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Unprecedented? No, Liz, Go Away & Check The Facts

May 31, 2020

By Paul Homewood



This comment from Liz Bentley popped up in yesterday’s BBC’s hysterical piece about a nice, sunny spring.

It is the sort of statement that is difficult to disprove (how can you prove that nothing has happened?), but which sounds credible to those unaware of the facts.

And, of course, coming from the Head of the Royal Met Society, it has the voice of authority. Surely she knows all of the facts?

Well, weather such as this is not “unprecedented” or “concerning”, so why has she said it is?


I have looked at the monthly rainfall figures in England, which the Met Office now extend back to 1862. The following graph plots the 100 driest and 100 wettest months:



On the face of it, there is no evidence at all that rainfall is becoming more extreme in England, either wetter or drier. The whole record is full of extreme wet and dry months in most years.

In the last ten years, there have been eleven entries, an average of 1.1 a year, compared to the full dataset average of 1.58. This splits into six wet and five dry.

As for the sudden switch rounds from wet to dry, and vice versa, we only have to look back at 1865 to find the same thing happening then. In September that year, only 13.4mm of rain fell, making it the second driest September in the whole record. A month later, 169.1mm fell, making that the second wettest October.

The whole series is full of similar occurrences.


The existence of high pressure blocking, as we have seen this spring, is nothing new either. Back in May 1980, this article appeared in The Times:

Note as well the penultimate paragraph about the Little Ice Age.



  1. Stonyground permalink
    May 31, 2020 6:50 pm

    Or possibly both.

  2. Thomas Carr permalink
    May 31, 2020 6:57 pm

    So how would Liz come to learn of her mistake?
    Paul ,will you send the evidence to her direct with a copy to R. Harrabin?

    • May 31, 2020 7:10 pm

      “Paul ,will you send the evidence to her direct with a copy to R. Harrabin?”

      I second that suggestion!

  3. jack broughton permalink
    May 31, 2020 7:00 pm

    What is worse in the Met office ravings is that they are taking short periods as “Climate”. Even the WMO define climate as periods over 30 years: it ought to be 60 years (at least) in fact to cover the main earth cycle. Thus, if she is a meteorologist, she ought to know better than to attribute a single weather event to “Climate”. This is truly disgraceful behaviour by someone who has a duty of care and she ought to be disciplined for it.

    • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
      June 1, 2020 3:55 am

      Original “climate” studies used vegetation boundaries to map climates. Note the plural.
      Where I live – east of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State – the vegetation (Ponderosa Pine forest** transitioning to scrub/steppe) has been the same for hundreds of years. Yearly precipitation is about 9 inches (230 mm), summers are hot, winters below freezing.

      Weather does vary over time, as indicated.
      Climate(s) are something else.
      _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
      **Ponderosa Pine forest** are “fire adapted” and the oldest known in the USA is about 850 years.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    May 31, 2020 7:06 pm

    What would be truly “unprecedented” would be Harrabin reporting weather as, well …. just weather.

    • Devoncamel permalink
      May 31, 2020 8:06 pm

      Facts don’t count in the minds of political activists.

    • June 1, 2020 4:10 am

      Yes sir. Well put.
      And also for climate science to finally face up to the reality that “unprecedented” does not prove or even imply “human cause” and yet that is the underlying assumption and the implication in all these orgasmic discoveries of unprecedented weather.

      • June 1, 2020 1:08 pm

        “Unprecedented” in whose mind? Are we dealing with decades or hundreds of years of data and observations? Or we dealing with the memory of the last 10 years? Anything which has happened once can happen again.

        Were geology and paleozoology/paleobotany being mentioned in the school systems, changes in climate would be no big deal. It happens on huge scales over time.

      • June 4, 2020 9:41 am

        It’s a weird obsession of climate scientists.

  5. Alan Ground permalink
    May 31, 2020 7:07 pm

    I echo the comment from Thomas Carr. How are these and many other points taken up with the authors concerned, and how is it that these counter-comments receive such minimal publicity?

  6. g00se permalink
    May 31, 2020 7:16 pm

    Maybe the BBC can include Liz Bentley’s assertions in their own ‘Reality Check’ section?

