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Analysis Of The South Yorkshire Floods

November 19, 2019

By Paul Homewood


You will recall that climate scientist Piers Forster was heavily featured in Matt McGrath’s “global warming causing floods” piece the other day.

In particular, Forster had claimed:

"As temperatures are warmer we get more intense rain, which by itself bring more floods, even if the number of storms hitting our shores don’t change.

When coupled to warmer, wetter winters generally, as expected from climate change, the ground becomes more saturated so any rainfall will give a greater chance of flooding."

Forster linked that BBC report on his Twitter page:




Forster was then challenged about his claims, but failed to provide any data to back them up, merely quoting unreliable and theoretical attribution studies:




As we know, the rainfall on Nov 7th in South Yorkshire was exceptionally heavy by any standard. But it was not unprecedented. Nor is there any real world evidence that daily rainfall in England has become more extreme.

But the key to understanding the floods lies in these two maps:



In the two months prior to the recent floods, rainfall has been well above average in South Yorkshire and East Midlands. Most of the country, however, has not been so badly affected.

This has nothing to do with global warming, it is merely a reflection of the weather patterns that have been in play.

We can get a better idea from the actual figures:




Neither September or October were unusually wet in Sheffield, but taken together, the two months were the 6th wettest, though still well down on 1960 and 1903.

There is no evidence of any significant trends in either month either.

For England as a whole, however, the two months are only the 12th wettest since 1910, hardly exceptional. Again there is no noticeable trend.



In my earlier analysis, I anecdotally commented that the dams around Sheffield have been full for sometime, that the river levels were relatively high, and that some of the fields around Fishlake were also flooded in the week prior to the big floods.

None of this is surprising, given the above charts. Indeed the EA’s own river flow summaries for the week before the flood confirmed the same thing, that the Don and Trent were already notably high:




With conditions like that, all it needed was a period of heavy rainfall to produce the inevitable floods.

In short, everything we have seen is fully explained by normal, natural weather patterns. It is a pity that Piers Forster has to resort to assertions which the data does not support.

His claim, of course, is that as temperatures are warmer we get more intense rain. In fact, temperatures in the last month or so have been well normal:


  1. Peter Yarnall permalink
    November 19, 2019 11:59 am

    More examples of how the CC narrative is being drip-fed into the national conscience, following the BBC propaganda programme on the “Climategate Scandal”. Why can we not get a rival TV station to portray the real truth?

    • ianprsy permalink
      November 19, 2019 1:18 pm

      As noted in another thread, Sky Oz has a very sceptical take on climate change. Is this a chcken and egg situation, ie did their position follow the state government’s recognition of the problem or precede it? How could Sky UK be encouraged to follow suit? Anybody got Rupert Murdoch’s email address?

  2. HotScot permalink
    November 19, 2019 12:01 pm


  3. Athelstan. permalink
    November 19, 2019 12:15 pm

    Rolls eyes and looks upwards to the heavens and in despair…………..

    the beeb and charlatans, false association, crap statistics = liars and fake news, whatever else would you, can you expect?

    • Thomas Carr permalink
      November 19, 2019 12:33 pm

      Never mind the abuse. That merely gives justification to the repeaters of accepted wisdom (and the complacency of the BBC) who would portray warming sceptics as deranged. Hard facts and instant challenge must be the riposte to lazy journalism of the jeremiads. Well done P.H.

      • Athelstan. permalink
        November 19, 2019 7:42 pm



        I merely relate the truth of it and about them – they know full well what they do, and therein, the beeb are unconscionable, inveterate, unabashed liars and they revel, glory in it.

  4. john cooknell permalink
    November 19, 2019 12:34 pm

    I have read various climate science attribution model studies and each one includes “no change from normal variability” in its uncertainty range.

    I am confused.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      November 19, 2019 6:58 pm

      Attribution models are garbage. It is simply impossible for a model to attribute a large chance that Climate Change is responsible for an event unless the model assumes that there’s a pretty good chance that…er…Climate Change could well be responsible for the event.

      If you assume in the models that aliens playing a joke on us could be a cause, and that would look like the current weather, then the studies will show a high chance of aliens playing a joke on us as a cause.

      The starting point for all these studies is that they probably are causing it. What they are actually modelling are their assumptions – as all models do.

