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Piers Richard Corbyn (born 10 March 1947) is the owner of the business WeatherAction which claims to make accurate weather forecasts up to a year in advance.
- 1 Personal life
- 2 WeatherAction
- 3 Political activism
- 4 Student representation
- 5 Scientific papers
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Corbyn was born in Chippenham, Wiltshire and began recording weather and climate patterns at the age of five, constructing his own observation equipment. He obtained a first-class honours degree in physics at Imperial College London, where he was a contemporary of Brian May. In 1969 he became the first president of the Imperial College Students' Union to be directly elected by the student body. Following some years of activism, he studied astrophysics in 1979 at Queen Mary College, London, later examining the relationship between Earth's weather and climate and solar activity. Following some years of weather prediction as an occupation, he formed WeatherAction, a business, in 1995. He is the brother of Jeremy Corbyn, the British MP.
WeatherAction is the business through which Corbyn sells his predictions. He has in the past bet on these predictions. His betting attracted much interest in 1990, when his predictions of bad weather were met by a year of the "worst extremes".
WeatherAction was formerly listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) as 'Weather Action Holdings plc' in 1997, and was transferred back to private ownership in 1999, primarily because of sustaining increasing losses and the impact of costs related to listed status (around £70,000 annually) compared to annual revenues of £250,000. Corbyn reacquired the weather prediction business; the listed shell was taken over by investors and changed its name to 'InternetAction.com', with the intent of researching potential net-based takeover targets.
WeatherAction exited the Alternative Investment Market in 1999 after reported losses incurred during its time as a public company of £480,000 and its share price dropped from 79p a share to 24p.
Corbyn's predictions are based on what is called "The Solar Weather Technique." The technique "combines statistical analysis of over a century of historical weather patterns with clues derived from solar observations." He considers past weather patterns and solar observations and sun-earth magnetic connectivity. Conventional meteorology claims that such influences cause minimal impact on the Earth's atmosphere. Corbyn has declined to publish the details of his method.
Corbyn is also sceptical of the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming, and a dissenter in reports about the storms in Europe in 2000 and in Martin Durkin's documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle. Corbyn has stated that the anthropogenic contribution to global warming is minimal with any increase in temperature due to increased solar activity. In 2008 Corbyn went even further than being sceptical, and took an absolutist, certain position by stating, "... CO2 has never driven, does not drive and never will drive weather or climate. Global warming is over and it never was anything to do with CO2. CO2 is still rising but the world is now cooling and will continue to do so."
Evaluation of predictions
The only peer-reviewed work conducted involving Corbyn's work was published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics (2001). Its investigation was limited to Corbyn's 'likely damaging gale periods' predictions for the island of Britain for October 1995 to September 1997. Corbyn's enlisted work (carried out for a consortium of insurance companies) was only for the most likely periods of the strongest winds and specifically not a full forecast to include lesser winds:
- "Forecasts prepared by WeatherAction would repay further attention. The results provide little evidence to dismiss the observed success rates as being attributable to mere chance or good fortune. Indeed the balance of evidence indicates that the system performs better than chance although it is recognized that the margin of success differs greatly between the seasons and is lowest in winter when gales are most frequent."
- "This analysis has been wholly empirical in nature, seeking only to establish the success levels of the gale forecasts. Other aspects of the forecasts have not been considered in this evaluation. Inevitably however these results draw into the debate questions surrounding the methodology by which the forecasts are prepared. This is not, however, the arena in which such issues should be taken up."
Researchers also stated of Corbyn's predictions that:
- "It is unusual for most of the detail to be completely correct, but equally it is rare for nearly everything to be wrong ... Some forecasts are clearly very good, and a few are very poor, but the majority fall in the gray area in between, where an optimistic assessor would find merit, but a critical assessor would find fault."
More recently, a detailed analysis was carried out by an anonymous member of the public for the period May to October 2012 (with general comments on November) and found that there was a substantial amount of successful forecasting; in particular, two storms that occurred in September and November were forecast with a high degree of accuracy in both timing and substance.
