Warm Bias: How The Met Office Mislead The British Public

Source:  The Global Warming Policy Foundation

CCNet – 20 December 2010

Children just aren’t going to know what snow is. –Dr David Viner, Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, 20 March 2000

Why did the Met Office forecast a “mild winter”? –Boris Johnson, Major of London, The Daily Telegraph, 20 December 2010

December 2010 is “almost certain” to be the coldest since records began in 1910, according to the Met Office. –The Independent, 18 December 2010

The Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, is seeking the opinion of the chief scientific adviser about whether the government should be planning for more severe winters in future. – BBC News, 19 December 2010

The Met Office, using data generated by a £33million supercomputer, claims Britain can stop worrying about a big freeze this year because we could be in for a milder winter than in past years. The new figures, which show a 60 per cent to 80 per cent chance of warmer-than-average temperatures this winter, were ridiculed last night by independent forecasters. Positive Weather Solutions senior forecaster Jonathan Powell said: “It baffles me how the Met Office can predict a milder-than-average winter when all the indicators show this winter will have parallels to the last one. “They are standing alone here, as ourselves and other independent forecasters are all predicting a colder-than-average winter. –Nathan Reo, Daily Express, 28 October 2010

One reason we have been so unprepared for the past three winters has been the obsession of our government and other authorities with global warming. They kept listening to climate change campaigners warning that  Britain will heat up four or five degrees and believed we would never have cold weather again. They wrote reports suggesting ways of coping with heatwaves such as planting palm trees to keep the pavements cool but ignored the threat of snow and ice. -–Ross Clark, Daily Express, 3 December 2010

Despite the cold winter this year, the trend to milder and wetter winters is expected to continue, with snow and frost becoming less of a feature in the future. The famously cold winter of 1962/63 is now expected to occur about once every 1,000 years or more, compared with approximately every 100 to 200 years before 1850.Peter Stott, Climate Scientist at the Met Office, 25 February 2009

For quite some time, I’ve harbored the suspicion that both the popular science and the political activity that create and sustain the belief in Global Warmingism are informed by a retrogressively pagan mindset. No matter what the weather is like, it always turns out to be exactly the kind of weather we should expect if human activity were causing global temperatures to rise. — Jared Olar, Echo Pilot, 17 December 2010

A period of humility and even silence would be particularly welcome from the Met Office, our leading institutional advocate of the perils of man-made global warming, which had promised a “barbecue summer” in 2009 and one of the “warmest winters on record”. –Dominic Lawson, The Sunday Times, 10 January 2010

1) Warm Bias: How The Met Office Mislead The British Public – The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 18 December 2010

2) Winter To Be Mild Predicts Met Office – Daily Express, 28 October 2010

3) Snow: Why Britain Has Been Brought To A Standstill Again – Daily Express, 3 December 2010

4) Boris Johnson: Why Did Met Office Get It Wrong Yet Again? – The Daily Telegraph, 20 December 2010

5) UK Government Begins To Shift Freeze Blame Onto Science Community – BBC News, 19 December 2010

6) Christopher Booker: Chris Huhne Has A Blueprint For A Green, Cold, Dark Britain – The Sunday Telegraph, 19 December 2010

7) Jared Olar: A Pagan Mindset Informs Global Warmingism – Echo Pilot, 17 December 2010

8) And Finally: Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past – The Independent, 20 March 2000

1) Warm Bias: How The Met Office Mislead The British Public

The Global Warming Policy Foundation, 18 December 2010

  1. Met Office 2008 Forecast: Trend of Mild Winters Continues

Met Office, 25 September 2008: The Met Office forecast for the coming winter suggests it is, once again, likely to be milder than average. It is also likely that the coming winter will be drier than last year.

Reality Check: Winter of 2008/09 Coldest Winter For A Decade

Met Office, March 2009: Mean temperatures over the UK were 1.1 °C below the 1971-2000 average during December, 0.5 °C below average during January and 0.2 °C above average during February. The UK mean temperature for the winter was 3.2 °C, which is 0.5 °C below average, making it the coldest winter since 1996/97 (also 3.2 °C).

  1. 1. Met Office 2009 Forecast: Trend To Milder Winters To Continue, Snow And Frost Becoming Less Of A Feature

Met Office, 25 February 2009: Peter Stott, Climate Scientist at the Met Office, said: “Despite the cold winter this year, the trend to milder and wetter winters is expected to continue, with snow and frost becoming less of a feature in the future.

