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Are UK Winters Becoming More Extreme?

November 19, 2013

By Paul Homewood


According to the UK’s last Chief Scientist, Sir John Beddington, we can expect more extreme, cold winters in the UK, courtesy of global warming. In an interview with ITV News last March he was asked :

whether extreme weather events such as this cold spell were linked to climate change

Beddington replied:

“What you can say is that these extreme events are more likely because climate has happened…. What we have been able to analyse shows that the probability of these more extreme events has been increased by the fact of having climate change”

This was despite the fact that Met Office had sent him a report two years earlier, saying that there was nothing abnormal at all about recent cold winters and that their projections forecast less extreme winters.

So what do the facts say? Let’s start by looking at the Met Office winter mean temperature stats.




Clearly the extremely cold winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 were nothing out of the ordinary, when compared with the 20thC. They only appeared unusual after the run of mild winters which started in 1989.

Of the 20 coldest winters since 1910, two have been in the last decade – 2010 and 2011. This is, of course, exactly the ratio you would expect.

Even the exceptionally cold weather experienced last March, that Beddington was specifically referring to, was not that unusual. There had been two colder Marches, 1947 and 1962. Indeed, cold weather in March was actually quite common in the early 20thC, and again between 1947 and 1970.




You might have thought that the Chief Scientist would actually bother to check a few facts first, before opening his mouth.

  1. November 20, 2013 12:57 am

    Using HADCET Tmax, the coldest(lowest Max) Dec/Jan/Feb

    1890 12 1.2
    1963 1 0.6
    1947 2 0.1

  2. catweazle666 permalink
    November 20, 2013 1:36 am

    1962/63 was the coldest winter I can remember, I just missed being born in time for 1947.

    The snowiest winter we ever had was 1979-80, for seven consecutive calendar months I rode my motorcycle in snow. During the worst part, I fitted a smaller section rear tyre and wrapped 8 sections of rear chain round it. It didn’t half drift on dry road!

  3. John F. Hultquist permalink
    November 20, 2013 5:08 am

    “ last Chief Scientist”

    Seems there are 2 ways of thinking of this. The UK might be better off if he was the last, but alas, he has been replaced. Neither he nor his replacement is presented as knowing much about atmospheric dynamics (he biology) (new guy rheumatology) and, thus, they have to get their climate info from meetings with others – all following the party line. With party leaders and these sorts all playing musical chairs it is unsurprising that they frequently seem clueless when answering questions.

    Consider the phrase quoted:
    “ extreme events are more likely because climate has happened”

    Hollywood starlites often make more sense.

  4. November 20, 2013 8:42 am

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Paul Homewood checks out claims made by the UK chief scientist who was advising govt when the Climate Change Act was passed.

  5. November 20, 2013 10:05 am

    When the Met office called their emergency debate I plotted our weather patterns on a control chart. For those not familiar with a control chart an example is deciding if variations in a machine’s output is just normal or if the machine needs adjustment.

    You can see the results of not just winter but spring and summer at my word press blog

  6. herkimer permalink
    November 20, 2013 2:59 pm

    I think you have to look at the era before 1910 for clues about the coming winters in UK

    We are currently and approximately where the planet was back about 1807 and again in 1885, just 2 years past the solar maximums of 1805 and 1883 of the first low solar cycles # 5 and again # 12. These were the first solar cycle in series of three low solar cycles. The ocean SST and AMO were in the cooling mode heading for troughs by1820 and 1910. The Arctic was cooling as indicated by Greenland oxygen isotope records. What followed according to CET records was a decade or two of cooler winter climate, starting at the end of the first and during the second and third solar cycles. Similar long range climate factors are setting up for the next 2-3 decades.

  7. Sparks permalink
    November 20, 2013 7:50 pm

    Unbelievable!!, So are the storms on cold planets caused by global warming/climate change too? Colder planets have stronger more intense storms, you know, “extreme events” so if earth emerged from a cooler period in the past which for a fact had “extreme events” and is gradually entering into another cool period, how can Beddington tell the difference of one extreme event from the other?

    • November 20, 2013 8:11 pm

      Cos he’s cleverer than us!

      (And knows about Population Biology – whatever that is!)

  8. Brian H permalink
    November 20, 2013 11:22 pm

    Anyone who can think, much less utter, the words, “because climate happened” is a fool beyond redemption.


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