Global and regional climate update

Tuesday 29 January 2013, 16:15

Paul Hudson Paul Hudson

Is recent flooding and heavy rainfall unusual?

I've written at length about the excessive rainfall the UK has experienced, particularly last year but also since the late 1990's; six out of the years from 1998 to 2012 are in the top ten wettest on record, based on Met Office rainfall data which began in 1910.

There are various theories as to why our summers have been so wet, and why the jet stream has been further south than normal.

It's worth remembering as exceptional as the last few years have seemed, climate history shows us that flooding in the UK has always been normal.

This point is highlighted in research which was carried out by Durham University following the serious summer floods in 2007 and highlighted on the Watts Up With That website this week.

The research is five years old, but it rings very true today, and the prediction made in 2008 of increased flooding and heavy rainfall in subsequent years has proved to be all too correct.

The author Professor Stuart Lane looked back at rainfall patterns starting in the mid 1700's.

He concluded that our climate has always fluctuated between very wet and very dry periods, some of which lasted for a few decades.

Crucially the period from the early 1960's to the late 1990's saw far fewer river flooding episodes compared with before the 1960's and after the 1990's.

Ominously, he points out that because more than three quarters of our flood records started during the 1960's, when there were far fewer river flooding episodes, we have underestimated the frequency of flooding.

And this has a knock on effect as to how much flood plain development local authorities will allow.

It's a vicious circle as more flood plain development is likely to make any future flooding even worse.

The article on the Durham University website can be found by clicking here.

UK weather outlook:

The heavy snow that brought disruption to parts of the UK on Friday has melted rapidly as a result of milder air and rainfall.

The next 48 hours will be dominated by a very common January weather pattern, with a powerful jet stream bringing rain or showers to all areas, accompanied by strong to gale force winds.

There's uncertainty about Friday's weather though, with an Atlantic depression expected to bring rain to parts of the UK.

Just how far north the rain will come is open to question, but with colder air pushing southwards as it clears away, some of it could turn to snow. 2012 Global temperatures:

Provisional Met Office figures show that 2012 was the 9th warmest on record, 0.45C above the 1961-1990 average. This is very close to their prediction for 2012 which was for a global temperature 0.48C above the 1961-1990 average.

According to the UAH satellite temperature measure, 2012 was also the 9th warmest on record.

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Comments

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 1.

    "Is recent flooding and heavy rainfall unusual?"

    Yes it is. Strange that you should post this today without linking to this which I also noticed today;

    http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2013/01/new-climate-change-data-shows-a-warmer,-wetter-world

    "The UK's Met Office has just published observations from over 6000 temperature and 11,000 precipitation stations around the world, which look specifically at how extreme events have changed between 1901 and 2010."

    "The world has got warmer and generally wetter since the beginning of the 20th century, according to new data just released by the Met Office and a global team of experts. With an extra 50 years worth of observations, the new data tracks how high temperatures and heavy rainfall extremes are becoming more frequent due to climate change."

    Worth reading the whole article and the research is published here;
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jgrd.50150/abstract

  • rate this
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    Comment number 2.

    @1

    Doesn't the MO data refers to 20th Century worldwide, Paul is referring to historic data to 1700 for UK.

    It would be useful if MO could publish data as far back.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 3.

    Mango See;
    Statistics for December and 2012 - is the UK getting wetter?

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2013/2012-weather-statistics

    I think the graph answers the question and shows that it is generally following the trend of the research I posted the link to.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 4.

    @3

    I must be misunderstanding what you are trying to say Laz, but the graph shows 50 years, whereas Paul is talking about 300 years.

    Take a look at this chart, based on the Durham data, for the period 1766-2012
    http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/image15.png

  • rate this
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    Comment number 5.

    #2. - MangoChutney wrote:
    "Doesn't the MO data refers to 20th Century worldwide, Paul is referring to historic data to 1700 for UK
    It would be useful if MO could publish data as far back."

    Paul is referring to the UK data series, which starts in 1910.

    The MO publishes two sets of data, one the UK series, which starts in 1910 and another the HadUKP series, which starts in 1766, but the oldest data only covers England & Wales:

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/datasets/

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadukp/data/download.html

    According to HadUKP, England & Wales rainfall in 2012 was 1244.7mm, almost identical to the 1247.3mm recorded in 1768.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 6.

    Oops, I forgot to mention that EW rainfall in 1872 was 1284.9mm.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 7.

    @5

    You sure, QV?

    It's worth remembering as exceptional as the last few years have seemed, climate history shows us that flooding in the UK has always been normal.

    This point is highlighted in research which was carried out by Durham University following the serious summer floods in 2007 and highlighted on the Watts Up With That website this week.

    The research is five years old, but it rings very true today, and the prediction made in 2008 of increased flooding and heavy rainfall in subsequent years has proved to be all too correct.