“The famously cold winter of 1962/63 is now expected to occur about once every 1,000 years or more, compared with approximately every 100 to 200 years before 1850.”

Reality Check: Winter Of 2009/10 Coldest Winter For Over 30 Years

Met Office, 1 March 2010: Provisional figures from the Met Office show that the UK winter has been the coldest since 1978/79. The mean UK temperature was 1.5 °C, the lowest since 1978/79 when it was 1.2 °C.

  1. 1. Met Office July 2010: Climate Change Gradually But Steadily Reducing Probability Of Severe Winters In The UK

Ross Clark, Daily Express, 3 December 2010: ONE of the first tasks for the team conducting the Department for Transport’s “urgent review” into the inability of our transport system to cope with snow and ice will be to interview the cocky public figure who assured breakfast TV viewers last month that “I am pretty confident we will be OK” at keeping Britain moving this winter. They were uttered by Transport secretary Philip Hammond himself, who just a fortnight later is already being forced to eat humble pie… If you want a laugh I recommend reading theResilience Of England’s Transport Systems In Winter, an interim report by the DfT published last July. It is shockingly complacent. Rather than look for solutions to snow-induced gridlock the authors seem intent on avoiding the issue. The Met Office assured them “the effect of climate change is to gradually but steadily reduce the probability of severe winters in the UK”.

  1. Met Office 2010 Forecast: Winter To Be Mild Predicts Met Office

Daily Express, 28 October 2010: IT’S a prediction that means this may be time to dig out the snow chains and thermal underwear. The Met Office, using data generated by a £33million supercomputer, claims Britain can stop worrying about a big freeze this year because we could be in for a milder winter than in past years… The new figures, which show a 60 per cent to 80 per cent chance of warmer-than-average temperatures this winter, were ridiculed last night by independent forecasters. The latest data comes in the form of a December to February temperature map on the Met Office’s website.

Reality Check: December 2010 “Almost Certain” To Be Coldest Since Records Began

The Independent, 18 December 2010: December 2010 is “almost certain” to be the coldest since records began in 1910, according to the Met Office.

Met Office Predicted A Warm Winter. Cheers Guys

John Walsh, The Independent, 19 January 2010: Some climatologists hint that the Office’s problem is political; its computer model of future weather behaviour habitually feeds in government-backed assumptions about climate change that aren’t borne out by the facts. To the Met Office, the weather’s always warmer than it really is, because it’s expecting it to be, because it expects climate change to wreak its stealthy havoc. If it really has had its thumb on the scales for the last decade, I’m afraid it deserves to be shown the door.

A Frozen Britain Turns The Heat Up On The Met Office

Paul Hudson, BBC Weather, 9 January 2010: Which begs other, rather important questions. Could the model, seemingly with an inability to predict colder seasons, have developed a warm bias, after such a long period of milder than average years? Experts I have spoken to tell me that this certainly is possible with such computer models. And if this is the case, what are the implications for the Hadley centre’s predictions for future global temperatures? Could they be affected by such a warm bias? If global temperatures were to fall in years to come would the computer model be capable of forecasting this?

A Period Of Humility And Silence Would Be Best For Met Office

Dominic Lawson, The Sunday Times, 10 January 2010: A period of humility and even silence would be particularly welcome from the Met Office, our leading institutional advocate of the perils of man-made global warming, which had promised a “barbecue summer” in 2009 and one of the “warmest winters on record”. In fact, the Met still asserts we are in the midst of an unusually warm winter — as one of its staffers sniffily protested in an internet posting to a newspaper last week: “This will be the warmest winter in living memory, the data has already been recorded. For your information, we take the highest 15 readings between November and March and then produce an average. As November was a very seasonally warm month, then all the data will come from those readings.”

2) WINTER TO BE MILD PREDICTS MET OFFICE

Daily Express, 28 October 2010

By Nathan Reo

IT’S a prediction that means this may be time to dig out the snow chains and thermal underwear.

The Met Office, using data generated by a £33million supercomputer, claims Britain can stop worrying about a big freeze this year because we could be in for a milder winter than in past years.

But this is the same equipment used to produce recent official seasonal forecasts – before those bulletins were axed in March after a string of much-criticised blunders.