  5. Mack permalink
    November 19, 2019 12:57 pm

    Peer reviewed climate science, the gift that keeps on giving. So, according to Piers Forster and his sciencey pals, ” as temperatures are warmer we get more intense rain which, by itself, brings more floods” except, of course, when we get “a decrease in rainfall coupled to warmer weather, this leads to drought”. Everyone straight on that?

  6. November 19, 2019 1:06 pm

    I read that the South Yotks floods were caused by the failure to dredge rhe waterways. Lessons were not learned from the Somerset floods as described by the large and much lamented Christopher Booker where the causation was identical.

    • chaswarnertoo permalink
      November 19, 2019 1:28 pm

      Close, but the levels flooding was also due to deforestation of the head waters and building on flood plains down the Rivers Tone and Yeo. All that extra water shoved in and the drains left to block…..

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      November 19, 2019 7:00 pm

      It’s not a failure to dredge: it’s a conscious strategy to promote AGW/CC. I’ve never been one for conspiracy theories, but this is just too much.
      By not dredging/maintaining flood plains/etc the EA can claim that it’s all down to CC, and the hangers on, who want to promote the scare for their own political ends – and, let’s face it, a scam of this size is global politics writ large, whatever they may be – are rubbing their hands with glee. Just listen to the nonsense coming from the Greens about how much they (they mean, we) will spend ‘combating CC’ (they mean, controlling the weather – but they would get laughed out of polling stations for saying such a stupid thing).
      All I know is, the long, slow drip, drip of ‘climate change’ through the media (mainly BBC) is relentless. I’m an early riser and never a morning goes by without Farming Today banging on about CC.
      My grandson won’t inherit a world despoiled by CC; he will struggle to survive in a world of global hysteria in the pursuit of some kind of Marxist central control when he will say: ‘HEY! Big Brother!!’ (when we thought it novel to say, ‘hey google’ (sshh) (your ear-wigger’s name may vary).


  7. November 19, 2019 1:16 pm

    When they say ‘warmer’ they are usually talking in hundredths of degrees, within the error bars of accurate measurement. Is the Sahara desert moving to Europe any time soon? No.

  8. John W.H.Scarffe permalink
    November 19, 2019 1:33 pm


    Many thanks Paul for your blog. Living in Sheffield, I was very interested in your analysis of recent rainfall patterns and I have wondered how the recent flooding compares to July 2007 when Sheffield and other areas were badly flooded.

    Also, may I ask if you have looked at the “plight ” of Fairbourne near Barmouth…… quote Wales online…… “The Welsh village being abandoned to the sea because of climate change”
    My gut instinct,without doing any serious research, is that this scare is more “climate lunacy” which is of course badly affecting the poor residents (and their property prices) of this lovely coastal village.
    The tide gauges around the UK seem to show steady sea level rise of less than 2mm per year so unless the land at Fairbourne is sinking locally, there would not seem to be much danger.
    If you have any thoughts, please share them.

    John Scarffe

  9. Keitho permalink
    November 19, 2019 1:50 pm

    I have not seen any discussion of the impact on river floods that development in the catchment area can have. The more development;roads, roofs, car parks, to say nothing of recently harvested fields; the faster the rain finds its way to the river.

    The water course then has less time to drain the rainfall causing higher river levels and ultimately flooding. Much weight is given to out of the ordinary rainfall but not enough, in my opinion, to the changing characteristics of the catchment area itself.

  10. ThinkingScientist permalink
    November 19, 2019 1:53 pm

    Comparing the UK decadel average temperature for the period 1999-2008 to the current decade 2009 – 2018 (last decade with complete data) shows the UK decadel average temperature has dropped by -0.18. Winter temps have dropped the most (-0.58) but there is a drop for all seasons.

    According to Hadcrut4, the global change is +0.15 degC for the decadel averages and for UAH +0.13 degC. Pretty small beer really, so seems rather uncompelling to try and link rainfall apocalypse to such a trivial temperature change.

    In Hadcrut4 any decadel comparison between a decade ending in any year from 1919 to 1950 has an AVERAGE increase of 0.12 degC, even before global warming kicked in (according to the IPCC).

    What’s even funnier than that is that there are decadel periods back then when if you take Hadcrut4 temps, subtract the climate model predictions and then look at decadel average changes in the residuals there are some comparisons where the decadel increase in temps residuals are as high as +0.13 degC. Was there a climate apocalypse in in the 1930s or 1940s? The average decadel temp increase for every year from 1939 to 1948 is +0.1 degC AFTER the climate model is subtracted from the HADCRUT4 data ie in the residuals!

