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Somerset Floods – February Update

February 13, 2014

By Paul Homewood

 

 

 

I have been waiting to update the situation with regard to the flooding of the Somerset Levels. I had hoped to include the rainfall data for the local station at Yeovilton, but the Met Office still have not issued them yet. I have chased, but they say, understandably, they are too busy at the moment.

However, we can look at the numbers for the region, SW England & S Wales.

 

image

 

Let’s just recap the background. The problems started with heavy rainfall in the 2nd week of December, after a much drier than normal November. (The Levels are marked on the map below in red – to the best that my limited artistic talents allow!)

At the local station of Yeovilton, about 20 miles south, Met Office figures show that rainfall in November was 23% lower than normal. Given this, and the dry summer, river levels should have pretty low as December started.

 

2013_11_Rainfall_Anomaly_1981-2010

 

During December and January, rainfall over the region amounted to 450mm, which is 165mm above the 1981-2010 average.

At Yeovilton, in December, rainfall was 43mm above normal. Although, as I say, January data is not yet available, rainfall maps don’t suggest that Somerset has been wetter than the rest of the region and indicate between 150mm and 200mm, against a normal of 67mm.

This would imply that December and January’s rainfall combined was probably about 120mm and 170mm above normal. This is all a long way round way of saying that the regional pattern looks pretty representative of Somerset.

 

January 2014 Rainfall Actual

 

 

If we look at 2-month precipitation numbers during autumn and winter in the region, we find that this latest period of December/January has been exceeded on eight occasions since 1910. (There are multiple events in two years, 1929/30 and 2001/01, which means that these eight occasions are spread over five years).

In other words, it is, on average, an event that happens pretty much every decade or so.

The graphs below show the three combinations – Oct/Nov, Nov/Dec and Dec/Jan. These are typically the wettest months of the year. Note that on all three graphs, I have shown the latest Dec/Jan plots in red, for comparison purposes. I would also point out that the year shown on the X-Axis is the “January year”. So, Dec 2013 to January 2014 is shown as 2014. This also applies to October to December – October 2013 to November 2013 is labelled as 2014. (A bit confusing, I know,but it keeps things consistent).

A couple of points stand out:

  • 1929/30 stands well above the rest, and on all three graphs. More on this later.
  • There is no evidence that recent years have been unusually wet, compared to earlier decades.

 

 

image

image

image

 http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/datasets

 

Comparisons with 1929/30

It already looks as if February will end up being another very wet month in the South West, so we may very well find that the 3-month total, for Dec-Feb, exceeds most other years since 1910.

Whatever the outcome, though, it does not look likely that the latest Dec-Feb figures will come any where close to the Nov-Jan period in 1929/30. If current trends remain, my guess would be for another 200mm this month, which would leave a total for the three months of about 650mm. This is well below the 812mm recorded from Nov 1929 to Jan 1930.

It would also come in lower than Oct – Dec 2000.

 

image

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/datasets

 

Summing up

So what should we learn from all of this?

1) While it has been an exceptionally wet winter in the South West of England, it is far too early to be talking about it being unprecedented, or to be looking for links to “climate change”.

2) As the graph below shows, precipitation during the “six winter months” has actually been at historically normal levels in recent years, and the trend looks to be a declining one. If nothing else, this rather makes a nonsense of the theory that global warming is leading to wetter winters.

 

image

 http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/datasets

3) Whilst the continuing wet weather is prolonging the agony for the Levels, the situation in December and January was not an unusual one. I will leave others to judge what effect the lack of dredging and other maintenance work has had on the floods.

4) If any year was “unprecedented”, it was 1929/30. (And as I have shown previously, the wet winter of that year affected the whole country.) I find it incredible that the Met Office have not carried out a detailed analysis of that winter, and indeed some of the other wet years, to see what they have in common with this winter.

There is little doubt that scientists such as HH Lamb would have done precisely that. Instead, we see a desperate attempt to find a link to “climate change”.

Surely, to do science properly, you should first look for natural causes for events such as these. And to do that, you have to learn from the past. Only then can we hope to understand the present and the future.

5) We have been bombarded with claims of record rainfall months, and forecasts of record winters. Meanwhile, David Cameron describes the Somerset floods as “biblical”. Am I the only one that cannot remember being told that 1929/30, or other years, were much wetter?

