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How likely are water restrictions in Yorkshire?

Paul Hudson | 14:50 UK time, Thursday, 24 June 2010

UPDATED at 1pm Wed 7th July

Thanks to Quaesoveritas for highlighting the error in rainfall statistics. It has indeed been the driest start since 1953, not 1929.

ENDS

People in North West England are facing a hosepipe ban unless there's significant rainfall very soon, following the driest start to a year there since 1929.

But despite the geographical proximity to Yorkshire, according to Yorkshire Water, the situation here is much healthier. At the end of last week, water stocks were running at around 75%. So why, when we have had similar weather to Northwest England, are we not facing imminent drought orders here too?

This is because reservoirs aren't our only source of water - in fact this is where about ¾ of our drinking water comes from. The rest comes from bore holes in the East.

And the reservoirs in the West of our region are connected to the bore holes further East by an underground pipe network capable of pumping water from one part of Yorkshire to another.

And, if necessary, water can be pumped from some of the county's rivers, like the Ouse outside York, which are also connected to this underground pipe network.

This pipe network was laid as a direct result of the disastrous water shortage of 1995, which is still fresh in peoples' minds. Reservoirs were at healthy levels at the end of winter 1995, but a combination of a very dry Spring and Summer, coupled with a water pipe network that was in dire need of repair, meant that by the end of Summer the Nidderdale reservoirs, which supply water to Bradford, were within 10 days of running completely dry. Convoys of tankers brought millions of gallons water by road all the way from Northumberland to Scammonden reservoir in Calderdale in a desperate attempt to prevent stand pipes on the streets. It was a pr disaster for Yorkshire Water.

But it's thanks to the lessons learned by Yorkshire Water in 1995 that the county now has arguably the most reliable and robust water supply in the country. That said, if the dry weather continued into July and August, the authorities may come under pressure to follow the Northwest region in looking more closely at seeking a drought order.

Comments

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  • 1. At 07:44am on 25 Jun 2010, Gadgetfiend wrote:

    From your previous blog, the indications of colder weather this winter would be because of more blocking. If it is right, that would mean a dry winter too.

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  • 2. At 10:06am on 26 Jun 2010, John Marshall wrote:

    Current theories are that as the climate warms we should get wetter. Conversely......?
    It does seem that we are getting slightly less rain though in the Lincolnshire Wolds we have had quite a lot but I have not seen any actual figures. In the good old days you could phone your local RAF airfield and ask for the Met Office. Now you call the local number and get put in touch with some MOD call center with no access to the met office. So much for more accountable government.
    Today, Saturday 26 Jun. am, we have 8/8ths cloud cover and cool.
    It is always a good idea to conserve water and so we should ignore the enviro freaks and build a few more reservoirs.

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  • 3. At 8:01pm on 28 Jun 2010, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    I have lost track of what effect "climate change" is supposed to have on rainfall in the UK. This seems to change according to circumstances. The fact is, however, that there is no evidence that rainfall patterns in England & Wales are changing as a result of climate change. Since 1873, far from less rainfall, there is a very slight upward trend, and recent years have been well within the normal range. Even in the North West, while this year has seen low rainfall so far, the long-term trend is slightly upwards. As has been pointed out in the media, rainfall for the first 5 months of this year has been the lowest since 1929, although technically 1953 was slightly lower. Of course, a lot of last year's rainfall in the N.W. fell in November, causing flooding. Presumably that was not an ideal pattern to fill the reservoirs.

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  • 4. At 11:06am on 30 Jun 2010, Lazarus wrote:

    QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    "I have lost track of what effect "climate change" is supposed to have on rainfall in the UK. This seems to change according to circumstances. The fact is, however, that there is no evidence that rainfall patterns in England & Wales are changing as a result of climate change."

    There is evidence going as far back as 2006;
    http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/item/?ref=1157358561
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/weather/article2127599.ece
    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/england-under-water-scientists-confirm-global-warming-link-to-increased-rain-458348.html
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6912527.stm

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  • 5. At 6:26pm on 30 Jun 2010, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    #4 - Lazarus
    If this is evidence, then it is circumstantial evidence.
    Simply because short-term rainfall patterns match the predictions of computer models, doesn't prove that the models are correct or a causal link between climate change and the rainfall patterns. Would we have ever heard of this research if it didn't support the model predictions?
    Also, the models have been run after the event. You can't use a computer model to predict past events. The models may have been designed to replicate past patterns which are already known. It's like coming up with a computer model to predict football results when you already know the results. Also, random events can produce apparently significant trends when they don't. The timescales of the data are far to short to draw any definite conclusions.

