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Joe Shute’s Seasons Going Haywire

June 6, 2021

By Paul Homewood


Joe Shute has been the Telegraph’s “Weather Watcher” for a number of years, contributing a weekly column every Saturday.

Joe has no obvious expertise for this, and quite frankly many of his articles are an embarrassment.

But now he has a book to sell, called “Forecast: A Diary of the Lost Seasons”. So what better way to advertise it than with an article in the Telegraph, “Daffodils in December and swallows in February – how climate change is sending our seasons haywire”.

Shute writes:

Among my most treasured books is a Ladybird series published in the early 1960s and entitled What To Look For. Written by the biologist Elliot Lovegood Grant Watson and illustrated by renowned wildlife artist Charles Tunnicliffe, each book is devoted to a different season and portrays a world in perfect balance: weather, wildlife and people all in equilibrium.

In winter, geese feed on surplus grain left over in the stubble field while dormice hibernate in their woven nests. Come spring, lambs gambol and the mad March hares box in the fields. By summer the swifts are screaming, wild flowers are in bloom, and adders slink out of their lairs to luxuriate in the warmth.

These books convey a sense of post-war certainty that the world will always be just so. Yet today what to look for in any one season is increasingly anybody’s guess. The warming climate is rapidly altering the traditional concept of the four seasons that has shaped the British landscape and culture for hundreds of years, and upon which all life depends.

Migratory birds such as swallows, for example, heralded in folklore as a harbinger of summer, are these days arriving from their African migration a fortnight earlier than when my What To Look For series was published, and breeding 11 days earlier. In recent years, swallows have been spotted by English county recorders as early as February, while there have been reports of the birds even over-wintering in the south of the country.


All very bucolic, but what does the actual data tell us?

Take spring, for instance:



Our springs have certainly warmed up since his 1960s, but in reality are still barely warmer than they were in the 1940s. Renowned climatologist, HH Lamb (1), writing in 1982 had this to say about the rapid cooling in the 1960s:

The temperature changes since 1950 have affected the length of the growing season. In England, many farmers and gardeners are familiar with the turn to colder springs. ………………

The net effect of these changes in England has been that the growing seasons have been on average about nine to ten days shorter since the mid-1950s, and the mean date of onset of spring at Oxford has changed from 4th March between 1920 and 1950, to about 20th March between 1963 and 1980.


Climate change, Joe?


But more fundamentally, we can see that there is no such thing as a normal, stable climate. It is a myth, something that only exists in Joe’s Ladybird books. Our weather can and does fluctuate wildly from year to year, between hot and cold, wet and dry. It is impossible to predict from one year to the next, and Joe’s “post-war certainty” is no more than an illusion.


Let’s take a look at another of Shute’s claims, daffodils in December:

In fact, mild Decembers are perfectly common throughout the record, and, with the exception of 2015, recent Decembers have been no warmer than many others in the past, no matter what Joe might think.

This latest article highlights just how appallingly poor so much of the Telegraph’s reporting has become lately. Maybe they should start to correct this by appointing somebody to write the weather column who actually knows what they are doing!

(1) Climate, History and the Modern World – HH Lamb

  1. theturquoiseowl permalink
    June 6, 2021 1:57 pm

    In the part of North Yorkshire where I live, Ash trees are only just now coming into leaf.

    • David V permalink
      June 6, 2021 2:51 pm

      They are sick – it’s the die-back disease. In Suffolk ash leaves were six weeks after oak last year and are late again this year but many of the trees are half dead. The disease was first reported round here nearly 10 years ago but it takes a long time to kill a mature tree.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        June 6, 2021 5:44 pm

        Yes it could be, but they are late to leaf normally and very temperature sensitive about it, Walnut is less temp. sensitive just always late!