These calamities included predicting a “BBQ summer” before the 2009 washout and then claiming there was only a one in seven chance of a chilly winter last year before the coldest few months for 31 years. And the new figures, which show a 60 per cent to 80 per cent chance of warmer-than-average temperatures this winter, were ridiculed last night by independent forecasters. The latest data comes in the form of a December to February temperature map on the Met Office’s website.

The eastern half of England, Cornwall, Scotland and Northern Ireland is in for temperatures above the 3.7C (38.6F) average, more than 2C warmer than last winter.

The map also shows a 40 per cent to 60 per cent probability that western England and Wales will be warmer than 3.7C (38.6F), with a much smaller chance of average or below-average temperatures.

But other experts maintain we are in for another big freeze. Positive Weather Solutions senior forecaster Jonathan Powell said: “It baffles me how the Met Office can predict a milder-than-average winter when all the indicators show this winter will have parallels to the last one.

“They are standing alone here, as ourselves and other independent forecasters are all predicting a colder-than-average winter.

“It will be interesting to see how predictions by the government-funded Met Office compare with independent forecasters.”

The Met Office figures are generated using historical weather patterns and long-term climate data.

Helen Chivers, Met Office forecaster, insisted the temperature map takes into account the influence of climate factors such as El Nino and La Nina – five-yearly climatic patterns that affect the weather – but admits this is only a “start point” for a seasonal forecast. She said: “The map shows probabilities of temperatures in months ahead compared to average temperatures over a 30-year period.

“Forecasters produced seasonal forecasts by using the computer projection combined with values for changes in factors after October.

“Forecasts like this are never simple but the data system is really useful and has made successful forecasts for other parts of the world.”

The IBM supercomputer, unveiled in May 2009 and 90 per cent funded by Government, has 15 million megabytes of memory and can make 125 trillion calculations every second.

3) SNOW: WHY BRITAIN HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO A STANDSTILL AGAIN

Daily Express, 3 December 2010

By Ross Clark

ONE of the first tasks for the team conducting the Department for Transport’s “urgent review” into the inability of our transport system to cope with snow and ice will be to interview the cocky public figure who assured breakfast TV viewers last month that “I am pretty confident we will be OK” at keeping Britain moving this winter.

They were uttered by Transport secretary Philip Hammond himself, who just a fortnight later is already being forced to eat humble pie.

He should consider himself the lucky one. There was no steaming hot pie on offer to the hundreds of rail passengers stuck on trains overnight and abandoned on railway platforms as virtually the entire rail system into Kent and Sussex shut down.

There was little cheer either for passengers stranded at Gatwick and Edinburgh airports, or those stuck in their cars on blocked roads.

I shan’t be waiting with bated breath for publication of the latest review into our fair weather transport system. Government reports have a habit of arriving at far more reliable intervals than the buses and trains. We have already two Department for Transport (DfT) reports in as many years on the failure to cope with the past two winters.

If you want a laugh I  recommend reading the Resilience Of England’s Transport Systems In Winter, an interim report by the DfT published last July. It is shockingly complacent. Rather than look for solutions to snow-induced gridlock the authors seem intent on avoiding the issue. The Met Office assured them “the effect of climate change is to gradually but steadily reduce the probability of severe winters in the UK”.

They then quote an opinion poll commissioned by councils which found “57 per cent agree that Britain rarely sees weather events as severe as those of 2009/10 and that it would be inappropriate to spend more money preparing”.

How reassuring that must have seemed in July. I suggest they send their opinion pollsters back and ask the public again now, preferably starting with cold and angry rail passengers. Bizarrely, given that one of the authors employed to write the report was Chris Green, former chief executive of Virgin Railways, it hardly mentions railways or airports. [...]

As the DfT’s last report affirms one reason we have been so unprepared for the past three winters has been the obsession of our government and other authorities with global warming. They kept listening to climate change campaigners warning that  Britain will heat up four or five degrees and believed we would never have cold weather again.

They wrote reports suggesting ways of coping with heatwaves such as planting palm trees to keep the pavements cool but ignored the threat of snow and ice.

If global warming is happening – and the clear downwards trend in temperatures in  Britain over the past three years certainly doesn’t add to the evidence – it is a pretty slow process and one which a rich country such as Britain ought to have little difficulty coping with.

