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Is England’s Bad Weather A Sign Of Climate Change?

January 6, 2014

By Paul Homewood


Britain enduring the worst series of winter storms in more than 20 years, forecasters say, with 96 flood warnings issued throughout England and Wales


The December floods in England have been a big story recently, and, of course, still remain a problem. The term “extreme weather” has been bandied about, along with the inevitable connotation of “climate change”. ( I may be wrong, but years ago we rarely seemed to hear this term – it was usually just called “bad weather”, or simply referred to as “wet”, “stormy”, “cold” etc).

Nobody, of course, actually quantifies any of this, but the inference is made nevertheless. A good example came in the Telegraph, in an otherwise sensible article by William Langley:

Earlier this year, the Government agreed a deal with insurers that would nominally protect 500,000 households in areas deemed to be at such high risk their owners are unable to get cover. The £180 million raised each year — which would be managed by a not-for-profit fund known as Flood Re — ensures properties remain insurable through a £10.50-a-year levy on all residential premiums due to be introduced in 2015.

But critics say the scheme allows for no increase in the likely numbers of flood victims as weather patterns become increasingly severe and new homes are built in areas previously considered off limits because of flood risk.


So what exactly are the facts? How unusual has the recent rainfall been, and is there a trend to heavier rainfall?



December 2013 Rainfall 1981 - 2010 anomaly


Scotland has certainly been very wet in December, but I want to concentrate on England, as this is where most of the media attention, and, it seems, damage has been.

First we’ll look at England as a whole, then concentrate on the South East, where the real problems have been.





Figure 1


Figure 1 shows December precipitation, using the Met Office data. For the country as a whole, last month was only the 20th wettest since 1910, certainly nothing out of the ordinary. The wettest month was in 1914, when 179mm fell, compared with 116mm this time. Bear in mind as well, that this is just one month of the year – there will be plenty of Januaries, Februaries and so on that were wetter.

Neither does there appear to be any evidence of wetter months becoming more common.

The flooding problems have been very much the result of a build up of water, rather than flash floods, with saturated ground and full rivers. So was December the culmination of months of wet weather. We can check this by going back to October. (November and September were both dry months, so we are taking the worst case scenario here).



Figure 2


For the three months as a whole, 2013 ranks as still only 14th wettest, again nothing remarkable, and 29% lower than the record total set in 1929.

Again, it must be borne in mind that there all sorts of other permutations of months, for instance November to January, that will give totals higher than this particular period.


South East

Now let’s focus on the South East. The Met Office keep regional data for “England South East & Central South”, which closely fits the area of heavy rainfall, on the map above.




Figures 3 and 4 show the precipitation for this region.



Figure 3



Figure 4


For December, 2013 ranks as 7th wettest on record, although it is notable that all the other wetter years were prior to 1959. For the three months total, the rank is 6th.

So, there is no indication, even in this part of the country, that rainfall last month, or since October, has been anything not experienced regularly in the past.


Winter Precipitation Trends

Is there any trend towards higher winter rainfall in England. To check this we have the benefit of the long term England & Wales Precipitation Series, held by the Met Office, which dates back to 1766.

There is clear evidence that winter precipitation was consistently lower in the first part of the record, up to about 1860. But since then, and certainly over the last century, the long term trend is pretty flat, with, if anything, a trend to less rain over the last decade or so.



Figure 5

The Met Office figures for England only, (a different dataset to the one above), show a similar picture.



Figure 6


Final Thoughts

The wet weather has continued into January so far, and hopefully will abate soon. We will get a better picture when we can look at the full winter period.

Nevertheless, there is nothing in the data to provide the slightest bit of evidence that the floods have been the result of, or aggravated by, “climate change”. Nor is there any indication that such events are becoming more common, or more extreme.

Only today, Bishop Hill refers to two separate comments by Sirs John Beddington and David King, respectively current and former UK Govt Chief Scientists, both of which imply that recent events are examples of extreme weather, which is increasing because of “climate change”. Naturally, they offer not the slightest bit of evidence. This did not prevent the BBC and Guardian respectively from falling for it hook, line and sinker.


I will leave the last word to Mary Dhonau, of the Flood Protection Association, an industry body. In a another Telegraph article, she warns us that “flooding is being made worse by developers building on flood plains to cater for an expanding population. She says that more than 2,000 properties were approved on flood plains this year despite official objections, and added: “It is absolutely barking mad to build on a flood plain when there are so many other places that could be built on.”






