If you were to believe an announcement made on 17 April by Piers Corbyn, you would certainly be taking note of the old saying "ne'er cast a clout til May is out", for the unorthodox weather forecaster has recently made the dire pronouncement that "The coldest or near coldest May for 100 years" will shortly befall central and eastern England. His gloomy prognostications state that there will be "a record run of bitter Northerly winds. Snow at times especially on high ground in NE/East. Spring put in reverse."
Corbyn's rather awkward and admonitory style of writing almost brings to mind a Nostradamus quatrain, and his forecasts could well be founded upon methods just as spurious. The contrarian weather forecaster has many devotees who swear by the accuracy of his predictions, and who also in equal measure tend to rubbish conventional forecasts produced by the Met Office. Corbyn is an astrophysicist who has for a number of years made a living through the sale of his forecasts which are said to be based upon his unique (but methodologically unexplained) "solar-lunar" method. Although Corbyn often provides very precise dates for his forecasts, the nature of the meteorological phenomena predicted tends not to be quantified, with the general descriptive language used by Corbyn thereby being not only inexact, but providing a useful get out clause should his forecasts prove to be wrong. His fans remember when his forecasts (roughly) coincide with conditions, and conveniently forget the many times when they do not. He is certainly an effective publicist, for both The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail have published pieces on his "coldest May" forecast, but have refrained from linking this to a rebuttal of mainstream climate science, although the comments sections show that their readers have not been coy about voicing such a sentiment.
In October and early November 2011 Corbyn made dire predictions relating to what he claimed would be another exceptionally cold winter in Britain, but this never materialised, with Corbyn blaming an unexpected "solar filament" for throwing his forecast off kilter. In England the winter of 2011-2012 proved to be warmer than average. So, with him having once again stuck his neck out with respect to our weather next month, it will be interesting to see what transpires. For the sake of British fruit growers, let's hope that his latest forecast turns out to be nothing more than (please forgive the inappropriate expression) hot air. Lord Summerisle would not be pleased were his crops to be blasted by chill May winds. Whatever happens, May will probably fail to live up to our expectations in one way or another, leading to grumbling about cold, drought, heat, rain, hail or wind. What can be predicted for certainty is that the British obsession with the weather will continue, and that advocates of climate change and its opponents will employ the perfectly natural variability in our weather as evidence for or against their respective positions.