The snow and ice by contrast are here now. They are stopping people getting to school and work. It is time our authorities shook off their can’t-do attitude and started investing in the means to do what much colder countries seem to achieve effortlessly: keeping the nation moving.

Daily Express, 3 December 2010

4) Boris Johnson: Why Did Met Office Get It Wrong Yet Again?

The Daily Telegraph, 20 December 2010

Let me seize this brief gap in the aerial bombardment to pose a question that is bugging me. Why did the Met Office forecast a “mild winter”?

Well, folks, it’s tea-time on Sunday and for anyone involved in keeping people moving it has been a hell of a weekend. Thousands have had their journeys wrecked, tens of thousands have been delayed getting away for Christmas; and for those Londoners who feel aggrieved by the performance of any part of our transport services, I can only say that we are doing our level best.

Almost the entire Tube system was running yesterday and we would have done even better if it had not been for a suicide on the Northern Line, and the temporary stoppage that these tragedies entail. Of London’s 700 bus services, only 50 were on diversion, mainly in the hillier areas. On Saturday, we managed to keep the West End plentifully supplied with customers, and retailers reported excellent takings on what is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

We have kept the Transport for London road network open throughout all this. We have about 90,000 tons of grit in stock, and the gritters were out all night to deal with this morning’s rush. And yet we have to face the reality of the position across the country.

It is no use my saying that London Underground and bus networks are performing relatively well – touch wood – when Heathrow, our major international airport, is still effectively closed two days after the last heavy snowfall; when substantial parts of our national rail network are still struggling; when there are abandoned cars to be seen on hard shoulders all over the country; and when yet more snow is expected today, especially in the north.

In a few brief hours, we are told, the snowy superfortresses will be above us again, bomb bays bulging with blizzard. It may be that in the next hours and days we have to step up our de-icing, our gritting and our shovelling. So let me seize this brief gap in the aerial bombardment to pose a question that is bugging me. Why did the Met Office forecast a “mild winter”?

Do you remember? They said it would be mild and damp, and between one degree and one and a half degrees warmer than average. Well, I am now 46 and that means I have seen more winters than most people on this planet, and I can tell you that this one is a corker.

Never mind the record low attained in Northern Ireland this weekend. I can’t remember a time when so much snow has lain so thickly on the ground, and we haven’t even reached Christmas. And this is the third tough winter in a row. Is it really true that no one saw this coming?

Actually, they did. Allow me to introduce readers to Piers Corbyn, meteorologist and brother of my old chum, bearded leftie MP Jeremy. Piers Corbyn works in an undistinguished office in Borough High Street. He has no telescope or supercomputer. Armed only with a laptop, huge quantities of publicly available data and a first-class degree in astrophysics, he gets it right again and again.

Back in November, when the Met Office was still doing its “mild winter” schtick, Corbyn said it would be the coldest for 100 years. Indeed, it was back in May that he first predicted a snowy December, and he put his own money on a white Christmas about a month before the Met Office made any such forecast. He said that the Met Office would be wrong about last year’s mythical “barbecue summer”, and he was vindicated. He was closer to the truth about last winter, too.

Full comment

5) UK Government Begins To Shift Freeze Blame Onto Science Community

BBC News, 19 December 2010

The Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, is seeking the opinion of the chief scientific adviser about whether the government should be planning for more severe winters in future.

The Christmas travel plans of [hundreds of] thousands of Britons are in disarray after snow left Heathrow Airport all but shut.

Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson has said the government was not adequately prepared for the bad weather.

Mr Hammond told the BBC that he wanted to look at the government’s long-term strategy on dealing with the UK’s winters.

6) Christopher Booker: Chris Huhne Has A Blueprint For A Green, Cold, Dark Britain

The Sunday Telegraph, 19 December 2010

The government’s new energy policy will lead to widespread power cuts and economic disaster, says Christopher Booker

As much of the northern hemisphere last week froze under the snows of the fourth unusually cold winter in a row, our ministers, led by David Cameron and Chris Huhne, the Climate Change Secretary, laid out a blueprint that promises to inflict on Britain a social and economic catastrophe unique in the world. They chose this moment to announce what Mr Huhne called “a seismic shift” in Britain’s energy policy, the purpose of which, according to Mr Cameron, is to replace our “clapped-out” electricity supplies by making Britain “the greenest economy in the world”.

