Is not the same. The recurring complaint against the weather woman or man in an elevator or bar for a wrong forecast can never be compared to the stark criticism of an entire state meteorology agency by the political class for not “fine-tuning” a forecast. The first is daily bread: the second, for many, is "recklessness" or "institutional disloyalty."
It has happened with the last DANA and Aemet is now responding to the criticism launched from the political sphere, as its predictions did not come true in the center of the city of Madrid. "With the same maps we would do the same again," says the spokesman for the State Meteorological Agency, Rubén del Campo.
Juanma Moreno, president of Andalusia, and the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, prominent leaders of the PP, did not bite their tongues on Sunday and Monday when charging against Aemet for considering that it had gone too far with its alerts , which turned on the red light for seven hours in the capital of Spain. Almeida, surely overwhelmed by the criticism received by those words, wanted to clarify yesterday that what he did was "reflect" and not "criticize."
How is the Aemet digesting this political storm that has reached the past bull? Rubén del Campo starts from a premise that should never be lost sight of: "This is not an exact science," he affirms. But it is becoming more and more precise, he adds, revealing that since 2006 "up to eight versions have been written, with modifications to the protocols used to report alerts to gain rigor."
The Aemet spokesman adds that the criticisms “are our particular Sambenito; they are inherent to our profession and the best way to defend ourselves is to be very didactic when explaining our work”.
That said, the Aemet spokesman is blunt when reiterating that if tomorrow the weather maps drew the same situation as last Sunday for the center of Madrid, "from the agency we would set the same alerts again."
It is admitted that the more than 120 liters per square meter in less than 12 hours predicted for that area in which five million people live did not fall when DANA changed its trajectory at the last moment. "But that does not mean that the announcement due to the risk of torrential rains was wrong," insists Rubén del Campo.
The Aemet has – that goes for those who have criticized it – a very clear premise: "We prefer to talk, as we do now, about something that could be and did not occur, than having to give explanations for something that was not foreseen and has happened says Del Campo.
And the SMS messages on phones recommending Madrid residents to stay at home? The Aemet spokesman responds, in this case, with another question: "And if thanks to that alarm people's lives have been saved, mainly in the west of Madrid, who locked themselves in their homes or among those citizens who planned to circulate at that time in that community and did they change their plans? We will never know, but it does not seem unreasonable to think so.
Of all the controversy generated by this matter, which was still kicking yesterday, Del Campo remains, more than with the criticism, "with the hundreds of signs of support, both from the political sphere and among citizens." These messages are appreciated at Aemet. "We also feel supported." It is proof that there is also understanding of the difficulty of a job "in which absolute certainty, unfortunately, does not yet exist."
The spokesman for the agency strives to be as didactic as possible, aware that this is the only way to understand the responsibility of his work – AEMET alerts can save lives – and the complexity of their application. He affirms that from Aemet nothing is improvised, nor are non-existent alerts invented.
"The protocols are very clear and force us to decree the alert level (yellow, orange or red) based on what the maps tell us," he stresses. And the prediction for last Sunday afternoon in the center of Madrid "forced the red alert", he repeats. The announced rain only moved a few kilometers. There is, therefore, no feeling of having been wrong.