At least the media have an excuse – they are trying to sell newspapers. The Met Office have no excuse at all.

We deserve better.

 

 

 

References

All data for SW England & S Wales from the Met Office

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/pub/data/weather/uk/climate/datasets/Rainfall/date/England_SW_and_S_Wales.txt

 

 

UPDATE

For the record, these are 2-month periods with higher rainfall.

 

  Winter Year Precipitation
mm
Oct – Nov 1929/30 521
  1960/61 454
  2000/01 474
Nov – Dec 1911/12 458
  1929/30 608
  1959/60 468
  2001/01 456
Dec – Jan 1929/30 484
     
Dec – Jan 2013/14 451

 

 

UPDATE 2

The Met Office have now issued the January rainfall data for Yeovilton – 166mm.

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2014 9:04 pm

    This is a really important post. Perhaps it would be worth submitting (a version of) it to the op-ed pages of a newspaper?

    • February 13, 2014 9:29 pm

      I’ll give David Rose a try.

      • dave ward permalink
        February 14, 2014 11:50 am

        Paul – there’s a very good letter in today’s Daily Mail from a reader in Bristol, who quotes several local rainfall statistics confirming what you’ve posted. Littlejohn is also on top form, laying into the EA, the warmists, and even blaming the EU, or “The Elephant in the Room” as RN and AM would say…

  2. A C Osborn permalink
    February 13, 2014 9:14 pm

    Of course they have an excuse, they have to be seen to be supporting the EA and the Government.
    No matter how stupid it makes them look.
    The whole thing is a national disgrace and Heads should roll.

  3. February 13, 2014 10:55 pm

    Reblogged this on CraigM350 and commented:
    Really great stuff Paul. Thank you.

  4. Green Sand permalink
    February 14, 2014 10:16 am

    Paul, you may find the following comment posted by “Corporal Jones Ghost” at BH to be of interest:-

    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2014/2/11/ea-working-with-labour-against-government.html?currentPage=2#comments

  5. tom0mason permalink
    February 14, 2014 10:16 am

    As Carol King says -

  6. Peter Stroud permalink
    February 14, 2014 10:37 am

    Please show this report to Ed Davey, the head of the Met Office, and all those alarmists preaching the connection between the floods and CAGW.

  7. February 14, 2014 11:10 am

    I wonder at the provenance of the MO rainfall maps – are they radar based? Is there any quantitative assessment of precipitation where the loop has been closed with water radar? Is the UKMO radar data archived to allow post processing?

    Great post – but It’s very important to factor in the topology of the area and the Mendip Hills to the north / northeast generate considerable relief rainfall (misty, rainy squelchy Mendips…) from the prevailing Atlantic winds and Yeovilton is well away from that area – so I’d be *very* careful extrapolating from the airfield met station. In fact knowing the area very well, Using Yeovilton rain gauge might mislead a bit … See topo map Yeovilton is actually arguably in significant rain shadow.

    The Mendips certainly feel as wet as Exmoor – but the mapping does not show that ….. purely subjective I know – but it is damned wet up there.

    • February 14, 2014 12:23 pm

      Any ideas where I might get data for other stations.

      Yeovilton is the only one the Met publish in the area?

      • February 14, 2014 2:16 pm

        Sorry… don’t know that much about location of stations – Lulsgate (Bristol Airport) is shadowed a bit behind the Mendips but likely representative of relief precipitation – a comparison to Yeovilton would likely be a worthwhile exercise – if there’s any records :-)

        http://www.weatherlink.com/map.php is sparse but growing.

        I just saw a comment at BH (without a reference) that Somerset floods are being blamed on Yeovilton area Brue, Cary, Yeo and Parret catchments by the EA so – the data you’ve already up contradicts the goons at EA Towers.
        Will they retread the “wrong type of rain”?

      • February 14, 2014 2:25 pm

        http://www.clevedonweather.co.uk/links/index.htm

        Amateur Stations – but trends might be worthwhile – rain gauges being a PITA to maintain………

      • February 14, 2014 3:27 pm

        The EAs 2008 Parrett Catchment Plan, says somewhere that the Somerset Levels actually has the lowest rainfall in the south west.