  7. May 31, 2020 7:20 pm

    It’s almost as if the BBC was following some impulse to broadcast their own made-up scare stories stories to prove their own points, stick to some, as yet unknown, narrative and scare the public. Surely a national broadcaster could not be guilty of such mendacious and unethical behaviour?
    /s (if necessary)

    • Gerry, England permalink
      June 1, 2020 9:28 am

      Peter Hitchens in his Mail on Sunday column yesterday was suggesting that over the last 2 years some of the last older managers who still had thoughts of impartiality as required by their charter had gone and that now all pretence of impartiality has been abandoned. Peter used to appear about once a year on Question Time as a sop to the idea that not everybody shared their socialist vision but nothing recently.

  8. Broadlands permalink
    May 31, 2020 7:52 pm

    A rapid weather swing, turnaround, is unprecedented? Not in other parts of the world. In the US, if not elsewhere, 1917 was the coldest year on record (and still is). Just four years later 1921 was the warmest on record, and would still be if NOAA hadn’t lowered the official US Weather Bureau numbers to make 2012 the warmest. Have to keep the proverbial pea swinging from under one shell to another?

  9. Devoncamel permalink
    May 31, 2020 8:12 pm

    Here in the west country it has been unusually dry. Nobody is complaining or worrying. It has happened before, as recently as two years ago when the golf course at Westward Ho! (England’s oldest) was parched. The rain returned soon enough.

  10. Mike Jackson permalink
    May 31, 2020 8:13 pm

    Ah, but!! Note the bait and switch.

    “The swing from record wet to record sunshine is ‘unprecedented’” A bit like the swing from record soap to record cornflakes or from record cats to record television sets. The two are only tangentially related if at all. There is no reason not to have record rainfall and record sunshine in the same day, certainly in the same week.

    And to claim that any variation is “unprecedented” after surveying a 30-year period is in any event meaningless. It may be (though I beg leave to doubt) unprecedented during the relatively short lives of Stott and Bentley but what about the previous thousands of years of which they know nothing?

    And what exactly is it that is “unprecedented” anyway? What exactly are these records and how is it possible to make a comparison between them given that they are not mutually exclusive phenomena?

  11. Ed P permalink
    May 31, 2020 8:19 pm

    It’s easy to forget in these mendacious times that once researchers gathered data and tried to see if a pattern could be discerned in it. Now they start from a wished-for conclusion and look for data they can squeeze into shape to support it.
    Disgusting, immoral and reprehensible!

  12. May 31, 2020 8:33 pm

    It has to be remembered that “unprecedented” is the BBC’s favourite word at the moment. There is hardly a news item goes by with something being “unprecedented”. We live in unprecedented times with unprecedented things of unprecedented magnitude happening at unprecedented speeds and at unprecedented intervals.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      May 31, 2020 8:42 pm

      Wouldn’t the BBC using facts and avoiding propaganda be unprecedented?

  13. David Allan permalink
    May 31, 2020 9:18 pm

    Harrabin, the entire BBC and the Met Office are no longer fit for purpose. Watch this space When non-payment of the licence is decriminalised. Sadly, we’ll have to go on paying for the Met Off.

    • May 31, 2020 10:34 pm

      Having to try and create alarm out of nothing must be an odd way for them to make a living.

  14. John189 permalink
    May 31, 2020 9:23 pm

    There is no reason why record wet should not be followed by record dry, although I can see why this juxtaposition will alarm those who use expressions like “temperatures are not where they should be” etc. As for “unprecedented”, I can think of many sudden swings in the weather, my favourite – recorded then in Fahrenheit in our garden in West Yorkshire – would be 4 – 7 June 1975. Maximum on Wednesday 4 June was 42 degrees F, sudden transition late Thursday afternoon with rapid rise between 1600 and 1800 hours and then maxima on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 June of 77 and 82 Fahrenheit. But remarkable though this felt at the time, it certainly wasn’t unprecedented, and wasn’t part of a crisis prelude to the new ice age that was being predicted back then.

