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Forecaster Bill Giles tells Lord Smith: it’s not a new kind of rain. It’s completely normal.

February 10, 2013

By Paul Homewood


Forecaster Bill Giles tells Lord Smith: it’s not a new kind of rain. It’s completely normal

The veteran Met Office weather forecaster Bill Giles poured cold water on the Environment Agency chairman’s idea of a new type of rain leading to more flooding in Britain

Last week, I reported on how Lord Smith, head of the Environment Agency, had claimed that Britain was experiencing a  “new kind of convective rain”, which was leading to extreme deluges and floods. I pointed out a number of flaws in his argument, such as the fact that last summer had been much colder than normal, (which would lead to less convection), that convective rain is usually short lasting (as opposed to his claim that it sits in one place over a long period of time), and that the Met rainfall stats showed no evidence that summer rainfall was becoming more extreme.

It is therefore with a certain amount of pleasure that I can report that proper meteorologists have been queuing up to rubbish his claims. Today’s Sunday Telegraph reports:-

The veteran meteorologist, Bill Giles, has criticised remarks by Lord Smith, the chairman of the Environment Agency, who had blamed the growing threat of flooding on a new kind of precipitation, known as convective rain.

However, Mr Giles, who joined the Met Office in 1957 and was head weather presenter at the BBC between 1983 and 2000, insists that convective rain has been a regular feature of British weather since the “beginning of time”.

In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph this week, he says that the term is merely a way of describing a type of intense rainfall that typically occurs on warm summer days. He writes: “There is nothing new about convective rain. Perhaps next time he should get a meteorologist to check his answers so that he doesn’t appear so ignorant of simple straightforward facts.

Mr Giles says that Lord Smith’s comments show that he has “no concept or knowledge of meteorology”.

He adds: “How on earth could we have appointed as chairman of the Environment Agency someone who so obviously doesn’t understand basic meteorology [like] Lord Smith?”

Lord Smith had been attempting to explain the growing risk of flooding in Britain in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph last week when he claimed that a new type of rain was rapidly filling up rivers and drains.

He said: “Instead of rain sweeping in a curtain across the country, we are getting convective rain, which sits in one place and just dumps itself in a deluge over a long period of time”.

Speaking last night, Mr Giles, 73, said that he objected to convective rain being used as an excuse for the widespread damage caused by flooding in recent years.

He said: “I was alarmed by the inaccuracy of his statement.

“It reminds me of the 1970s, when British Rail used to talk about the wrong type of snow. I would issue a warning about the cold weather the night before, and the next morning, I would still find that my train was late.”

Convective rain, Mr Giles explained, occurred when air rose rapidly, often on hot summer days, causing water vapour to collect into dense towers of cumulonimbus cloud that can be up to 30,000ft tall.

In light winds, the clouds move little and so when such a large quantity of water droplets fall as rain, intense, thundery showers are produced over one location.


Mr Giles’ comments have been echoed by other meteorologists who have criticised Lord Smith, the former Labour culture secretary who was appointed chairman of the Environment Agency in May 2008.

Professor Anthony Illingworth, from Reading University’s meteorology department, said: “Britain has always had convective rain – you can find evidence that it was around hundreds of millions of years ago.

“You can see the fossilised effects of where lightning – which is associated with convection – once struck sand. There are little things called fulgurites that go into the ground where the lightning melted the sand, causing it to form glass.”

Philip Eden, The Sunday Telegraph’s weather expert, also criticised Lord Smith’s “fundamental error”. He said: “Lord Smith is the chairman of the Environment Agency and therefore should know everything there is to know about rain and floods.”

In his own column, Eden points out many examples of convective rain as far back as 1878.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP for west Somerset, which was particularly badly hit by flooding last year and where a pensioner died when his car was swept into a river in November, described Lord Smith’s comments as “an insult to the intelligence” of people there.



Not that any of this is likely to have any effect on Smith or the Environment Agency. After all, it’s “climate change, innit?”

One Comment
  1. Brian H permalink
    June 4, 2013 8:58 am

    Political appointees making decisions in areas they are clueless about will be the death of us yet.

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