HC Deb 27 February 1963 vol 672 cc1233-4
7. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the reliable forecasts put out by United States weather forecasts of British weather in January, he will seek guidance from United States forecasters as to the possibility of predicting any severe weather conditions next winter.

Mr. H. Fraser

The Meteorological Office has close contact with the United States Weather Bureau.

The weather bureau considers that its 30-day predictions have shown "some modest success", but warns users that too much weight should not be given to one forecast, particularly for a specific area.

Experience over a number of years has not so far shown that these "Outlooks" for the Northern Hemisphere as a whole can be relied on as a guide to forthcoming weather in this country, which lies in an area of particularly variable weather.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the 30-day forecasts issued by the Americans for these islands for December, January and February have been remarkably accurate? As I understand that the Meteorological Office produces 30-day forecasts for its own use, would it not be a good thing for it to produce, next October or November, a similar 30-day forecast for this country to give us warning should another severe winter be threatened?

Mr. Fraser

I wish I could, but one must be cautious about these things. If one takes a wider range of statistics one finds that of 108 cases of United States outlooks checked on London data, 32 proved correct. We are, therefore, at the moment at the stage of improving the system, but the present method of long-range forecasting is by no means perfect. It may have been a fluke but certainly it was extraordinarily accurate over the last cold spell.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in view of the great service rendered by the men engaged in this work, questions of this character are to be deprecated?

Mr. Eden

Is there a British weather satellite programme in being? If not, why not and what are we waiting for?

Mr. Fraser

There are better ways of spending money. I agree that there should be other satellite programmes in being, but I feel that we are still being well served by the weather ships and other methods of collecting the information.

Mr. Money

Before we get involved in a discussion on the sort of weather we may expect next winter, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us, from his expert advice, when the present winter will come to an end?

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