    The author Professor Stuart Lane looked back at rainfall patterns starting in the mid 1700's.

    Ok, I should have said E&W not UK.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    #3. -Lazarus wrote:
    "I think the graph answers the question and shows that it is generally following the trend of the research I posted the link to."

    Only since 1960.
    Why do you and the MO ignore data prior to that?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 9.

    #7. - MangoChutney wrote:
    "You sure, QV?"

    Sure about what?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 10.

    I am confused by Paul's comment that:

    "Provisional Met Office figures show that 2012 was the 9th warmest on record, 0.45C above the 1961-1990 average. This is very close to their prediction for 2012 which was for a global temperature 0.48C above the 1961-1990 average. "

    Current data files show annual figures as:

    HadCRUT3 = 0.394c

    HadCRUT4 = 0.434c

    As far as the MO prediction of 0.48c is concerned, I think that HC3, since that was the dataset which was in place at the time.

    So the MO were 0.086c too high with their prediction.

    In fact the actual figure was closer to the lower limit of predictions (0.34c), than the central estimate.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 11.

    @9 You said Paul refers to UK data series, which is correct. He also refers to the E&W data going back to 1700's (Durham Uni).

    Laz claims recent heavy rain and flooding is unusual and cites the MO data going back only 100 years, but when compared with almost 300 years worth of data, it's not so unusual

  • rate this
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    Comment number 12.

    mangochutney - more importantly, how did you set the bold text in your post @5. I'm sure we would all like to know how to do that.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 13.

    10. QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    "I am confused by Paul's comment that"

    And in "encouraging openness and transparency" you can add the "WMO Average" into the mix!

    To the best of my knowledge the MO make their forecasts against their own metric, hence the need to cross reference with the WMO Averages. Also they cannot be aware of what predictions the other contributing elements are making.

    The way it is published is far from clear and it is difficult to understand why there should be such a lack of clarity.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 14.

    Here are the 2013 forecasts so far submitted
    Not many entries as yet
    Met Office WMO forecast is +0.57
    The figures in brackets show the degree of error for 2012 and 2011 entries

    “Warmists”
    +0.57 * Met Office (+0.08,+0.09)
    Newdwr54 (+0.05:N/A)
    John Cogger (+0.03:N/A)

    “Neutralists”
    Mr Bluesky (+0.02:N/A)
    Lazarus (+0.02:N/A)
    quake (+0.01:+0.36)
    Paul Briscoe (0:2012 winning entry 0.4)
    Gagetfriend (0:+0.30) (2012 winning entry 0.4)
    +0.48 NeilHamp (0:-0.08)(2012 winning entry 0.4)

    “Coolists”
    +0.35 Lateintheday’s Holly Bush (-0.03,No entry)
    QuaesoVeritas (-0.06:+0.31)
    millinia (-0.11:+0.24)
    LabMunkey (-0.11:+0.25)
    +0.43 ukpahonta (-0.12:0) (2011 winning entry 0.35)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 15.

    are you serious?

    if so use the "". To close bold ""

    all without quotes of course

    I tried italics using "i" instead of "b" but didn't work with try "em" to see if that works

  • rate this
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    Comment number 16.

    Thanks Neil.

    My guess is +0.50 for HadCRUT4 in 2013.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 17.

    uh! start again:

    "less than sign", followed by "b", followed by "greater than sign" to open bold

    "less than sign", followed by "/", followed by "b", followed by "greater than sign" to close bold

    for italics

    as above but substitute "em" for "b"

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    #14 NeilHamp

    Put me down for 0.38C to get the ball rolling.
    Previous comment click to link.

    Just testing the functionality
    I didn't think that it was allowed on here!

    What a difference this will make

  • rate this
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    Comment number 19.

    Re my post #13, I've just worked out that the figure of 0.45c for 2012 is the MO provisional figure from their 2013 forecast in December, which actually refers to a figure produced in November, and which was based on a combination of HadCRUT4, NOAA/NCDC and NASA/GISS.
    But of course that figure has been rendered obsolete by the fall in December temperatures, which the MO clearly didn't expect. Hopefully they will issue a revised figure shortly.
    I am not entirely sure that it is "fair" of the MO to use HadCRUT4 in this average, since it is not clear that the 2012 prediction was based on that dataset.

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2012/2013-global-forecast

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2012/global-temperatures-2012

  • rate this
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    Comment number 20.

    For what it's worth, my prediction for the 2013 global temperature anomaly, based on HadCRUT4, is 0.41c.

 

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Hello, I’m Paul Hudson, weather presenter and climate correspondent for BBC Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. 

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I worked as a forecaster with the Met Office for nearly 15 years locally and at the international unit, after graduating with first class honours in Geophysics and Planetary physics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1992. I then joined the BBC in October 2007, where I divide my time between forecasting and reporting on stories about climate change and its implications for people's everyday lives.

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