Reliability of forecasts in 2007
Corbyn predicted, from 11 months ahead, two major storm periods for parts of the British Isles and much of Europe for November 2007. Specifically, on 17 October, Corbyn predicted “ferocious” weather and that hurricane force winds – gusting up to 130 mph as weather fronts gain in intensity – could wreak havoc across the country; and that the most severe weather event would take place during the last week of November, causing chaos. In the event, much of the weather was not exceptional for the time of year, and little or no damage was reported on the UK mainland in November.
Corbyn's 17 October predictions also included this: "From November 8 to 13 another system will batter the nation with winds of between 90mph to 110mph. While the worst affected areas will be Scotland and Northern Ireland it will still pack a hefty punch elsewhere". This prediction proved true and there were several emergency situations on both sides of the North Sea.   
Forecasts for 2008
At the end of 2007, WeatherAction predicted that temperatures in January could plummet to -17 °C in the Midlands, and that the average temperature for January would be close to freezing. This prediction was dismissed by the Met Office in a Guardian article on 2 January. After the January prediction proved false, Corbyn blamed the incorrect forecast on an undefined 'procedural error,' but insisted that the second half of the month, specifically the period of 21–27 January, would be very cold, stating on his website:
- "The period and forecast maps for the very cold ‘dipole’ patterns 15-21st Jan will probably be shifted later to 21st- 23rd Jan. Some exceptionally strong blizzard conditiuons (sic) and very strong cold winds are likely in this period. An ongoing similar situation with widespread heavy snow, strong winds and blizzards will continue 24th- 27th Jan."
The period 21–23 January continued very mild for the country as a whole, but with a brief colder interlude for Scotland and the far north of England, with some snow in the Highland and Pennine Mountain regions, not out of the ordinary for January. The Met Office run Hadley Centre had the Central England temperature (CET) from the 1–22 January running at 6.4 °C, or 2.8 °C above normal for the time of year. This made it highly unlikely that Corbyn's very cold January forecast would come to fruition.
The final CET for January 2008 ended up over 3 °C above the standard reference average, making the predictions for a cold January very poor. In fact it ended up being one of the warmest Januaries since records began.
In an article in Wired popular technology magazine entitled "The Fraudulent Business of Earthquake and Eruption Prediction", Erik Klemetti, an assistant professor of Geosciences at Denison University, accused Corbyn of "cherry picking" and said people who claimed to be able to forecast earthquakes were "faith healers of the geologic community and should be seen as such".
Response to media criticism
Following criticism of WeatherAction's forecasts in The Times and The Guardian, in particular from journalist Paul Simons, Piers Corbyn banned the use of any extracts of them in any articles unless they were approved by Corbyn. In addition, the above newspapers and any publication which carried articles by Paul Simons were also explicitly forbidden from quoting them.
Corbyn was a housing and squatters' rights activist in the North Paddington area of Westminster in the mid-1970s. In 1974 he fought for a seat on the council as a "Squatters and Tenants" candidate; in 1978 he and a colleague fought as 'Decent Housing' candidates. In the 1977 GLC election he was the International Marxist Group candidate for Lambeth Central. He and all the squatters in Elgin Avenue were - as a result of their campaign which included the building of barricades against eviction - rehoused to Southwark, South London, by the GLC in 1975. He later moved from that rehousing in Rust Square to the Alvey Estate in Southwark where he became a leader of the Tenants Association.
Global warming debate
Corbyn is well-known for his opposition to the idea of anthropogenic global warming. He writes about it on his website and appears on talk shows to discuss his views of the weaknesses of the argument for manmade global warming. Corbyn continues in this belief despite widespread scientific consensus that global warming is occurring due to human activity.
As president of Imperial College Union (ICU) between 1969 and 1970, Corbyn was successful in establishing a sabbatical union president, enabling the elected student leader to be registered at the college without having to study or pay fees (in fact they received a grant from the college and union).
