Floods In The North West
By Paul Homewood
More bad weather for the North West, although this time just slightly south of Cumbria, which has been worst hit this month.
It is tragic for anybody whose homes have been flooded, so it is particularly insensitive and insulting when the Floods Minister, Rory Stewart, tries to link it to climate change:
Mr Stewart, whose constituency of Penrith and The Border, lies in the flood zone, said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "We’re looking potentially again today at maybe a month’s rainfall coming in a day. That’s falling on ground that’s very saturated. As the rain falls, the rivers respond very quickly. Certainly what we’ve seen is rainfall levels that nobody’s ever seen before.
"If somebody had said two years ago when we were designing these flood defences that we could get 13 inches of rain in a day, the answer from the engineers would have been ‘Why are you making that kind of prediction? We have never seen this before.’ I think this is why people are right to start focusing on uncertainty and why people obviously are very interested in the question of climate change."
His comment, of course, refers to the “record” 24-hour rainfall, recorded at Honister Pass during Storm Desmond earlier in the month. There is actually no evidence at all that such totals are not pretty commonplace in mountainous areas like Honister. What has changed is that we have only just started to measure them.
The Environment Agency, who operate the rain gauge at Honister along with many others, have informed me that their records at Honister only date back to 1992, and since then 24% of the daily data is missing. The Agency, of course, have very good reason to set rain gauges in these sort of areas, as they give advanced warning of floods down in the valleys, but this is, in the main, a very recent practice.
There is in fact a very good meteorological explanation for the flooding experienced in the North West in recent weeks.
Let’s start by looking at the weekly rainfall patterns provided by the EA.
We can see that, for the seven weeks prior to this one, the rainfall has consistently targeted the North West and Wales. For the rest of England, rainfall has been around or even below average, as can be seen on the Met Office’s summary for November below.
If we home in on the current situation, via the BBC weather update, we get a clue to why this region has been so badly affected.
The low pressure system over the UK is sat in such a position that it is bringing what is effectively a river of moisture up from the south west. Not only that, this river is moving along its path, so that the same part of the UK, the unlucky North West, keeps receiving most of the rain as the depression travels through.
To make matters worse, the topography of the North West, with its mountains and high ground, means that much more rain will be dumped than in other parts of the country.
This has been a common weather set up for the last few weeks.
The clue to why this should be lies below; the pool of very cold air in the North Atlantic is stacked up against the warmer air to the south. This, naturally, is resulting in a string of strong depressions forming along the demarcation line.
All linked in with this is the jet stream, much stronger than normal, which is forcing these depressions along more or less the same track, rather than allowing them to wander about.
In many years, of course, similar stormy weather occurs, but is deflected further north by the jet stream, where it tends to bring most rain to the north of Scotland, where it gets much less attention.
None of this has the slightest connection with “climate change”, unless somebody can explain how molecules of CO2 can alter the pattern of the jet stream.