    • LeedsChris permalink
      May 31, 2020 9:40 pm

      John, I was living in the Midlands at that point and it was a classic week. We had light snow falling at breakfast on the 2nd and at Buxton, the County Cricket Match was snowed off. Within 4 days the temperature was in the low 80s Fahrenheit

  15. May 31, 2020 9:29 pm

    I suspect that the met office have moved to the business of reporting the past weather, all you need is journalist types for that. You can always find or create some kind of newsy item.

    Forecasting requires expensive expertise and even then you are not generally correct.

  16. LeedsChris permalink
    May 31, 2020 9:43 pm

    The British weather is FULL of classic reverses as the jet stream swings. We’ve had 1921 – practically the driest year ever – sandwiched between two wet years. We had the record heat of 1911 and the wet and cold of 1912. There was the long, hot summer of 1959, followed by the wet of 1960. And within years we have years like 1947 with February and August rainless in some areas and yet February was record cold, August record hot and March was record wet. And those who remember 1976 remember 12 months of drought and a truly hot summer, abruptly shifting in 48 hours at the end of August to months of cloud and rain.

  17. Mack permalink
    May 31, 2020 10:05 pm

    It would be vey ungallant of me to kick a woman when she’s down but, as I mentioned on your previous post on this topic and, as you’ve demonstrated, Bentley is plain wrong about the current weather being ‘unprecedented’ or, indeed ‘concerning’.

    A scan of her own archives at the RMS would quickly reveal the ‘precedented’ and relatively ”uncorncerning’ nature of our recent weather. So, is she, either, the most over promoted meteorologist in Christendom, lacking the most basic of research capabilities (a modern day Mrs Bean if you like as Mr Bean was to the art world!), merely following the wind of self preservation or a fully paid up member of the Green Blob utilising her credentials to help transform society into some kind of Figueres like Nirvana? Either way, she’s demonstrated complete ignorance of a subject in which she is supposed to have expertise. It’s very sad that a once highly respected institution seems to have sold it’s soul to political expediency and not honest scientific endeavour. But, as we’ve seen latterly, all of the big scientific institutions have been hijacked by similar narratives.

  18. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 31, 2020 10:21 pm

    Yes, far from being concerning, ricocheting weather is normal for the UK weather – it’s why we like to talk about it!

  19. May 31, 2020 11:05 pm

    “It is the sort of statement that is difficult to disprove”

    The burden of proof lies on the people making these claims but of course they would love to play the burden of proof fallacy game with the deniers and fortunately for them the deniers love to play this game.

  20. bobn permalink
    May 31, 2020 11:15 pm

    Are there any fellows of the RMetsoc reading this? If so please reply and i’ll try and make contact. Regards.

  21. woodsy42 permalink
    June 1, 2020 12:37 am

    The habit of dividing the year by months has always struck me as potentially misleading, Months are after all simply arbitrary units to divide the year. If you get (for example) two weeks of torrential rain in February it may qualify as a record month. But if exactly the same two weeks of rain fall in the last week of Feb and the first week of March you may simply get two ordinary months. Months are therefore meaningless for serious comparison.

    • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
      June 1, 2020 4:00 am

      I’ll drink to that!

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      June 1, 2020 8:25 am

      And the same with years – does the climate know the difference between the last week in December and the first week in January?

  22. Crowcatcher permalink
    June 1, 2020 6:25 am

    1976 – poor old Dennis Howell Minister of Drought in August, Minister of Flood in September – “plus ca change” and all that.
    I’m 75 and the only difference I’ve noticed between now and my childhood is that, unfortunately, we seem to have fewer thunderstorms – really love a good one!

  23. Coeur de Lion permalink
    June 1, 2020 7:42 am

    All of a piece with ‘Dame’ Slingo. We shouldn’t allow innumerate lefty women in high places. Oops what have I said .

  24. Peter F Gill permalink
    June 1, 2020 8:45 am

    Many English Language and English Literature graduates are gullible when it comes to science. In Roger Harrabin’s case the previous words are a considerable understatement. We are also suffering from the drafting of the Climate Change Act by another English graduate. Sadly I have to concur with the Heart of a Lion in this regard. As someone with rather more experience than Crowcatcher (I’m 77) I find it hard to say that out climate has changed in my lifetime. That of course is because one needs at least a full 60 year PDO cycle to even start considering such a change.

