Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 24 February 2018

Weather guru Ring still causing storm

Ronnie Bellew

HERE is the Ploughing Championships' weather forecast from Ken Ring: "Showers are expected on the 24th (today), but then skies should clear until the 29th. Maximum temperatures are expected to be around 17-19C, with overnight minimums under 13C."

Looking ahead, the New Zealander predicts that "this autumn may be looked back on as a mild one. Frosts should be relatively rare in both September and October. Widespread frosts are expected between November 4-8, and 18-21, followed by a downward plunge into sub-zeros in the last few days of November. December frosts are unlikely before the third week.

"October may be generally wet and windy with little or no useful dry spells. Most rain may be around the 5th, 11th, and 24th. Wettest conditions may be in the southeast and southwest and Dublin may be the driest. November is likely to be wet in the first five days, followed by mainly dry weather until the 14th, then more rain between the 18th and 24th. The first serious cold spell is in the last few days of November with the possibility of widespread snow on or near the last day."

It's a forecast that will have the staff in the Met Eireann tent at the Ploughing Championships raising their eyes to the heavens.

Few people annoy meteorologists, scientists and sceptics as much as Ring. The Kiwi forecasting maverick is regularly denounced as someone who indulges in bad science to peddle his almanacs and online forecasting services.

The standard line from Met Eireann and other scientists when confronted with evidence of Ring's apparent prescience is that it is impossible to accurately predict the weather more than a few days ahead; two weeks is the outside limit for long-range forecasts.

Every self-appointed long-range weather guru is bound to occasionally get it right, say the scientists. They add that Ring's forecasts are based on arcane theories completely at odds with the science of meteorology developed over the past 150 years.

Ring's supporters argue we should not mind the methods, but judge the man by his results.

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For example, since he began producing Irish weather almanacs, he has successfully predicted last July's heat wave and the severe winter of 2010.

In New Zealand, Ring – despite his army of critics – has a regular television weather slot, writes columns for farming and fishing publications and advises power companies, event organisers and agribusiness interests.

He says the organisers of the Melbourne Cup have consulted him, and claims that he was approached by a member of the All-Blacks backroom team in 2007 for forecasts to aid in selecting a 'horses for courses' team for specific match dates

A former maths teacher who began studying the weather 30 years ago, Ring's method is based on the observation of tidal, lunar and solar cycles and applying this data to historical weather patterns.

"I believe what I am doing is science that is rock solid," he says. "This science is the study of the moon, sun, planets, orbits, cycles, and past observations that can be extrapolated ahead. A scientist's brief is to look for patterns, identify them as cycles, and issue predictions from that. It is all my team are doing."

The geographic range for his daily forecasts is a radius of 50-60 miles which he says is "the range of acceptable error".

He adds that people buying his forecasts should treat rainfall, temperature and other figures as trends, rather than literal amounts. All forecasts should be viewed within a two- to three-day timeframe rather than conditions for a precise date.

"We got the trends correct for Ireland this year," he says. "These were a typical Irish winter, followed by a wet spring, with May bringing unusual cold spells, then a temperature rise in June suddenly escalating into summer at the start of July and then heat wave conditions around July 9, which fulfilled predictions made in January that the summer would be a scorcher. I believe we were the only forecast service to say so that far back.

"The only glitch was that we warned, due to our prediction of higher pressures in the last week of August, that temperatures might again reach close to 30C. Although the higher pressures straddled the country on cue, temperatures only reached around 23-25C. Our disclaimer has always pointed out that temperatures are controlled by the sun, and we have no instrumentation for measuring the sun nor do we have archived data."

Irish Independent