The chief driving force of the policy is the EU’s requirement that, within 10 years, 30 per cent of our electricity must come from renewables, mainly through thousands more wind turbines. This would be so expensive that the Government accepts it could only be made economical by massively rigging the market against any form of electricity derived from fossil fuels, such as the coal and gas which were last week supplying more than 80 per cent of our electricity. By a complex new system of regulations, including what in effect will be a tax of £27 a ton on CO2 emissions, the Government thus hopes to make renewables “competitive” with conventional power.

In addition, it will in effect make it impossible to replace the coal-fired power stations that will be forced to close in the next few years under an EU directive, while proposing a hidden subsidy to any new nuclear power stations.

(Although, since the EU does not count carbon-free nuclear power as “renewable”, this may well fall foul of its ban on state aid.) All this, Mr Huhne assures us, might lead to a modest rise of £160 a year in the average household energy bill, but in the long run it will make electricity cheaper than if he had not intervened.

So riddled with wishful thinking and contradictions are these proposals that one scarcely knows where to begin. For a start, even if we could hope to build enough windmills to provide, say, 25 per cent of our electricity (10 times the current proportion), this would require not the 10,000 turbines the Government talks of, but more like 25,000, costing well over £200 billion, plus another £100 billion to connect them up to the grid.

At least the Government admits for the first time that the wind doesn’t always blow; so it proposes a Capacity Mechanism to subsidise the building of dozens of gas-fired power stations, to be kept running all the time, emitting CO2, just to provide instant back-up for when the wind drops. More than once on these recent cold, windless days, the contribution of wind to our electricity needs has been as low as 0.1 per cent – so the back-up to all those turbines will cost billions more, doing much to negate any CO2 savings from the turbines when they work.

It does not take long to estimate that the capital cost of Mr Huhne’s new energy policy could well be more than £300 billion over 10 years, or £30 billion a year. Since the total wholesale cost of the electricity we used last year was only around £19 billion, this alone would be well on the way to tripling our bills by 2020.

When Mr Cameron talks of wanting to replace our “clapped-out” power supplies, what he should have had in mind was the need to meet the terrifying shortfall due in a few years’ time when we lose those older nuclear and coal-fired power stations which currently suppply 40 per cent of our needs. In a sane world, the Government would be planning to get that infrastructure replaced as a matter of the highest national priority, at a cost of around £100 billion. Instead, it puts forward an incoherent farrago of uncosted policies which, even if they could be put into practice, would cost three times as much, paid for by all of us through our already soaring energy bills. They include no practical proposals to meet that fast-looming energy gap, without which, within five years, we face the prospect of wholesale power cuts, bringing much of Britain’s economy to a halt.

No other country in the world has an energy policy so utterly mad and unworkable. Yet all our major political parties are equally locked into the same self-deceiving bubble of unreality. Any final hope that we might be saved from this absurdly unnecessary disaster seemed last week to vanish, even as the ice and the snow closed in.

The Sunday Telegraph, 19 December 2010

7) Jared Olar: A Pagan Mindset Informs Global Warmingism

Echo Pilot, 17 December 2010

Well then, I would say that pretty much confirms it. For quite some time, I’ve harbored the suspicion that both the popular science and the political activity that create and sustain the belief in Global Warmingism are informed by a retrogressively pagan mindset.

It’s not just that the quasi-religious, pseudo-scientific “Gaia hypothesis” — the belief, taking its name from the pagan Greek goddess of the Earth, that the sum of the parts of the Earth’s ecosystems together make up a living thing — is popular in certain environmentalist circles.

No, the basis for my suspicion is, in large part, the irrational and superstitious way Global Warmingism proponents and adherents react to any kind of extreme weather as evidence that modern economic and scientific activity is making global temperatures unnaturally rise.

If it’s a drought, or a long spell of hot and dry weather, they think we must be doing something to nudge up the Earth’s thermostat. If it’s a nasty hurricane or a notably destructive line of tornados, it’s our fault for driving SUVs. If riverside communities get flooded, that’s also the result of global warming. And if we get an unusually harsh and lengthy winter, yes, that, too, is proof that the Earth is getting warmer.

The Global Warmingists have covered all their bases. No matter what the weather is like, it always turns out to be exactly the kind of weather we should expect if human activity were causing global temperatures to rise.

The natural sciences have terms for that kind of hypothesis. “Unfalsifiable” is one of them. “Unscientific” is another. An idea may be true, but if it is incapable of being “falsified” or proven wrong, then whatever else that idea is, it certainly isn’t science.