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  • 6. At 11:18am on 01 Jul 2010, Lazarus wrote:

    QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    “If this is evidence, then it is circumstantial evidence.
    Simply because short-term rainfall patterns match the predictions of computer models, doesn't prove that the models are correct or a causal link between climate change and the rainfall patterns. Would we have ever heard of this research if it didn't support the model predictions?
    Also, the models have been run after the event.”

    You have either not read the links to the research or not understood them because you could not be more wrong.

    The link from Newcastle University is about research looking at rainfall events from as far back as 1961. There is no computer models used – this is empirical evidence, but it does support computer predictions determined before this research was conducted. Models have NOT been run after the event.

    The BBC report states; “Climate models have, for a number of years, suggested that human activity has led to changes to the distribution of rain and snow across the globe”. It refers to new research, (at that time), by ‘scientists from Canada, Japan, the UK and US’, comparing ‘monthly precipitation observations from 1925-1999 to those generated by complex computer models to see if they could identify if human activity was affecting rainfall patterns’. Again no models have been run after the event.

    This is not circumstantial evidence for ‘rainfall patterns in England & Wales are changing as a result of climate change’ as you have claimed. It is sound scientific evidence supporting a theory and confirming models based on that theory. I am certain that there is a lot more research because my search was limited to the year you mentioned.

    You may not personally find this evidence compelling but it is the best science we currently have and you have provided no argument to suggest it is unsound or provided other research coming to a different conclusion is more likely to be correct.

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  • 7. At 1:06pm on 01 Jul 2010, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    #6. - Lazarus wrote:
    QuaesoVeritas wrote:
    "The link from Newcastle University is about research looking at rainfall events from as far back as 1961. There is no computer models used – this is empirical evidence, but it does support computer predictions determined before this research was conducted. Models have NOT been run after the event."
    When were the models run, prior to 1961?

    "The BBC report states; “Climate models have, for a number of years, suggested that human activity has led to changes to the distribution of rain and snow across the globe”. It refers to new research, (at that time), by ‘scientists from Canada, Japan, the UK and US’, comparing ‘monthly precipitation observations from 1925-1999 to those generated by complex computer models to see if they could identify if human activity was affecting rainfall patterns’. Again no models have been run after the event."
    When were the models run, prior to 1925?

    Clearly we are not on the same wavelength. What I meant by "after event", was that the rainfall patterns were for periods prior to the date on which the models were run. As with climate change in general, the models have been written specifically to match past patterns, so naturally they appear to be correct. The models (and the theory on which they are based), can only be proven correct if they predict FUTURE events, and we will have to wait a long time to know that.

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  • 8. At 10:11am on 02 Jul 2010, Lazarus wrote:

    QuaesoVeritas wrote:
    “When were the models run, prior to 1961?”

    What difference does that make unless you are claiming scientific fraud and a conspiracy?

    “Clearly we are not on the same wavelength. What I meant by "after event", was that the rainfall patterns were for periods prior to the date on which the models were run. As with climate change in general, the models have been written specifically to match past patterns, so naturally they appear to be correct”

    Being on the same wavelength has nothing to do with it. You are expressing a misunderstanding of how all scientific modelling works. What you have said has no merit. If it did, it would apply to all scientific modelling from calculating planetary orbits to engine energy output.

    Models are built to be a representation of some aspect of the real world by using known scientific theories and principles, physics, chemistry etc. Of course they are tested against known data sets to prove their worth but if they have not ‘been written specifically to match past patterns’.

    None of your post adds support to your claim that “that there is no evidence that rainfall patterns in England & Wales are changing as a result of climate change” is a fact. The empirical evidence derived from this research confirms changing patterns which up to that point had only been predicted by models. As I have stated previously, you have provided nothing to suggest this research is unsound or that more compelling evidence exists. I am only interested in the published research on these matters not your beliefs on the subject.

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  • 9. At 10:57am on 03 Jul 2010, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    #8. - Lazarus
    "What difference does that make unless you are claiming scientific fraud and a conspiracy?"
    I am not claiming that. What I am suggesting is an unintentional use of past data to validate future predictions.
    I notice from the first link which you posted that the N.U. study only found that the probability of extreme rainfall events had increased by 4 times in Scotland and 2 times in Northern England. On the other hand, the probability had actually declined in Southern England, but "further analysis", was done, which "showed that this part of the country is experiencing a greater frequency of smaller extreme rainfall events". Otherwise, because the initial results didn't fit the theory, they went on looking for data which did fit. Clearly the intention was to "prove" climate change exists, rather than get at the truth. IMHO, these results suggest short-term regional variation, rather than any long-term effect resulting from climate change.
    At the moment, I am unaware of any data from the M.O. website which would support these findings. Without knowing precisely which data were used, I am not prepared to accept the findings without question.

