LAST week’s Panorama was titled ‘Britain’s Wild Weather’. Hosted by the BBC’s chief environment correspondent, Justin Rowlatt, it began with this hyperbolic claim:
‘Britain’s weather is getting wilder. This year we have been soaked with record-breaking rainfall and have sweltered in soaring temperatures. We’ve also seen some of our most extraordinary destructive weather yet . . .’
Rather than providing any evidence for this ridiculous assertion, the programme merely reported on a handful of weather events this year.
The main allegations centred around record rainfall in February, a sunny spring and a few hot days in summer. This short list hardly qualifies as ‘extraordinary destructive weather’!
To take each event in turn, although it was the wettest February on record in England and Wales, it was only the 38th wettest of any month since records began in 1766. Furthermore, the record shows that monthly rainfall is not getting more extreme. The wettest of all months was October 1903, and the eight wettest months were all prior to 1940.
In short, there was nothing unusual or alarming about it all.
The programme moved on to the spring, reporting that it was the sunniest on record. Quite what this has to do with wild, destructive weather is beyond me. More to the point, though, this spring was not the driest on record, only the fifth driest. The spring with lowest rainfall was all the way back in 1893. Since 1862, when records began, there is no trend at all to UK springs getting either wetter or drier.
Rowlatt then talked about ‘sweltering in one of our most intense heatwaves yet’, accompanied by film of beaches and bikinis. This absurd claim is apparently based on temperatures reaching 36.4C next to the runway at Heathrow. The summer as a whole was actually below average in terms of daytime temperatures, and over 2C cooler than the summer of 1976, which remains by far the hottest on record.
The programme included two other segments about this year’s weather. There was an interview with a fireman fighting moorland fires, which he claimed must be due to climate change. Nobody appears to have told him that most fires are started by humans, whether accidentally or deliberately.
Rowlatt then went on to review the Stonehaven derailment, implying that climate change made such an accident more likely. As with the rest of the programme, he provided no evidence to support this claim, merely quoting what the climate models say.
Any cursory search of the Met Office archives quickly reveals that bad weather has always been commonplace in Britain.
In 1940, for instance, Brits not only had to put up with Dunkirk and the Blitz. They also experienced heavy snow amidst the coldest January on record at the time (subsequently beaten only by January 1963), a heatwave in May, severe floods in Scotland in July thanks to record rainfall there, followed by more record rainfall in November.
Ten years later, in 1950, the weather was arguably even worse, including:
• Heavy snow in January;
• Second wettest February at the time, causing considerable flooding;
• Heavy snow in April;
• A record tornado outbreak in May, which killed two people;
• Second hottest June at the time;
• More severe flooding in September, which is still the wettest September in Scotland and N Ireland;
• All capped off by more heavy snow in December.
Then there was 1960! A scorching June gave way to an unusually wet July, August and September, followed by the wettest October since 1903, which brought the worst floods in living memory to Exeter. Heavy rain continued throughout November, making it the still wettest July to November on record in England and Wales, with widespread flooding across Wales and southern England. To cap it all, more heavy rainfall in early December caused further extensive flooding for Exeter, as well as South Wales, the Midlands and southern England.
Rowlatt finished the programme chatting to Met Office scientists, who assured him that we will see much more of this ‘wild weather’ in future, unless we put a stop to our carbon sins. All based, of course, on their dodgy computer models. Naturally, Rowlatt did not challenge any of this.
The BBC long ago realised that people would not be frightened by a slightly warmer climate, never mind radically change their lifestyles to suit the great Green Goddess. Hence attempts now to convince the public that global warming will unleash climate apocalypse.
Fortunately most of us have the common sense to realise that Britain has seen it all before.