Booker On The Cumbria Floods
By Paul Homewood
Booker writes for the Mail:
There have been two quite different responses by politicians and the media to the devastating floods afflicting the people of Cumbria.
One of these has rightly focused on the ordeals of all those thousands affected — above all, those whose homes were filled with filthy water.
(I know a little of what they are going through because my own former home in North-West London was flooded by the most intense rainfall ever recorded in Britain, in 1975.)
It was equally right to praise the admirable reaction to this crisis of the emergency services and volunteers who arrived from all over Britain to give round-the-clock aid to the victims.
But the other response couldn’t have been more different.
This was the way the disaster was hijacked by a particular group of people for wholly wrong-headed political ends — led by Dame Julia Slingo, the Chief Scientist at the Met Office, abetted by Liz Truss, Secretary of State for the Environment — not to mention by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
All these people have tried to make out, first, that last weekend’s rainfall in Cumbria was ‘unprecedented’, on a scale never before seen. They then used this claim to promote their belief that our climate is changing disastrously because of all the carbon dioxide being pumped into the air by fossil fuels.
So how far can these claims be justified?
Based not least on information from the Met Office’s own voluminous records, it seems there is no proper evidence to support either of them.
For a start, as I shall explain, the Met Office records show that the rainfall in Cumbria was far from unprecedented.
In fact, there are two separate problems that have caused havoc this week. One is rainfall on the mountains of the Lake District, which has long been acknowledged as the wettest region in England. The other is the flooding of the nearby city of Carlisle, which lies in a different water catchment area.
The Met Office records show that both these places have suffered from very similar extreme rainfall before.
Its claim that last weekend saw the most intense 24-hour period of rain ever recorded in Britain — more than 13 inches (344 millimetres) — was based on readings taken at Honister, at the top of Borrowdale.
But this Honister data record, high on a mountainside — where rainfall is likely to be heaviest — only goes back to 1970. Many earlier Lake District readings, taken at much lower sites where rainfall is likely to be less intense, show figures almost as high.
And among these, none stands out more than the legendary downpours of 1897 and 1898, which were comparable to anything experienced in 2015.
Two scientific studies of the 1898 Cumbrian flooding agreed that rainfall on the hills above Borrowdale could well have been as high as 13.8 inches (350 millimetres) — even more than that now being trumpeted by Dame Julia Slingo as ‘unprecedented’.
And that was 117 years ago, decades before we ever heard of global warming.
As for the flooding of Carlisle at the weekend, the cause of this was not just the abnormal rainfall brought by what the Met Office absurdly called ‘Storm Desmond’.
The problem was rivers already swollen by weeks of rain — itself not unusual for November. ‘Desmond’ just pushed it over the top.
Historical records show that Carlisle and Cockermouth have many times suffered flood events as serious as this one. Those listed on the Environment Agency website include no fewer than four such floods in the Thirties alone.
So where does this leave the excitable claims by the Met Office’s Dame Julia and Environment Secretary Liz Truss that this recent rainfall was yet further evidence of ‘climate change’, which is making such ‘extreme weather events’ more frequent and more intense?
Despite the global warming-obsessed Met Office’s insistence that its computer models show that more carbon dioxide (CO2) is making such events ‘seven times’ more likely than before, even the latest report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concedes that there is no evidence to show there have lately been any more ‘extreme weather events’ in the world than there were before the alarm over global warming was ever thought of.
In fact, this is not the first time the Met Office’s £230,000-a-year Chief Scientist has been caught out playing this game. We may recall Dame Julia making remarkably similar claims at the beginning of last year, when national headlines were daily filled with coverage of those terrible floods in Somerset and to the west of London.
Dame Julia was also quoted then as saying that, between December 2013 and February 2014, Britain had seen ‘the most exceptional period of rainfall in 248 years . . . we have records going back to 1766 and we have nothing like this’.
Her argument was that this strongly suggested a link with climate change.
Yet the Met Office’s own records showed there had been even more rain between November 1929 and January 1930, again long before we ever heard of ‘climate change’.
In England alone, the 15.6 inches (396mm) of rain which fell in the winter of 2013-14 — claimed by Dame Julia to have been the most exceptional period for more than two centuries — was significantly exceeded by the 19.5 inches (495mm) recorded between November 1929 and January 1930.
In fact, that rainfall two years ago turned out to rank as only the fourth heaviest three-monthly rainfall figure since the Met Office record began in 1766, below those recorded in 1929-30, 1960 and 2000.
The real problem here, as we have seen so often in recent years, is that the Met Office has become so driven by its belief that CO2 is disastrously changing our climate that this has skewed much of its forecasting.
Again and again, as when it predicted a ‘barbecue summer’ in 2009 which turned out to be months of rain, or a ‘warmer- than-average winter’ in 2010, just before the coldest December on record, its computer model forecasts have made it a national joke — and, alas, its performance over the current Cumbrian floods has only added to a litany of failure.
The tragedy is that our politicians, like Liz Truss, not only still believe what the Met Office tells them but shape their policies accordingly.
It is for precisely that reason that we are now legally committed, uniquely in the world, to cutting our ‘carbon emissions’ by 80 per cent, and to closing the coal-fired power stations which still supply a third of our electricity — mainly to replace them with wind turbines and solar panels which work only when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.
For those directly affected by flooding, as I was in 1975 when 6.74 inches of rain fell in just 40 minutes on Hampstead, where I then lived — easily the most intense downpour on record — to experience these ‘extreme weather events’ is certainly very alarming and unpleasant.
But for those in a position of power then to exploit them just to make a deluded ideological point, as we have yet again seen in recent days, is a disgraceful abuse both of science and of common sense.