        However, they have a map of rainfall gauges in the area. There would appear to be about 100 of them – I had no idea that there would be so many. Don’t know if these are run by MetOffice or EA or someone else.

        My understanding is that this plan covers the Somerset Levels and the catchment area to the south of it – which is a much much bigger area. There is presumably another plan somewhere that covers the catchment area to the north.

        http://www.bishop-hill.net/storage/Parret%20Catchment%20Flood%20Management%20Plan.pdf

      • February 14, 2014 5:19 pm

        Those rainfall gauges on The Levels are I suspect run by The Environment Agency – good luck with that ;-/

  8. David Eyles permalink
    February 14, 2014 11:32 am

    Paul, well done with this. It is good to see some real figures as opposed to trusting media/Met Office hype. Looking at the 2000/2001 figures suggest that that too was a very wet year and this would accord with my own experience – I remember that winter starkly because 2001 was Foot and Mouth year. We had an awful lot of rain then, and it was similar to now with banks of low pressure building up in mid-Atlantic and swooping in a succession across to the UK. From my own gut feeling, what we are experiencing now is little different. What is different is the Somerset Levels have had another decade of not being dredged. And that is why they are flooding worse now than they did then.

  9. William McAuley permalink
    February 14, 2014 2:17 pm

    Paul :
    Get our pals in the Mail to publish this ! Do you have the statistical tools to hand to correlate North American East Coast weather with our years of highest rainfall ?

  10. Ivor Ward permalink
    February 14, 2014 4:49 pm

    I worry a bit about the use of the word “normal” when you actually mean “average”. There is not really any normal rainfall just an average of the different amounts that fall in different years. To say the rainfall is above normal is misleading.
    great post though…Looking forward to the Jan figures.

  11. February 14, 2014 5:55 pm

    The deperate attempts to blame the flooding on “climate change” aka global warming, even when it’s cooling, have some resonance with a Tyndall Centre working paper from 2004. This was its title:

    “The Social Simulation of the Public Perception of Weather Events and their Effect upon the Development of Belief in Anthropogenic Climate Change”. I wrote about it in Energy and Environment in 2007 and SPPI published a reprint in 2009.

    “Global Warming – The Social Construction Of A Quasi-Reality”
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/reprint/social_construction.html

    Original Paper at http://multi-science.metapress.com/content/v84152h64m5r36t5/
    GLOBAL WARMING: THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF A QUASI-REALITY?
    Journal Energy & Environment, Issue Volume 18, Number 6 / November 2007 Pages 805-813

    Here are a few extracts :

    · In this paper, we explore under what conditions belief in global warming or climate change, as identified and defined by experience, science and the media, can be maintained in the public’s perception.

    · Science in the last few decades has popularized the issue of climate change and/or global warming. The issue itself has the potential of significant ramification not only in the expression of weather events but also in changes in socio-economic policy concerning either or both of adaptation and mitigation strategies.

    · As the science itself is contested, needless to say, so are the potential policy changes. So how then do people make sense or construct a reality of something that they can never experience in its totality (climate) and a reality that has not yet manifest (i.e. climate change)?

    · To endorse policy change people must ‘believe’ that global warming will become a reality some time in the future.

    · Only the experience of positive temperature anomalies will be registered as indication of change if the issue is framed as global warming.

    · Both positive and negative temperature anomalies will be registered in experience as indication of change if the issue is framed as climate change.

    · We propose that in those countries where climate change has become the predominant popular term for the phenomenon, unseasonably cold temperatures, for example, are also interpreted to reflect climate change/global warming.”

    In 2006, Labour’s favourite think tank, IPPR, where David Miliband once interned, produced a paper called “Treating climate change as beyond argument”, sub headed Warm Words: How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better?

    “Much of the noise in the climate change discourse comes from argument and counter-argument, and it is our recommendation that, at least for popular communications, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won.

    This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective. This must be done by stepping away from the ‘advocates debate’ described earlier, rather than by stating and re-stating these things as fact.

    The ‘facts’ (their highlight) need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken.

    The certainty of the Government’s new climate-change slogan – ‘Together this generation will tackle climate change’ (Defra 2006) – gives an example of this approach. It constructs, rather than claims, its own factuality.

    Where science is invoked, it now needs to be as ‘lay science’ – offering lay explanations for what is being treated as a simple established scientific fact, just as the earth’s rotation or the water cycle are considered.”

