A Driving Instructor's Blog

I saw this scaremongering story from ChoiceQuote – an online insurance website.

ATS Euromaster is advising all drivers to pre-order cold-weather tyres for protection against heavy snow and freezing temperatures. Roughly translated, this means “we don’t want to overstock, but we want to increase sales, too. So we’ll start early this year.” ATS goes on to say it could have sold last year’s stock several times over. Well, yes, because it didn’t have significant stocks (no UK supplier ever has – cold-weather tyres are a new fad over here) and the weather caught everyone out.

Then, they’ve got some weather forecaster predicting unsafe driving conditions…

…during what could be the worst winter on record.

The forecaster is from an organisation called Exacta. A quick look at their website reveals this:

Exacta Weather is a non-profit weather organisation that comprises a team of meteorologists from around the world, who share and supply their data and research with Exacta Weather. All the forecast information they provide is on a purely voluntary basis, they simply have a passion for weather and offer proven track records in accurate long range and seasonal weather forecasting. Exacta Weather will also bring you all the latest weather news from around the globe, which also currently includes long range weather forecasts for the UK, Northern Europe, and the USA.

[Paypal donation button here]

Exacta Weather is a FREE long range weather service that does not charge for forecasts or receive any government funding. Any donations towards operating costs will be highly appreciated.

The key elements here are a “passion” for the weather and the fact that they don’t receive any government funding. It means they’re no more likely to hit the mark than some crazy bloke with seaweed hanging up in his garage, and that they probably consist… of a bunch of crazy people with seaweed hanging up in their garages! I’m not sure if the “data” they obtain are from the organisations they work for (in which case those organisations and their supercomputers will be better able to use those data), or self-generated (back to the seaweed again).

So, in summary, it is two companies feathering their nests by gambling on something for which the outcome cannot be predicted, by scaremongering.

I have a prediction for the winter. It will be generally colder than summer, it might be wet, and it may or may not snow heavily at some point.

EDIT 31/8/2011: Someone wrote to me today to point out that Exacta is a reputable company which has “predicted the last two harsh winters accurately”.

I can’t find the old forecasts so I can’t really comment on those pertaining to the last two winters. Weather forecasters have a habit of making sure that their forecasts look right, and old ones that are wrong tend not to hang around for people to see. However, I did point out that one of their forecasters said of this summer:

It would be adequate to suggest below average temperatures in terms of how I calculate solar activity in my forecasts, so it looks like a summer of grey skies and damp weather, and it’s probably safe to say that there will be no BBQ summer again this year”.

I also issued a warning for torrential downpours and severe flooding.

As I pointed out to the reader, that could be ANY summer. And it’s debatable whether we have actually had a “summer of grey skies and damp weather”. Up this way, it’s been mild with few downpours, and there have been hot spells. Nothing at all like the summer we had three or four years ago – where it really did flood.

So, although I take his point, my scepticism of weather forecasting remains – and any suggestion of a forthcoming harsh winter stands a 50% chance of being right. O h yeah. And if the Met Office and NASA can’t get it 100% right, then no one can – no matter how well-meaning they are.

I also maintain my original stance: that ATS – a major supplier of tyres in the UK – has its own interests at heart.

EDIT 30/9/2011: It has been absolutely bloody boiling these last three days – records being broken for the time of year – and it looks like continuing for several days yet. That certainly didn’t appear in any of the long-range forecasts while they were still long range. However, I note that the information is creeping in as part of those forecasts now we’re actually experiencing it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone claimed next year that it was forecast.

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