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  • 10. At 2:16pm on 03 Jul 2010, Lazarus wrote:

    QuaesoVeritas wrote:
    #8. - Lazarus
    “ What I am suggesting is an unintentional use of past data to validate future predictions.”
    So scientific incompetency? One that has occurred over numerous papers and never been picked up by peer review or peers? Do you save your suggestions, that you have given no proof for by the way, just for the science of climatology or are you anti-science in general?
    “but "further analysis", was done”
    Further analysis is always being done. Do you have any support for you anti-science slur that they went looking for data to fit?
    “Without knowing precisely which data were used, I am not prepared to accept the findings without question.”
    But you are prepared to reject them because they disprove your ‘fact’, “that there is no evidence that rainfall patterns in England & Wales are changing as a result of climate change”?
    As I keep stating, if you have any actual science as opposed to your unqualified opinions, that support your ‘fact’, or if you have any genuine empirical evidence that the actual research disproving your ‘fact’ is flawed, either by unintentional incompetence or actively looking for data to fit a previously determined conclusion, then present it. Otherwise admit that your ‘fact’ is not actually supported by the facts at all.

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  • 11. At 11:25am on 04 Jul 2010, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    #10 Lazarus
    "So scientific incompetency?"
    A better term would probably be self-delusion.
    I don't need to prove that rainfall patterns are NOT changing due to climate change. It is up to those who claim that changes are due to climate change to prove they are. The fact that patterns have changed is not sufficient. CORRELATION DOES NOT PROVE CAUSATION.
    IMHO all the data proves is short-term variability and there is no proof of a causal link to climate change. However, the possibility of short-term natural variability does not appear to have been even considered, so anxious are the scientists to find a link. Simply because short-term historical data, over a small area, happens to agree with models, doesn't prove that the models are correct. I am not denying a link, simply being sceptical. I have seen so many claims for the effects of climate change, which are clearly false, that I simply don't accept the claims without question any more. To be fair, I haven't read the actual paper (I am trying to obtain a copy), only a press release, and I don't know which data was used. It would have made it easier if they had published details of the data used.

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  • 12. At 3:54pm on 05 Jul 2010, Lazarus wrote:

    QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    “A better term would probably be self-delusion”.

    So scientific self-delusion? One that has occurred over numerous papers and never been picked up by peer review or peers? Do you save this self-delusion just for the science of climatology?

    “I don't need to prove that rainfall patterns are NOT changing due to climate change.”

    But you have specifically stated “that there is no evidence that rainfall patterns in England & Wales are changing as a result of climate change”.

    Have you read the links or the papers they refer to?
    I have given links about research papers that conclude “‘Extreme rainfall’ incidents increasing in parts of UK”, “research has now conclusively linked greenhouse gases to heavier downpours”, “More intense rainstorms across parts of the northern hemisphere are being generated by man-made global warming”, “the study has established for the first time an effect which has long been predicted but never before proved”, "This study shows that there has been a significant human effect on global rainfall patterns, with human influence causing a decrease in rainfall in some regions, and an increase in rainfall in others." etc

    Your ‘correlation does not prove causation’ claim is moot in the light of these scientific findings and you have given no valid reason to reject other than they prove your ‘fact’ wrong. You just accuse the scientists of being self-delusional and anxious to find a link, very disingenuous and must also include every peer reviewer and peer who considered this research as well.
    And please stop going on about models, this research is empirical as you well know and just out of interest, if you a better method to make scientific projections lets hear about it.

    “I haven't read the actual paper (I am trying to obtain a copy), only a press release, and I don't know which data was used. It would have made it easier if they had published details of the data used.”

    There is more than one paper mentioned here and as I said there are many related papers, even books confirming your ‘fact’ to be untrue, try;

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/71002078/abstract
    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/104551279/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0
    http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=2E_Iz0P5VlAC&oi=fnd&pg=PA3&dq=%E2%80%98Extreme+rainfall%E2%80%99+incidents+increasing+in+parts+of+UK&ots=1I3eYX4YZF&sig=kW92gG8RRW41KQJo8KZ2AY24_f0#v=onepage&q&f=false
    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/112730523/abstract
    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/85512714/abstract
    http://www.jstor.org/pss/3599319

    There are many more in .pdf that I can’t link to that clearly show the best science we currently have reveals evidence that rainfall patterns in England & Wales are changing as a result of climate change.

