deleted in their hundreds. Alienated, perhaps, Exactly went on the offensive again. This time, NetWeather was to take the brunt:

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But don’t worry! Fear ye not, the Met Office got their fair share too:

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And as the dust began to settle, it was clear that Exacta’s exemplary forecasting record merely rendered other agencies jealous in their bid to catch up:

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So, there ended a rather unpleasant few days for Exacta weather who were, well, under the weather, shall we say. What better way to pick things up than by looking ahead and seeing yet more snow! Don’t worry, the snow would be with us, their latest update proclaimed:

26

That forecast was valid for the day on which I’m sitting here, having my face nicely bronzed by pleasant January sunshine. Still, no matter, the snow will arrive with an update posted on the 19th January:

27

With most of us still waiting to see a single flake of snow in this record-breakingly cold and snowy January, Exacta are a comfort to us.

In the meantime, given their success with winter so far, let’s have a look ahead to summer 2014:

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Whilst you dream about the upcoming summer, keep in mind that the snow may eventually arrive in February. If it does, Exacta Weather will have correctly predicted it, and credit where credit is due.

There is an old saying; ‘A broken clock is correct twice per day’. Unlike Exacta Weather’s snow-forecasts, however, a broken clock only has two attempts.

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9 thoughts on “Winter Forecasting – The Broken Clock Conundrum

  1. Simply brilliant….James Madden has appears to be making a living off of these lies and I feel sorry (should?) for all the people who have spent money on his long range forecasts….surely they’ll get a refund 😉
    You can see just how many negative comments he must be getting, as you can’t actually delete them on Facebook, you can only filter them so they don;t appear using keywords. It’s very easy to see Comment count vs actual comments is radically different.

    I wonder if any of those censored comments are from angry customers demanding refund, because they actually believed this man could tell the future. OK so reading that last sentence back, I don’t feel sorry for them, its akin to visiting and paying clairvoyant and I don’t feel sorry for those people!

    The best thing is that to try and divert attention away from his forecasts, he starts attacking other forecasters, if you make enough noise over there, they might not notice you over here James.

  2. Pingback: A Winter Bug | Weatherman79

  3. Were is all this snow you keep on about all it is wind and rain I wouldn’t belief your long range forcasts if you paid me I hope you are refunding your customers

      • I sorry that I was refering to you as Exacta weather, I should have put I agree with you about the the way eaxta weather has been forcasting all this snow and that they have been so wrong with their predictions through this winter, I have left comments on their face book page but it gets deleted everytime.
        Iam sorry about the mistake.

        Pete

  4. Excellent blog post. Can’t believe that Madden can go on making a living from churning out these useless long term forecasts. However, I can understand why some people might be willing to pay for and use Exacta forecasts as their website is quite convincing and points to evidence for the high accuracy of their forecasts. Also, the fact that their forecasts appear in the national press seems to add to their legitimacy.

    • Enter your comment here…I see that exacta weather forecast hasn’t been that good so far for this spring, they keep say that its going to be warm this weekend and into the first week of june here in lincoln we have had to put the heating back we also have had 2″ of rain over the past week so it looks as though next week isn’t going to be much better you know what tey say when it rains from the east it will rain 2 days at least and thats what we have had.
      Peter

  5. Well said steve couldn’t agree more they keep sending out these stupid forecasts putting the fear of god up all the old people I know what it can do to them when my mother was alive it used to frighten her with these scare stories they should be banned.The trouble is one of these days they will get it right and no one will believe them, are these so called forecasters going to pay back to all these people who have subsribed and bought extra snow shovels, snow tyres and grit.

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