      • bobn permalink
        June 7, 2021 1:59 am

        No. Its not the die-back disease. This year our ash trees (we have over 100 in our woods) are very late due to the cold spring. They are now coming into leaf healthy. Just like the grape vines are over 2 weeks late this year due to the cold. Thats been a blessing as the english vineyards stayed dormant through the harsh April frosts and were undamaged , unlike the French vineyards that had already bud burst and then hammered by april frosts.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        June 7, 2021 10:44 am

        Daft being dogmatic when you can’t possibly know in the individual case.
        It could be a symptom of die back infection (as seen on Kate Humble’s farm), although more likely, as already said, they are very weather dependent too.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      June 6, 2021 4:19 pm

      Oak before Ash…etc. Just a splash then. ::-)

  2. Andrew Harding permalink
    June 6, 2021 1:57 pm

    I have had a subscription to the Telegraph since the early 80’s. Its Right of Centre views and common sense reporting I always liked, until recently, which changed with the hiring of environmental columnists whose views conflict with those of its subscribers and also with facts and common sense.

    I am seriously thinking about cancelling my subscription and will do so if Telegraph journalism continues down its current dumbing down, tabloidesque path!

    • Barbara permalink
      June 6, 2021 3:31 pm

      I do not think you are alone Andrew and it is not just on the matter of the environment. I cannot believe the drivel put out by the lifestyle ‘reporters’. Do you suppose all those who saw the light re the National Trust and the BBC are now becoming dissatisfied with the DT too?

    • Adam Gallon permalink
      June 6, 2021 4:06 pm

      Cancelled my subscription years ago.
      It’s just a broadsheet Daily Wail now.

    • 2hmp permalink
      June 6, 2021 4:34 pm

      I think you will likely find it was when Chris Evans took over as Editor.

      • Lorde Late permalink
        June 6, 2021 5:10 pm

        I feel the same about the DT.
        Regarding the book from the sixties I too have a lovely collection of wildlife and nature books from that period to which I refer and it seems to me that things change all the time.

    • Julian Flood permalink
      June 7, 2021 4:34 am

      I went through this process with New Scientist some years ago. After decades of reading every issue I could take no more climate change hysteria, and even refused it as a Christmas gift.
      Science, who needs it? They can feel Gaia weeping. That should be good enough for their readers as it is for St Greta.


    • miket permalink
      June 7, 2021 10:53 am

      I stopped seriously thinking about it and did cancel my subscription this year. Haven’t missed it. Should have done it ages ago.

  3. Bill Berry permalink
    June 6, 2021 1:58 pm

    It would be more relevant if the commentators obsessed with phenology commented on the conditions that prompted the start of migrations and the duration of the journeys. Very few of which were in the UK

  4. Ray Sanders permalink
    June 6, 2021 1:59 pm

    ” Our weather can and does fluctuate wildly from year to year, between hot and cold, wet and dry.” It most certainly does and illustrates the dangers of a dependence on energy from weather dependent sources. Comparing the first five months (Jan to May inclusive) of 2020 with those of 2021 illustrates the huge differences. Bear in mind both wind and solar have priority access to the grid.
    Wind 2020 was 25.209TWh has reduced by 14.8% to 21.486TWh for 2021.
    Solar 2020 was 5.206TWh has reduced by 15.1% to 4.421TWh for 2021.
    Large Hydro 2020 was 2.025TWh reduced by 25% to 1.519TWh for 2021 (despite the rain!)
    And gas? ( you know that fuel we are supposed to go without )
    Gas 2020 was 34.884TWh has INCREASED (just a bit…like 35.4%) to 47.243TWh.

    I have sent this information to both The Guardian (Silly Jilly) and of course the nutters at the BBC pseudo Science unit. Somehow I doubt they will publish.


    • Harry Passfield permalink
      June 6, 2021 4:31 pm

      Useful stats, Ray. Thanks.

    • Thomas Carr permalink
      June 6, 2021 9:39 pm

      Whatever the outcome I’m glad that you made the effort to inform them. If in fact that they do not publish that in itself is worth recording as evidence of professional negligence when the time comes to submit a reckoning.