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  • 13. At 10:06am on 06 Jul 2010, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    #12 - Lazarus
    Thank you for posting the additional links to research. I am not contesting the amount of "evidence" in this field, since the production of it is now a huge industry.
    Unfortunately, not having an infinite amount of time at my disposal, or access to the vast resources of several universities, it is obvious that I will not be in a position to challenge the conclusions contained in these. However, my underlying contention remains as follows:
    There is no conclusive evidence of a change in UK rainfall patterns as a result of climate change, indeed it is probably impossible to prove such a link.
    I am not saying that there have been no changes in rainfall patterns, or that climate change exists, only that it is impossible to prove a causal link. The period covered by the data used in these studies is far to short, and the area, far too small, to draw any definite conclusions.
    It is quite evident from the data we do have, that weather patterns vary considerably over the short term, and have always done so, and much more data would be required to prove a link.
    Given the very short period covered by the data used to produce these studies, it is quite possible that any changes are simply the result of random events, but that possibility doesn't seem to have been considered, as there is an inherent bias towards the assumption that any changes must be the result of climate change.
    This is a bit like saying that every U.F.O. seen in the sky must be an alien spaceship, or even that any U.F.O. seen COULD be an alien spaceship.
    Personally, I need a very high threshold for "proof" of the effects of climate change and an assumption that any so called evidence probably has some other explanation. That is why I adopt a sceptical attitude, rather than a dogmatic one.
    Clearly we are never going to agree on this, so there is little point in continuing this discussion, but remember, I am not alone in adopting this point of view. If either of us live long enough, we may eventually see who is correct.

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  • 14. At 2:57pm on 06 Jul 2010, Lazarus wrote:

    QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    “However, my underlying contention remains as follows:
    There is no conclusive evidence of a change in UK rainfall patterns as a result of climate change, indeed it is probably impossible to prove such a link.”

    Science doesn’t do conclusiveness. There is a large amount of evidence from much research to suggest your claim “that there is no evidence that rainfall patterns in England & Wales are changing as a result of climate change” as a fact is certainly not the case.

    That has always been my position and I cannot see how you can rationally maintain this claim of 'fact' in light of all of this evidence even if you say is non conclusive as you have provided no research at all to suggest stasis is more likely.

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  • 15. At 09:51am on 07 Jul 2010, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    The recent press release from the Met. Office states that it has been the driest start to a year, in the UK, since 1929, based on a figure of 356.8mm for the first six months of this year.
    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2010/pr20100630.html
    However, according to the M.O. own data files, rainfall for the first six months has actually been 362.5mm.
    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/datasets/
    A small difference perhaps, but if the second figure is correct, it has only been the driest start since 1953, which had a figure of 361.1mm.
    Could the M.O. have miscalculated, possibly before the full figures for June were available?
    I have asked for clarification but no response as yet.

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  • 16. At 11:24am on 07 Jul 2010, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    I have just had it confirmed that the figures quoted didn't include the last few days of June.
    So in fact, despite the publicity given to this, it has only been the driest start to a year since 1953, not 1929.
    Apparently the press release is going to be "updated".

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  • 17. At 4:51pm on 07 Jul 2010, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    The "Driest start for 80 years" press release, has now been replaced by a "Driest start in decades" press release and the original one removed.
    The original one has been removed.

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2010/pr20100707.html

    The wording they have used actually makes it look "worse", i.e. "one of the driest starts for 100 years".
    Of course, no mention of the false claim made earlier, but then I wouldn't have expected that.

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  • 18. At 9:30pm on 09 Jul 2010, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    I found the following item on the BBC website, relating to the droughts in 1976:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/1/newsid_2492000/2492981.stm
    Note the sentence:
    "This summer has had the longest period without rain for 80 years, and it is feared some reservoirs - already depleted by last year's dry weather - will be only 15% full by early November."
    How similar to today. Of course, in 1976, we only had to worry about "global cooling", rather than "global warming". The appointment of Denis Howell as "Minister for Drought", was followed by large amounts of rain, so much so that he was renamed "Minister for Floods" (source Wikipedia). The current Government needs to appoint a "Minister for Drought" as quickly as possible.

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  • 19. At 10:07am on 18 Jul 2010, QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    #12 - Lazarus
    May I draw your attention to the following article in the April issue of the RMS journal "Weather".
    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123334870/abstract
    This puts the recent rainfall patterns in North Yorkshire into a longer-term context and concludes that they are not unusual, since a similar pattern existed in the 1930's. This underlines the importance of not assuming that recent rainfall patterns are directly caused by climate change, and are not part of longer term variations. As the article also says, many UK rainfall records are of limited use in evaluating long-term trends.

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  • 20. At 02:05am on 11 Aug 2010, Lazarus wrote:

    QuaesoVeritas
    May I draw your attention to the following thread where I have linked to several research papers on rain fall patterns and how they are being affected by climate change the world over, including the UK.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulhudson/2010/07/first-half-of-2010-close-to-re.shtml

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