  25. CheshireRed permalink
    June 1, 2020 10:45 am

    Liberally insert into any hysterical BBC or Guardian ‘climate change’ article to amplify public fear factor.

    Action required
    Worse than previously thought
    Scientists say
    New study concludes
    Computer modelled evidence
    Senior scientists at…
    World leading scientists
    Leading authority on….
    The BBC has learned…
    The Guardian demands….

    Ad infinitum.

    • Bertie permalink
      June 1, 2020 12:35 pm

      Good list. I’d add escalating and emergency.

      • CheshireRed permalink
        June 1, 2020 3:12 pm

        Indeed! And fragile. I forgot that one too. Lickle earth is so ‘fragile’ it’d kill all of us a single night if we stayed outside our cosy fossil-fuelled homes.

    • jack broughton permalink
      June 1, 2020 3:41 pm

      You’ve got most of mine there, but I’d have to add Sustainable: that is used to pretend that something is very useful. Double-duckspeak rules the press.

    • Peter F Gill permalink
      June 1, 2020 4:24 pm

      A few more cheesy items for your list: Earlier than expected; Too late; Almost at the tipping point; Never before;

  26. roger permalink
    June 1, 2020 11:40 am

    “we seem to have fewer thunderstorms – really love a good one”
    That depends on your perspective!
    I do recall in the eighties and nineties being caught out quite often when fly fishing with a fifteen foot carbon fibre rod by electric storms rumbling through the landscape, culminating on one occasion in a strike some two hundred yards in front of me shortly followed by one just as close behind me as I lay cowering in a reed bed socially distancing from my very expensive lightning conductor! An impressive experience which indeed has been less common in the past two decades.
    From a perspective of eighty years I have to tell you nothing has changed enough to be noticeable nor do I expect it to in my lifetime!

  27. MrGrimNasty permalink
    June 1, 2020 11:47 am

    The latest gov. data showed that goods transport that had dropped to 25% of normal with the shutdown is back to 75%, and cars from 25% to ~60%. Rail and buses remain at single figure % levels and have not rebounded. The road outside my house is certainly more or less back to normal traffic levels.

    Click to access 2020-05-31_COVID-19_Press_Conference_Slides.pdf

    This increase in traffic should be sufficient to see an increase in pollution levels again?

    Nope, not even on the London kerbside. So it seems even more unlikely that the claimed reductions in air pollution were due to the reduction in private car use, this is a real mystery/opportunity that serious scientists would be looking into.

  28. MrGrimNasty permalink
    June 1, 2020 11:50 am

    Paul, another post has slipped into moderation, shortish but too many links I suspect.

    • June 1, 2020 12:42 pm

      Yeah, three links is the limit

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        June 1, 2020 6:13 pm

        OK, thanks, I’ll try and avoid making work for you in the future!

  29. tom0mason permalink
    June 1, 2020 12:20 pm

    So it’s unprecedented and concerning to Liz Bentley that UK weather varies, sometimes quite abruptly.
    Liz stop it! Get a life in a job where your talents are more suited — like mucking out the cattle shed! Oh sorry that is what you do!

  30. Bertie permalink
    June 1, 2020 12:32 pm

    The trouble is that whatever is said in here does not seem to go anywhere. It’s like an erudite radio discussion conducted with the transmitter turned off!
    If only the proper scientific message contained on this excellent site could be properly disseminated to the general public.

  31. dearieme permalink
    June 1, 2020 1:34 pm

    Since it would be rude to suppose she’s incompetent I’ll suppose she’s lying.

  32. Kelland Hutchence permalink
    June 1, 2020 2:57 pm

    Only Harrabin would be mug enough to believe her!

  33. MrGrimNasty permalink
    June 1, 2020 6:17 pm

    BBC now even more alarmed, the weather isn’t even being British!

  34. saparonia permalink
    June 2, 2020 8:28 pm

    The Sun is the cause of all of our weather. Solar cycle 25 has begun by the look of things as the Sun has begun to produce CME’s. this is a helioviewer video showing the solar ejections that I’ve posted on youtube. After this cycle 25 we are in for a shock because the Sun is going into a very deep Solar Minimum, predicted by Nasa.

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