    • Peter Schofield permalink
      June 7, 2021 10:11 am

      Just had a large new gas boiler fitted in the house I am moving to, along with a changeover switch on the fuseboard in case we need a generator when the wind isn`t blowing.

  5. June 6, 2021 2:09 pm

    A quote from the work “Nicomachean Ethics”, by the philosopher and scientist Aristotle (384-322 BC), who did not interpret it as we do:

    translation (1926): Harris Rackham
    “To be happy takes a complete lifetime; for one swallow does not make spring, nor does one fine day; and similarly one day or a brief period of happiness does not make a man supremely blessed and happy”.

  6. mwhite permalink
    June 6, 2021 2:14 pm

    I seem to remember a post referencing a book “The Climate of London”

    Similar descriptions for the early 1800s

  7. mikewaite permalink
    June 6, 2021 2:27 pm

    My wife is the leader of a U3A birding group that goes out (in Cheshire) every 2 – 3 weeks.
    Only recently have swifts and swallows been seen . Anyway what is wrong with swallows in February if the insects are there? Until just 2 weeks ago my broad beans , growing massively, many flowers , showed no beans coming simply because of lack of pollinating insects in the cold spring.
    Increasingly everything in the Telegraph appears to have been dictated by Gates or Greenpeace and dereft of any professional journalism. Just last week its TV guide mentioned a programme about the building of the new Hinckley Point nuclear power station , remarking on the impressive building work, but ending with saying that many viewers will think it was not the best choice of power for the future. Not pointing out that it will operate low carbon and at the same time provide a stable power base – a dream combination you might think, but Gates and Greenpeace do not approve, so it must be bad.

    • Ray Sandersguardian permalink
      June 6, 2021 4:00 pm

      The only reason I can think of that Bill Gates would complain about Hinkley Point C is because it wasn’t one of his company’s designs. Bill Gates is very much into nuclear power.

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        June 6, 2021 4:02 pm

        whoops how on earth did “guardian” attach itself to my name?

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        June 6, 2021 4:37 pm

        That’s blown your cover, Ray. 🙂

  8. LeedsChris permalink
    June 6, 2021 2:34 pm

    Anyone. Anyone who knows anything about British weather history knows that there have always been ‘extraordinary’ seasons and weather year to year varies a long way from the idea of fixed seasons. There is an excellent book in the New Naturalist series, written by John Kington, that – for weather geeks – lists a year by year description of weather in Britain since the Middle Ages. Anyone can see for themselves the sheer stupidity of this article. He quotes from chroniclers, diarists and writers, including Samuel Pepys who wrote about a couple of winters that were so warm and dry as to be like summer – and in one cases national prayers were made to try and change the weather

  9. Coeur de Lion permalink
    June 6, 2021 2:59 pm

    Yeah I know it’s weather but as I write Boris’s windmills are producing 1.87% of low demand 30GW. And let’s not forget 12 similar days in April. And tomorrow’s isobars look like another Net Zero
    (Oops) day.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      June 6, 2021 10:14 pm

      Now that the sun has gone to bed the numbers for non combustion renewables has dropped to 280MW wind and 200MW hydro. The lunatics really will have taken over the asylum continuing with this energy “policy”.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        June 6, 2021 11:03 pm

        Won’t get tonight’s renewable (lack of) effort reported on the news will we. But demand is so low no coal is required – so another coal free day renewables victory – huzzah! Still managing to burn plenty of forest though.

    • June 7, 2021 7:47 am

      I hope you are doing your bit by only using 1.87% of your usual electricity?

  10. David V permalink
    June 6, 2021 3:02 pm

    Years ago the Times used to regularly publish letters reporting the first cuckoo of spring. They stopped because the reports got earlier and earlier as apparently reputable rural folk competed to be the first to hear cuckoos. Nothing to do with warming – I can’t help thinking there is a healthy dose of the same trend in today’s reports.

