If Adam Scaife has given false information to the press, in order to cover his own back and embarrass the government, his position now is surely untenable. It is now up to the Met Office to either publish the advice Scaife claims he gave, or admit that the Cabinet Office’s version of events is correct.
Readers will recall the story from a few weeks ago, about how Adam Scaife, head of long-range forecasting at the Met Office, claimed to have briefed the Cabinet Office about the Beast from the East in early February.
This is how it was reported in The Times:
Britain’s freezing “Beast from the East” exploded into life thousands of miles away, in the tropical waters of the western Pacific — and ministers were warned that it was coming a month ago.
Adam Scaife, head of long-range forecasting at the Met Office, briefed the Cabinet Office four weeks ago, warning of a freeze. He was confident enough to stock up his home with extra supplies.
Scaife stocked up with wood and other supplies
“I got extra oil, food and logs in, knowing this was coming,” he said last week.
His warning came after his team spotted a massive storm system moving east from the Indian to the Pacific oceans. Its effects rippled out, generating weather systems from the Pacific to the Arctic, warming the stratosphere, 20 miles above the North Pole, by 50C in two days.
The result was a zone of high pressure across the Atlantic so big that the jet stream, the wind that brings warm Atlantic weather to Britain, went into reverse, blanketing the UK in Siberian winds. “We recognised the pattern because we’d seen it before,” Scaife said. “The same thing caused the freezes of February 2009 and 2013.
“Since then our modelling has improved, so we can detect these extreme winter patterns much earlier, in this case a month in advance, enabling us to give long-term warnings.”
Scaife said it was harder to predict extreme summertime changes in the jet stream — the kind that might cause drought or flooding — but his team was working on it.
The Times is behind a paywall, but exactly the same account appeared in the Mail here.
As I commented at the time, this was a rather surprising claim for Scaife to have made, since the Met Office’s own public news releases were much more vague at that time.
Intriguingly, the Telegraph, which also mentioned the Times’ story, noted that the Met Office said Mr Scaife was referring to a three-month outlook and that the extent of the cold weather only became clear around 10 days before it hit.
As I revealed, that particular 3-month outlook, published at the end of January, predicted the opposite, that there was little likelihood of a SSW in February.
I was therefore curious about exactly what Scaife had said to the Cabinet Office, and decided to FOI the latter. To say I was gobsmacked by their reply would be an understatement.
So according to the Cabinet Office, the briefing that Scaife claims to have made never actually occurred.
Indeed, the Cabinet Office is also crystal clear on the updates it did receive from the Met Office. They were all news releases available to the public, as I highlighted in my post here.