Weather forecasters reveal online abuse at the height of UK heatwave

Royal Meteorological Society members faced 'ridicule, accusations of lying or suggestions of being blackmailed'

Multiple fires broke out across the UK during the hot weather. Getty Images
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Online climate change sceptics abused UK meteorologists as they forecast this month's soaring temperatures that scorched the country and elsewhere in Europe.

Record temperatures — that exceeded 40°C in England — severely disrupted rail services and started numerous fires, including one that burnt down homes in London.

But critics accused forecasters of fearmongering and unnecessarily scaling up heat warnings.

BBC weather forecasters were among those in the firing line, with one saying the tone of abuse is becoming more intense.

Staff from UK national weather service the Met Office also suffered online attacks as they spread the message about rising temperatures.

“It's a more abusive tone than I've ever received. I switched off a bit from it all as it became too depressing to read some of the responses,” said BBC meteorologist matte Taylor.

Fellow BBC meteorologist Tomasz Schafernaker said: “What frustrates me most is when I'm accused of twisting the truth. As meteorologists, we report facts. There is no conspiracy.”

Members of the Royal Meteorological Society — founded in 1850 to promote academic and public engagement in weather and climate science — said they faced “public ridicule, accusations of lying or suggestions of being blackmailed”.

“Anecdotally, abusive comments increase when the message about climate change is intrinsic to the story,” chief executive Professor Liz Bentley said.

One sceptic alleged the real reason for the hot weather was an “aircraft dispersing substances that blocked the sun”.

Met Office lead meteorologist Alex Deakin hit back: “I find it more frustrating and offensive for my colleagues — some of the great minds in climate science.

“Show a bit of respect and do a bit more research rather than just believe Bob down the pub or Tony on YouTube.”

The Met Office has verified the new UK temperature record of 40.3°C at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, seen on July 19 during the heatwave.

New records were also confirmed for Wales of 37.1°C at Hawarden Airport, Flintshire, on July 18, and Scotland with 34.8°C at Charterhall, in the Borders, on July 19.

A team of international scientists found human-caused climate change made these record-breaking heatwave at least 10 times more likely.

The 10-fold increase is a conservative estimate, the researchers from the World Weather Attribution initiative said.

Mariam Zachariah, from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London, said: “Even with a conservative estimate, we see a large role of climate change in the UK heatwave.

“Under our current climate that has been altered by greenhouse gas emissions, many people are experiencing events during their lifetime that would have been almost impossible otherwise.”

The team added that while the searing heat, which saw temperatures peak above 40°C for the first time in the UK, is still a very rare occurrence in today’s climate, it would be “almost impossible” without global warming.

Updated: July 29, 2022, 6:24 PM
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