  11. MrGrimNasty permalink
    June 6, 2021 3:26 pm

    As if a 1960s ladybird book is a precise scientific work and not just an idyllic approximation of the world!

    Every season is different, random, ‘confused’ in a different way – that is nature! But it pulls through. Plants rush and slow. Sometimes a particular species has a bad year, but a following year will be a boom.

    Springwatch was bemoaning the failure of blue-tit nests this year (yes, climate, everything out of whack nonsense), but mine are now successfully raising a second brood.

    I won’t bore people with the Pepys diary quote again referring to the complete lack of a winter and the unusual warmth.

    Lots of the same plants/animals thrive in the UK from the S.Coast to the north of Scotland, and yet the seasons are completely ‘out of whack’ across the country. It’s interesting to see Monty Don’s garden and Beechgrove, they are always at different stages of development to mine, but what is interesting is that sometimes some things are more advanced whilst others are behind.

    • Lorde Late permalink
      June 6, 2021 5:21 pm

      we have loads of bluetits in our boxes this year.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        June 6, 2021 5:46 pm

        No they all perished, Chris Packham told me. It’s probably sparrows suffering from the cold.

      • StephenP permalink
        June 6, 2021 5:59 pm

        Our blue tits laid eleven eggs, one didn’t hatch, one nestling died and the rest have fledged and flown the nest-box. We have plenty of aphids on the roses and the mock orange, so hopefully they will be able feed themselves well.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        June 6, 2021 11:11 pm

        Why do bluetits get so excited every time they find a caterpillar? They positively dance. Then there’s the wonderful process of squashing it in the middle so the innards explode, before holding it down with one foot and ripping it apart.

      • StephenP permalink
        June 7, 2021 7:55 am

        To get them small enough to feed to the young blue tits.
        Have you ever watched someone eating a large hot dog?

  12. Gamecock permalink
    June 6, 2021 3:32 pm

    ‘But more fundamentally, we can see that there is no such thing as a normal, stable climate. It is a myth, something that only exists in Joe’s Ladybird books. Our weather can and does fluctuate wildly from year to year, between hot and cold, wet and dry.’

    Mr. Homewood, I’m afraid you have been misled by the bombardment of climate scientist rhetoric.

    Your changing weather is NOT changing climate. It is changing weather. Weather changes. Climate generally does not. Indeed, UK has had a temperate oceanic climate (Köppen: Cfb) since time immemorial. You have NO climate change. Wildly fluctuating weather is NOT climate change. Your climate is stable. With the possible exception of the Sahel, NO CLIMATE ON EARTH IS CHANGING! NONE!

    Climate change is the myth.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      June 6, 2021 4:53 pm

      Spot on! Ask any alarmist to explain the difference between weather and climate. Crickets.

    • dave permalink
      June 7, 2021 12:11 pm

      Technically, ‘a climate’ is a description of the DIFFERENT sorts of weather which can be expected at different times of the year, together with estimates of the PROBABILTY of
      each sort of weather. The probability distribution will be modelled by some sort of a Poisson variable. It is notoriously hard to detect a change in the rate of such variables.

      So, a stable, or almost stable, climate is compatible with very different outcomes each year if the locality has an intrinsically unstable meteorology. That is, if there ARE different sorts of weather. The UK is in this category, because the jet-stream flows over us for much of the time, and wiggles.

      Conversely, an unstable climate might not in fact change the weather in a very obvious manner, for a long time. A tropical location might merely increase in temperature a degree or two and in rainfall a few inches. If the inhabitants already think of their location as hot and wet, why should ‘even hotter and wetter’ signify anything?

  13. mjr permalink
    June 6, 2021 3:52 pm

    cracking summary of current cold records from Ozzie Sky news

  14. Will davis permalink
    June 6, 2021 4:14 pm

    I have daffodils out in December but they are not the traditional type that struggle to flower by March the 1st. New varieties flower earlier, which I think is a pity that the new varieties flower before the spring.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      June 7, 2021 8:47 am

      Rijnveld’s Early Sensation.