    Really can’t see what all the fuss is about. When will common sense revert and we just go back to maintaining ditches and waterways properly again?

  11. Gerry, England permalink
    November 19, 2019 2:00 pm

    I see my local system the Medway is high which reflects all the heavy rain we have had recently but given that it falls on square miles of farm land there has been no flooding. For weeks the wheel ruts and and hoof prints have been puddles but now there are lakes on the grass. As for it being warmer, my gas consumption is up on last year already.

  12. LeedsChris permalink
    November 19, 2019 4:03 pm

    The review into the winter floods of 2015/16 in the UK by the Centre for ecology and Hydrology and the British Hydrological Society (Marsh, T. J et al, 2016) noted that there was a moderate increase in the last decade of UK river runoff relative to the previous 40 years and that this could possibly be linked to climate change, but equally it demonstrates the inherent variability of river flows. The study noted that there was a notably ‘flood poor’ period in England from the 1950s to the 1970s and that was when most of our modern hydrometric measurements started (prior to the 1960s the monitoring network was sparse) so this may mean that we may be measuring a natural cycle of wet and drier periods.

    The earlier review by the same organisation into the Summer 2007 floods also concluded that while it was a truly outstanding event and a ‘singular episode’ but did not appear to form part of a pattern consistent with current climate change scenarios or form a trend.

    • john cooknell permalink
      November 19, 2019 4:54 pm

      Terry Marsh did a study on the 2012 “wet” drought as well.

      But he is not a climate scientist, he hasn’t got a mode;l just records, so he can be safely ignored.

  13. swan101 permalink
    November 19, 2019 5:33 pm

    Reblogged this on ECO-ENERGY DATABASE.

  14. Jackington permalink
    November 19, 2019 5:41 pm

    OMG. Global floods and global fires both at the same time – it’s worse than I thought.

  15. john cooknell permalink
    November 19, 2019 7:56 pm


    The UK met office has their own brand of attribution for rainfall floods and weather extremes due to climate change. All based on attribution climate models and unicorns of course.

    Sometimes the met office quote the IPCC, sometimes they don’t.

    The time periods for comparison could introduce a bias maybe, but confirmation bias is probably the biggest factor.

    Poor science. But right on message.

    • November 19, 2019 8:05 pm

      Thanks for that John, it’s just what I was looking for

      I’m working on a new post on historic trends

  16. November 19, 2019 10:33 pm

    Remember that a drought and a lack of water are two different things.
    In some places in some periods before, we have seen dry weather where bad planning led to lack of water in the taps, when good planning would have not.

    Likewise today it seems that heavy rains and floods are two different things
    Good planning copes with heavy rain without floods
    bad planning doesn’t

    And I suspect in a lot of areas a lot of EA staff did do a good job
    and there weren’t floods.

  17. November 19, 2019 11:26 pm

    Lincolnshire : would the BBC use a *drone* to report on the flood effects of global warming caused by manmade CO2 ?
    … Nah, they use the BBC helicopter spewing lots of manmade CO2

  18. Rowland P permalink
    November 20, 2019 9:25 am

    According to its own records, Fishlake suffered flooding in 1922, 1928, 1932, 1933 and 1947 not to mention 1886 and 1697!

  19. It doesn't add up... permalink
    November 20, 2019 12:32 pm

    Rattling around in the back of my brain is the statistical and theoretical work of Hurst, who developed his eponymous exponent as a measure of whether data series exhibit long term memory. Famously, he started by looking at the incidence of flooding on the Nile, and extended his work into hydrology. There is a very recent study that looks at rainfall in England and Wales using Hurst’s techniques here

    It concludes that the data are random.

  20. November 20, 2019 10:41 pm

    6pm today our edition of ITV Calendar spent 5 mins covering Fishlake
    They had a local farmer who has 1,000 acres under water
    .. He says he’s been screaming for dredging for years.
    We saw the first clear video of what happened, unlike in Lincolnshire where there was a bank breach, in Fishlake their was overtopping from the Don which sits above the farmland with very high banks.
    The farmer argued that had the Don been dredged deeper there would have been LESS but not zero overtopping.
    The EA man totally denied this.
    Next the head of the NFU was on..she is a mad greenie, but this time did not push her agenda.

    Unfortunately ITV locals news is not available on catchup
    And they didn’t put anything on Facebook or Twitter .

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