The Met Office is to be investigated by MPs following the outcry over the ‘barbecue summer’ and continuing questions over climate change.
The national weather forecaster, which is part of the Ministry of Defence, has also been criticised for handing out up to £1.5 million of bonuses.
The Science and Technology Committee will look at how effectively the Met Office runs its public weather service remit.
The forecaster is relied upon by the army, air traffic control, the BBC and a host of other institutions.
The inquiry will also look at science strategy of the Met Office, which provides the Government with all its climate change modelling.
Andrew Miller, the Chairman of the Committee, said it was important the public is assured of the quality of the service.
“Fishermen and the navy praise the service, other people planning their barbecues complain,” he said. “ There are a lot of questions and uncertainties about quality of the science. We want to make sure it is good as it can be for an area of nature that is very difficult to predict.”
Mr Miller said the committee would also be looking at rumours of plans to sell off the Met Office.
“If the Government go ahead for it to be privatised, we need to be ahead of the curve,” he added.
The Met Office withdrew its long-term forecasts last March after predicting a “barbecue summer” which turned into a washout and a “mild winter” which turned in the Big Freeze in 2009.
It was also criticised for not giving a warning for the exceptionally cold start to winter in 2010.
Critics believe it has exaggerated the threat of global warming, although the predictions are backed up by world science and peer-reviewed journals.
Committee announce new inquiry into the Science in the Met Office
At its meeting on 18 July 2011 the Science and Technology Committee agreed to hold an inquiry into Science in the Met Office.
The Committee is focusing on the Met Office Public Weather Service remit and on its science strategy as set out in Met Office science strategy for 2010-2015.
Terms of Reference
The Committee seeks submissions on the following matters:
1. How effectively is the Met Office fulfilling its Public Weather Service remit?
2. Is the Met Office’s Science Strategy 2010-15 robust and achievable and how will the strategy help to deliver a better service?
3. What are the roles of the Met Office’s Chief Scientific Adviser and its other senior scientists? How do they provide comprehensive and up-to-date scientific advice?
4. How robust are the models used by the Met Office for weather forecasting, climate predictions, atmospheric dispersion and other activities?
5. How effectively does the Met Office coordinate its activities with government departments, non-departmental public bodies, the UK research base and its international counterparts?
The Public Weather Service remit
The Met Office outlines its core task as providing “a range of information under” under its the Public Weather Service remit which is to:
• produce weather forecasts which help the UK public make informed decisions about day-to-day activities;
• warn people of extreme weather to mitigate its impacts—contributing to the protection of life, property and infrastructure;
• improve weather and climate predictions through research;
• fulfil international commitments on behalf of the UK Government; and
• provide public access to historic weather information via our Library and Archive and climatological records.
Met Office science strategy for 2010-2015
Met Office science strategy for 2010-2015 “takes the new agenda of seamless science and prediction and focuses the Met Office research agenda around four major science challenges”:
(i) forecasting hazardous weather from hours to decades;
(ii) water cycle and quantitative precipitation forecasting on all scales;
(iii) monthly to decadal prediction in a changing climate; and
(iv) sensitivity of the Earth system to human activities.
The Prime Minister announced on 18 July 2011 that responsibility for the Met Office will pass from the Ministry of Defence to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Submitting written evidence
The Committee invites written submissions on these issues by noon on Wednesday 14 September 2011.