  15. Harry Passfield permalink
    June 6, 2021 4:22 pm

    My God!! In all the years I’ve followed this scam I’ve read many erudite expositions on climate change but now I realise I should have been blogging on Ladybird!!!

  16. Stonyground permalink
    June 6, 2021 5:41 pm

    Has everyone noticed that the “due to climate change” stories are starting to get more and more ridiculous? Surely it won’t just be die hard sceptics like us lot that notice. Surely people who nominally believe the climate change guff are going to start to say ‘well that’s just silly’. Endangered dandelions has to be the silliest one so far, that one made me laugh out loud.

    • dave permalink
      June 6, 2021 6:34 pm

      “…endangered dandelions…”

      But surely we must realize that without their teeth the lions are doomed!

  17. MrGrimNasty permalink
    June 6, 2021 6:33 pm

    BBC ClimateFile is s-stirring over trade deals ‘worried’ UK meat farmers won’t be able to compete – yet the program seems to expend an awful lot of effort trying to destroy the UK meat industry in the name of climate change.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      June 7, 2021 9:08 am

      Yes I’ve been confused by that one. We are supposed to hugely cut down on meat consumption but we can’t have a trade deal with Australia because we must protect out meat farmers.

      It’s the usual confusion of our Progessive Elites – Brexit can’t be a success so trade deals must be blocked. Even though they show how much the EU has been costing us. But once the trade deal is blocked they will be back to destroying the UK meat farmers.

  18. Mack permalink
    June 6, 2021 7:08 pm

    Never mind the Ladybird books, In the run up to Glasgow I fully expect the DT to start running a series of articles entitled ‘Janet and John do the Climate Catastrophe’. Now that could be entertaining.

  19. Igsy permalink
    June 6, 2021 7:15 pm

    Back in the ‘60’s there was basically only one variety of daffodils in the UK. The daffs came out regular as clockwork in late Feb/early March.
    Now there are many varieties, including some that do indeed get started late December/early January.
    This all has very little to do with temperatures.

  20. Tinny permalink
    June 6, 2021 8:59 pm

    To be fair, the graph does show a trend of higher December temperatures.

    • June 6, 2021 9:10 pm


      We have had the same “weather” many times in the past

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        June 6, 2021 9:50 pm

        Just a thought about the December graph. I have downloaded Google Earth Pro. For my area (Kent) I can wind back the aerial images in various steps back to 1940. I looked up most of the weather station sites in my area from this Met Office site.
        It became quite noticeable that many of the sites operating in 1940 were in rural locations that had since progressively become engulfed by urban development mostly from the late 60s and really picking up from the mid 70s.
        The UHI effect is almost certainly distorting the mean daily temp by keeping the areas warmer at night which would be more effective in winter.
        Has anyone studied what is a large database in any historic detail to clarify this point? It would possibly explain the reverse in the downward trend up to the mid 70s

      • Gamecock permalink
        June 7, 2021 3:00 am

        Ray, Anthony Watts has done considerable work on weather stations in the U.S.

        Some internet searching for anthony watts weather stations will turn up some information.

        Amusingly, first site that comes up is Wiki, which BLASTS Anthony.

        ‘Willard Anthony Watts (born 1958) is an American blogger who runs Watts Up With That?, a popular climate change denial blog that opposes the scientific consensus on climate change.’

        It doesn’t get better. The Wiki post is an authoritarian rant against him. Smells like William Connolley.

    • June 7, 2021 7:43 am

      Ironically, 2 months after the inception of the Royal Society (november 1660) a ‘Climate Emergency’ was declared in Parliament by King Charles due to the ‘unseasonableness’ of the weather, following a series of very warm winters and very hot summers

      This was recorded in Hansard and by Pepys who noted in January “it having hitherto been summer weather, (during winter) that it is, both as to warmth and every other thing, just as if it were the middle of May or June,” .