1) Met Office regional data


2) England & Wales Precipitation series

  1. January 6, 2014 5:02 pm

    Maybe you would be interested in this course?

    ‘The Christmas period here in Exeter, as for so much of the UK, has been disrupted by extreme weather. The UK has been rocked by storms over the holidays with a low pressure system hitting the country which dipped to 930mb – the lowest recorded since 1884. The serious flooding and impact of high winds ruined Christmas for many and once again highlighted how extreme weather events raise concerns about climate change – especially the potential negative impacts.’

    • January 6, 2014 5:42 pm

      Why should anyone who reads this blog be interested in a cherry-picking course that does not fully engage with the science of climate but only is aimed at underpinning the CAGW narrative? “….low pressure system hitting the country which dipped to 930mb – the lowest recorded since 1884….. ” In 1884, the World was exiting the LIA. Maybe there’s a hint there for further research?
      A gently warming planet with an increase in CO2 is overall likely benevolent to carbon-based lifeforms. A cooling planet with a decrease in CO2 will be very likely malevolent to carbon-based lifeforms. Maybe there are a few faculty members who could learn from a tourist trip to the Antarctic?

  2. Sparks permalink
    January 6, 2014 5:32 pm

    Some nice historical weather information of the British isles at this link. It turns out, Atlantic weather is often wet and windy, sometimes hot and sunny and even cold at times with plenty of snow and ice about.

  3. January 6, 2014 6:23 pm

    “Is the science settled?”
    That’s an oxymoron – science is never settled.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    January 6, 2014 10:13 pm

    In the past, if your insurance company offered ‘flood-risk insurance’, you knew your property had a less-than 1 in 75 chance of being affected. So it was a virtually a waste of money taking it out.

  5. Russ Wood permalink
    January 7, 2014 7:57 am

    Apparently, in the U.S.A., there is Government-subsidised flood insurance. I have read that this ENCOURAGES people to build in areas liable to flood, such as parts of the Mississipi valley. In the aftermath of the New Orleans flood, owners of damaged homes were fighting to classify the damage as ‘flood’ rather than anything else, to claim on Government insurance. As far as UK goes (I’m an ex-Pom), this sounds like a baaad idea. In South Africa, with extensive building in formerly semi-rural areas, we’re getting ’20-year’ floods almost annually, with the concomitant damage (usually to informal settlements), and the wailing that “the Government must do something!”. It’s not a good idea to encourage bad habits of ANY kind!

    • January 13, 2014 2:47 pm

      Yes, the US has flood insurance from the government. Actually, that’s probably the only place to get it. John Stossal (libertarian investigative journalist) did a special years ago and straight out said he build on the coast because if his house was wiped out by flooding, the taxpayers would pay for it (it’s reportedly very inexpensive). As long as the taxpayers were foolish enough to cover the house, he would rebuild there. It’s really a very, very bad idea for government involvement, definitely.

  6. Tony permalink
    January 7, 2014 10:54 am

    One question; For many years, scientists have looked at the possible effects of climate change and for the UK, where they predicted flooding amongst other effects, which we are seeing, but you maintain is not caused by climate change. It’s fair enough to deny the assumption of causality.

    You presumably accept though that a consensus doesn’t mean the truth, an overwhelming consensus implies a significant likelihood of the truth. So given the serious threat implied by the the potential for climate change to be real and having an affect, What evidence would change your opinion?

    I think it’s probably no evidence because you have too much invested in this opinion. Whenever you find yourself in that position, it’s time to stop and rethink. If not, why not state what you would need to see to hold up your hands and say “Oh God, I’ve been wrong about the biggest threat to the planet, ever faced by civilisation”.

    • January 7, 2014 11:11 am

      So what is your evidence that “flooding has increased”?

    • catweazle666 permalink
      January 7, 2014 2:30 pm

      “Oh God, I’ve been wrong about the biggest threat to the planet, ever faced by civilisation”

      If you seriously believe you have solid evidence for such an assertion, please feel free to present it.

      But the recent bad weather does not constitute it, as is clearly explained in both graphical and textual form above.

      You might wish to take into account that there has been no statistically significant global warming for between >17 and 23 years, depending on which of the established databases you refer to, and that over much of the planet – according to the IPCC – extreme weather events are in fact at an all time low, and are expected to remain as such for at least the immediate future.

