Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Great Forecasting failure

The wikipedia entry on the "great storm" of thirty years seems, to someone who lived through it, a fair and balanced account. One memory from that time is not confirmed by the wikipedia contributor, that a North Atlantic weather-ship (these were the days before detailed satellite data) had recently been retired and not replaced, thus reducing the number of points producing useful data. There is though a hint in the final paragraphs of the wiki entry, "The Met Office conducted an internal inquiry, scrutinised by two independent assessors, and a number of recommendations were made. Chiefly, observational coverage of the atmosphere over the ocean to the south and west of the UK was improved by increasing the quality and quantity of observations from ships, aircraft, buoys and satellites."

There are two other recollections of those times. That week I was working on a contract in England and on the morning of 16th October I woke up to find a fallen tree across the driveway of the B&B I was staying at. Some time after I had picked my way round it, it occurred to me that if the tree had fallen in the opposite direction it would have smashed through the window of the ground-floor room I was occupying.

The 15th October 1987 would also have been a great day for short-selling, because as communications crashed along with the power and telephone lines, investors deprived of information cashed in stocks in favour of gold and hard currency, leading to a big LSE fall.

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