      This ended abruptly in the bitter cold of the 1690’s . Equally the ‘emergency’ might reflect the two years of incessant rain from 1315, providing five times the annual average rainfall with devastating floods and famine. Or it may have reflected the extreme hot weather of the 1530’s and 40’s or extreme cold weather of the 1560’s.

      Older readers will remember the 1970’s alarm over an imminent ice age. We have just experienced the coldest April since 1922 and the coldest May in 25 years, illustrating that annual natural variability is considerable.

      • Chaswarnertoo permalink
        June 7, 2021 8:50 am

        A pity the pleasant natural recovery from the LIA appears to have stalled below the MWP temperatures have been reached.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      June 7, 2021 9:15 am

      No it doesn’t. It shows fewer lower temperature years. Almost none of the temperatures are higher than previously experienced. And in the context of when something happens in a given year, that’s the important data.

      The average is higher but swallows don’t appear based on the ten year average. It’s not clear to me averages match very much at all to nature.

  21. Mark Hodgson permalink
    June 6, 2021 9:05 pm

    We had daffodils flowering here (in Cumbria) in late May this year. It has been, until the last week or two, COLD.

    • Thomas Carr permalink
      June 6, 2021 9:44 pm

      Just to recall Paul’s points about urban effects on temperature: I lived in London SW3 for about 22 years. In December large bushes or small trees in a garden area outside the house flowered — thought to be ornamental almond — as did crocuses.

  22. Graeme No.3 permalink
    June 7, 2021 1:18 am

    I’ve noticed the earlier flowering here in the Adelaide Hills by Clivia, which normally flower in
    spring (October normally). Sadly for the Greens, locals are blaming this behaviour on the cool
    summer just past, followed by cold O/N temperatures in autumn. The last few weeks have seen
    a return to intermittent sunny skies and somewhat warmer nights (4-6℃ instead of minus 0.2
    to 3). No-one is panicking.

  23. Jack Broughton permalink
    June 7, 2021 1:11 pm

    I’m sure that he will also reference the clown prince of wallies famous Ladybird text. No self respecting pop-crud writer or Climate-change believer would ever looks at HH Lambs satanic works.

  24. Carbon500 permalink
    June 7, 2021 1:23 pm

    Paul: have you sent the above article to the editor of the Daily Telegraph?
    I’ve certainly noticed the change (for the worse) in their coverage of climate matters. Like you, I thought the article typical of the doom-mongering garbage we’re being relentlessly subjected to.
    A 1960s Ladybird book entitled ‘What to Look For’ is being used as a reference point – ludricrous! I expect better from the Telegraph.
    I daresay a letter directed to the editor himself would in any event get deleted immediately – even if he could be reached directly via an official channel.

    • Carbon500 permalink
      June 9, 2021 11:06 am

      Since my post above, I written to the Telegraph, and await their response.

      • Carbon500 permalink
        June 9, 2021 11:09 am

        Sorry about the error, I meant to say that I have written!

  25. June 7, 2021 1:38 pm

    How was it determined that these seasonal oddities are a creation of global warming?

    • Gamecock permalink
      June 7, 2021 10:21 pm

      EVERYTHING is a creation of global warming.

      National Geographic Magazine has been using global warming/climate change as a cause for 25 years. Why do science when you can just declare global warming?

  26. Martin Brumby permalink
    June 8, 2021 6:59 am

    Perhaps the biggest and most alarming change visible in Joe’s ripping yarn, is the completely unremarked change in what was deemed appropriate writing for young children in the 1960s compared with what is inflicted on very young children today.

    Today’s “Education” is more likely to tell kids, not only about the terrors of Climate and Covid, but also the interesting fact that ‘some boys have periods’ and that English society is based on ‘White supremacist patriarchal hegemony’ , than anything very meaningful about the countryside. And also to insist that all masks are correctly worn.

    I am not sure that this is likely to enhance kids’ mental health.

    Nor that it is intended to do so.

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