As well as laying the foundations for the future, Corbyn negotiated a retrospective sabbatical for himself, although he appears to have served as union president after completing his studies.
Corbyn set up a short-lived Imperial College Representative Council, seats on which were distributed between members of the college on the basis of their numbers, a system that almost gave students a majority. The ICAUT, a staff union, refused to cooperate with this student-led initiative. Although this particular council did not survive, increased student representation on college boards and committees became, like the sabbatical president, a lasting success of Corbyn's time as ICU president.
Corbyn's dress has been viewed as being a statement against upper-class formality. Corbyn, together with the rector at the time, Lord Penney, received the Queen, when she opened a new administrative building in 1969, wearing a cravat, long hair and a beard for the occasion. During the visit Corbyn petitioned the Queen in front of 900 people, asking for students to be given greater say in the governance of the college.
His first papers were published as an undergraduate in the Royal Meteorological Society's magazine Weather discussing his brine-filled barometer; in the Journal of the British Astronomical Association for his home-based measurements of the eccentricity of the earth's orbit; and in the Geographical Journal (of the Royal Geographical Society) for a study on the size of pebbles along Chesil Beach.
- Wired: "Everyone Complains About the Weather... Piers Corbyn Is Doing Something About It." Tom Standage, February 1999. URL accessed 14 March 2007.
- Weather: The man who makes money out of sun-spots, The Independent, Oct 24, 1997.
- Haven't the foggiest? Read on, The Independent, Nov 22, 1998. Said to be listed "13 months" prior to publication, ie 1997.
- Atkinson, Dan (24 November 1999). "Weather goes private again". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- MacAlister, Terry (21 December 1999). "Netvest shows 500% return". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- WeatherAction: "WeatherAction" URL accessed 14 March 2007
- Black, Richard (2007-06-10). "'No Sun link' to climate change". BBC. Retrieved 2008-01-07.
- Helene Guldberg (29 December 2000). "global warnings?". Spiked Science. Retrieved 14 March 2007.
- The Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Vol 63, Issue 1, January 2001, p. 29-34:  URL accessed 19 August 2007.
- How Good Is He, Anyway? - Wired, Issue 7.02, Feb 1999
- Feedback - 15 April 1989 - New Scientist
- Rowan, Matthew (22 November 1998). "Haven't the foggiest? Read on - Business, News - The Independent". London: www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-11-20.
- Daily Express: "Killer Storms To Lash Britain" Jo Macfarlane, 17 October 2007. URL accessed 20 November 2007.
- UK Meteorological Office monthly assessment for November 2007
- Scotsman 8-Nov-2007."Commuters battle gale force winds"
- Sky News 9-Nov-2007."Tidal Flood Threat Forces Evacuations"
- Reuters. "Flood alerts issued for North Sea tidal surge"
- Guardian "http://www.guardian.co.uk/weather/Story/0,,2233967,00.html Prediction of -17 °C freeze cuts no ice with Met Office"
- "WeatherAction January forecast update http://www.weatheraction.com"
- BBC Weather summary for 21st January 2008 http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/ukweather/daily_review/news/21012008review.shtml
- Comments by Corbyn re earthquake activity
- "The fraudulent business of earthquake and eruption prediction".
- "WeatherAction home page". Retrieved 5 March 2008.
- Harrow Road ward election results
- GLC elections in Lambeth
- Response to BBC2 "Climate Wars" 2008.
- Piers Corbyn on The Alex Jones Show 2009
- The History of Imperial College London, 1907-2007, Hannah Gay, p. 437
- Gay, Hannah (2007). The History of Imperial College London, 1907–2007. London: Imperial College Press, 437, 477 and Illustration 102. ISBN 978-1-86094-708-7.
- Some of these results were reported in an edition of the science documentary series, "QED", entitled "Sunshine and Scattered Showers". This was broadcast on BBC1 on July 4, 1996 and featured Piers, WeatherAction and Julian Hunt (who was Chief Executive of the UK's Meteorological Office at the time)