Another thing that feeds my suspicion that a pagan mindset informs Global Warmingism are the steady and consistent calls for sacrifice — even human sacrifice — to ward off the threatened catastrophes.

I’m not opposed to moderation and frugality, and we certainly should put aside our avaricious and materialistic ways. Sacrifice, too, is virtuous and meritorious, as long as it is voluntary and sincere.

But the Global Warmingists seem more intent on making others sacrifice than in making big, painful changes in their own lives (yes, Al Gore, I’m talking to you).

More to the point, I can’t help but suspect that these calls for sacrifice are, like the Gaia hypothesis, quasi-religious in nature, and at times plainly religious.

Like the pagans of old thought they could appease the angry gods or win their favor through sacrificing the things most dear to them — their livestock, and if that didn’t work, human beings, even their own children — so it appears that Global Warmingism demands that we sacrifice. And it’s not really sacrifice because it’s moral or sensible or good for us, but sacrifice to appease the offended ecosphere.

It’s the old, old thought process of: “Bad things are happening and we don’t know why. How can we stop these things? How do we control what we don’t understand? We must be to blame. We must do something, anything, to make amends.”

It doesn’t matter that our efforts don’t have any demonstrable connection to the problem, or that they don’t do a thing to improve our situation but instead cause even more harm. All that matters is that we do something, and the bigger and more painful it is the better.

And so it was that the United Nations, having figured out that it’s bad for propaganda to engage in handwringing over global warming during a Scandinavian behemoth of a blizzard (like they did last time), gathered this winter month in balmy Cancun, Mexico — and once again failed to reach a binding international agreement on which of us should sacrifice and how much.

They failed despite opening their meeting with (I kid you not) religious rites invoking the supernatural assistance of an ancient Mayan jaguar goddess.

Yes, I would say that pretty much confirms it.

Echo Pilot, 17 December 2010

8) And Finally: Snowfalls Are Now Just A Thing Of The Past

The Independent, 20 March 2000

By Charles Onians

Britain’s winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain’s culture, as warmer winters – which scientists are attributing to global climate change – produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

The first two months of 2000 were virtually free of significant snowfall in much of lowland Britain, and December brought only moderate snowfall in the South-east. It is the continuation of a trend that has been increasingly visible in the past 15 years: in the south of England, for instance, from 1970 to 1995 snow and sleet fell for an average of 3.7 days, while from 1988 to 1995 the average was 0.7 days. London’s last substantial snowfall was in February 1991.

Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community. Average temperatures in Britain were nearly 0.6°C higher in the Nineties than in 1960-90, and it is estimated that they will increase by 0.2C every decade over the coming century. Eight of the 10 hottest years on record occurred in the Nineties.

However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

“Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

The effects of snow-free winter in Britain are already becoming apparent. This year, for the first time ever, Hamleys, Britain’s biggest toyshop, had no sledges on display in its Regent Street store. “It was a bit of a first,” a spokesperson said.

Fen skating, once a popular sport on the fields of East Anglia, now takes place on indoor artificial rinks. Malcolm Robinson, of the Fenland Indoor Speed Skating Club in Peterborough, says they have not skated outside since 1997. “As a boy, I can remember being on ice most winters. Now it’s few and far between,” he said.

Michael Jeacock, a Cambridgeshire local historian, added that a generation was growing up “without experiencing one of the greatest joys and privileges of living in this part of the world – open-air skating”.

Warmer winters have significant environmental and economic implications, and a wide range of research indicates that pests and plant diseases, usually killed back by sharp frosts, are likely to flourish. But very little research has been done on the cultural implications of climate change – into the possibility, for example, that our notion of Christmas might have to shift.

Professor Jarich Oosten, an anthropologist at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, says that even if we no longer see snow, it will remain culturally important.

“We don’t really have wolves in Europe any more, but they are still an important part of our culture and everyone knows what they look like,” he said.

David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire, says ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow. Via the internet, they might wonder at polar scenes – or eventually “feel” virtual cold.

Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. “We’re really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time,” he said.

The chances are certainly now stacked against the sortof heavy snowfall in cities that inspired Impressionist painters, such as Sisley, and the 19th century poet laureate Robert Bridges, who wrote in “London Snow” of it, “stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying”.

Not any more, it seems.

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