Met Office fears Brexit would damage its climate models

UK weather agency’s chief scientist warns funding cuts on leaving EU would affect the quality of its long-term forecasts

(Flickr/Toshiyuki IMAI)

(Flickr/Toshiyuki IMAI)

By Alex Pashley

Leaving the European Union would diminish the Met Office’s global warming predictions, according to its chief scientist.

Brexit would deprive one of the world’s leading forecasters of important research grants and undermine collaboration with the continent, Dame Julia Slingo said on Thursday.

“We… benefit enormously from being in the EU in terms of research funding that we can bring in to actually accelerate the quality of the models and quality of advice that we give,” she told an event at the UK’s national academy of science in London.

Climate change knows “no political boundaries”, Sligo added.

“The more we can be integrated in how we view what our science needs and our policy needs and our understanding of the risks that we face from climate change, I think the better our response will be, so you can probably tell where I sit [on Brexit].”

Met Office: 2016 to be hottest year on record
A climate scientist speaks: ‘It’s a bit complicated’

Britain is set to vote on its future – in or out of the EU – by the end of the 2017, leading to welter of uncertainty on future policy decisions.

The 155-year-old Met Office works closely with partner agencies in Europe, the United States and Australia to crunch the probabilities of extreme weather in a warming world.

Around 200 staff work on climate research, contributing to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports and the UK government’s influential Stern Review in 2006.

Brexit casts doubt on those jobs just as Australia is cutting climate research jobs at its national science agency.

The Met Office received £2.3 million in EU funding in 2014, a spokesperson told Climate Home. Its revenue for the same period was £220.8m, it said.

The Exeter-based agency’s £120 million (US$170m) budget for 2014/15 is almost entirely provided by UK government funding and receipts from the aviation sector.

The office, in turn, pays out £51.2m as part of international commitments to meteorological centres, some of which goes to the EU’s satellite agency EUMETSAT and medium-range weather forecaster, ECMWF.

The UK’s top climate change envoy Sir David King described the Met Office as the country’s “jewel in the crown”, and whose modelling of future climate impacts was “the best in the world”.

British science was “extraordinarily strong” in part due to the money it received from EU grants and attracted “top rate research academics” due to free mobility through the 28-member bloc. “If we lose out on that’s a real disbenefit,” he said.

Last year was the hottest on record, according to the Met Office, due to greenhouse gas emissions and a strong El Nino. 2016 could be warmer still, it projected.

Updated with total funding received from EU

Read more on: Climate Science | UN climate talks