      Meanwhile, it would appear that the biggest threat to civilistion is more likely to be gross over-reaction to a non-existent threat.

    • January 13, 2014 2:52 pm

      Perhaps predictions that come true? Perhaps something that could falsifiy the theory–thus making it actual science? (As it stands now, everything proves climate change–which puts it on the same level as religion, where nothing can disprove God and everyone can attribute any outcome to God. Science has to be falsifiable, even where it’s based on probability. There has to be something that can show the to be theory wrong.) Perhaps open sharing of data? Perhaps an honest discussion of actual probabilities and uncertainty? Perhaps just answering questions instead of ad hominem attacks (like Mann) and deflections to a new subject? This would certainly help me in my belief or disbelief.

  7. Bill permalink
    January 7, 2014 1:22 pm

    Tony….. Did you actually take a few moments to study the graphs above, then carefully ‘read’ the text which explains them, so you understand what they mean? Reading through your odd reply it seems you didn’t…or you are simply playing ignoRANT…?

    I wonder how long it will be before the Christian right start telling us that Climate Change is God’s punishment for messing with his planet?? Or did I miss that already?

  8. Andy DC permalink
    January 8, 2014 6:05 pm

    The severe storms hitting the UK appear to be resulting from abnormally cold air exiting North America and entering the normally warm Atlantic. Thus they are related to COLD, not heat.

  9. January 8, 2014 9:58 pm

    David Cameron, “suspects” flooding may be linked to “climate change”,

  10. January 9, 2014 12:11 am

    January 7, 2014 10:54 am

    “One question; For many years, scientists have looked at the possible effects of climate change and for the UK, where they predicted flooding amongst other effects, which we are seeing,”

    Tony – you seem to have missed the point – the graphs show that the flooding we are currently experiencing are within our natural climate. Why not rejoice that our climate is what it always has been, a very varied amount of rainfall. It varies from month to month and from year to year. Also, remember global warming is just 0.8C in over 150 years, hardly alarming.

  11. Peter Davis permalink
    January 9, 2014 3:38 pm

    I think that before this discussion proceeds any further, it is important for each contributor to state which definition of the term “climate change” they are referring to.

    There is the common citizen definition, or understanding, which is that the climate is changing.

    Then there is the IPCC definition, which is quite different. Look it up in the IPCC glossary.

    And for each contributor to state the calculation of climate – do they mean – “average weather over 30 years”? Can any of the contributors remember what the weather was like 30 years ago?

    So climate is a lagging indicator – by 15 years.

    This means that any “extreme weather event” will have very little impact on “the climate”, because of the averaging process over 30 years.

  12. January 9, 2014 8:21 pm

    Reblogged this on Paul J Chapman and commented:
    Cameron talking out of his @rse on Climate Change …

  13. January 13, 2014 5:37 pm

    In a discussion about “fracking” on today’s “World At One”, on Radio 4, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion said:

    “Just last week the Prime Minister was saying that the recent floods, are a reminder that extreme weather risks are linked to climate change”.

    Is that really what he said?

    Ms Lucas seems to be twisting his words into something he never said!

  14. ellie white permalink
    February 16, 2014 12:48 pm

    In view of the horrendous weather many people are having to suffer and the loss of life and livelihood in the UK I would like to know more about research programs such as the High frequency Active Aural Research Program or HAARP. I believe there are several of these research stations around the globe, one in the USA, another in China and others, each trying to control the ionosphere with high powered electromagnetic soound waves.
    One official reason for this research is for communication purposes, although and perhaps more importantly there are experts who claim that these high powered sound waves can and do cause changes in weather patterns.
    Unfortunately the bulk of the information accessible to an English speaker is the property of the US military and not easily available, Canada´s CBC and the History Channel produce two major documentaries on this subject. Since the whole concept is somewhat unbelievable and more than a little Sci-fi in nature I would like a more authorative and expert comment on the subject, I would go as far as suggesting a government comment since these problems are being felt by people worldwide and if it is a case of a power struggle for world and space dominance I think that the people have the right to this knowledge. I believe that the HAARP project began in 1987 and that the patent was incorporated into the US military very quickly. It is a big question that requires a comment and hopefully more information given to those who suffer the consequences of this type of research. I realise the outlandishness of these thoughts but please investigate for yourself and then decide.


  1. Is England’s Bad Weather A Sign Of Climate Change? | The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF)
  2. Flood plains are for floods, not houses | Cairns News

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