Oftentimes when I find myself browsing in what I shall call a gentleman’s outfitters I will be approached by a fellow shopper asking me where the ties are.

It’s my own fault – I tend to wear a black suit even when shopping, an ensemble which clearly marks me out as a shop assistant or store manager. I suppose if I had no morals and a working knowledge of cash registers I could furtively trouser a reasonable amount of cash.

People are readily led into identifying others as something that they are not. Put on a white coat  and carry a clipboard, and “research scientist” is the conclusion; or match the white coat with a stethoscope while lurking near a hospital and the assumption will naturally be that you are a doctor.

This is of course why department stores use the standard white coat to deck out their beauty product staff. It lends an ersatz scientific gravitas to hawking shampoo and cold cream.

The Milgram experiment took this to an extreme conclusion.

Something similar is happening these days in meteorology.  Anyone possessing the merest scintilla of an inkling of the subject — or even without a clue but touting some eccentric and misguided hypothesis — can present themselves as an expert in the field  through the simple expedient of throwing up a website and picking an exciting sounding name.

Thus armed they fall over each other to produce alarming forecasts at increasingly long range of a record-breakingly cold winter and a white Christmas; and they do it loudly, with a brazen certainty that is unquestioned by the credulous. No amount of incorrect foretelling, moreover, dampens the hubris.

It is unfortunate that sometimes those most unwilling or unable to see through these forecasters in white coats are the members of the press, who surely have a duty to check credentials before splashing a headline.

But in the absence of their bullshit filters we need to arch our own eyebrows and shout that the emperors have no clothes. Or at least no white coats.

Theo.

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