    It was written by a novelist and a PR consultant.

    http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=485

    So cold is hot, black is white and the science is settled.

  12. February 14, 2014 10:36 pm

    It’s interesting that the Met Office web-site now has available all the annual volumes of British Rainfall – which make fascinating reading (if you are a ‘weather nut’!). The information in them really impresses upon the reader the fact that heavy rainfalls, floods and droughts and ‘extreme’ weather have always happened and not just in recent years. The British Rainfall volume for 1930 noted that 1930 was the 9th successive year with above average rainfall. it also noted that the four months Oct ’29 to Jan ’30 (with a British Isles average total rainfall of 685.8mm) was wetter than any comparable period before 1870 (it said 640.1mm was recorded in Oct 1876 to Jan 1877). Interestingly it noted that Ross on Wye had 683.8mm of rain in these four months Oct ’29 to Jan ’30 – very nearly the normal for a whole year.

    I also wonder whether January 1948 was wetter than January 2014 – although the months either side (December 1947 and February 1948) had below average rainfall. In January 1948 the WHOLE of England and Wales was affected by heavy rain – more than 200% of normal everywhere (apart from Kent, East Sussex and the Fens) and more than 300% in NE England – with more than 450% in some parts of that region. In Somerset the January 1948 rainfall totals were 278.9mm at Brushford Nurseries, 229.9mm at Chewton Mendip, 170.4mm at Trull (Wayside), 151.6mm at Bath (Henrietta Park), 129.4mm at Burnham (Dunstan House) and 124mm at Street (Millfield).

  13. February 15, 2014 5:30 pm

    Worst floods since they stopped dredging the rivers.

  14. Jody burt permalink
    February 17, 2014 12:18 pm

    If it is the case that the country really needs its flood defences being bolstered at huge costs, then climate change or not, it must be done to safe guard people and their lives. Better it be done now than later. I think I know, despite evidence here and there disproving it, that climate change is real. The evidence is right, and fair enough, flooding is not unusual. Just because we don’t see climate change causing these floods makes a blind bit of difference, butterfly extinction? Extremes of weather every year coincides with CO2 emissions!? The effects of climate change are massive and we mustn’t underestimate the problem at hand. Spend the money now, and keep spending to protect, it will cost vastly more in the long run if we don’t.

  15. Stigenace permalink
    February 17, 2014 11:16 pm

    Meanwhile, David Cameron describes the Somerset floods as “biblical”

    Goodness! Has Cameron conceded that David Silvester – Henley-on-Thames Conservative turned UKIP turned Independent councillor – was right all along in blaming the Same-Sex Marriage Act for the Biblical apocalypse inflicted on benighted Britain?

  16. John Peter permalink
    February 21, 2014 3:48 pm

    I left this comment on Bishop Hill on 20 February. I am surprised that Paul Homewood has not commented on the Met Office claim that the winter rains are the wettest on record.

    “The UK has suffered its wettest winter in records dating back more than a century, the Met Office has announced.

    Figures for December 1 to February 19 show that the UK has had 486.8mm (19.2 inches) of rain, making it the wettest winter in records dating back to 1910, beating the previous record set in 1995 of 485.1mm (19.1 inches).”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/10652123/UK-suffers-wettest-winter-on-record.html

    Paul Homewoods effort to look at figures:

    “Comparisons with 1929/30

    It already looks as if February will end up being another very wet month in the South West, so we may very well find that the 3-month total, for Dec-Feb, exceeds most other years since 1910.

    Whatever the outcome, though, it does not look likely that the latest Dec-Feb figures will come any where close to the Nov-Jan period in 1929/30. If current trends remain, my guess would be for another 200mm this month, which would leave a total for the three months of about 650mm. This is well below the 812mm recorded from Nov 1929 to Jan 1930.”
    http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/6989/

    So who is right, Met Office or Paul Homewood? Maybe Met Office has forgotten about 1929/30. Shukman also on to it in BBC News 18.00 today http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26280219
    Maybe we could do with reviewers here who are also “above the fray”.

    Postscript: I smell a rat. 1929/30 was November to January and November was not a winter month so 1929/30 does not count. If I am right here they are smarter than I thought.

Trackbacks

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