What's causing our extreme weather? Is it unprecedented?
The awful weather which continues to affect the UK led yesterday to the Great Yorkshire show being cancelled (because of the weather) for the first time in its 154 year history.
And on Monday, serious flash flooding devastated parts of the Calder valley for the second time in as many weeks.
In fact as we all know our weather, with a notable exception during the second half of May, has been dreadful since the end of March.
And research conducted in part by scientists at the University of Sheffield has concluded that declining Arctic ice could be to blame.
The Arctic has been the fastest warming area in the world and this has reduced, according to the research, the temperature contrast between the Arctic and the Tropics.
And it's this temperature contrast which determines the strength and position of the jet stream - and could be responsible for the weak, slow moving jet stream which has caused the long period of cool, unsettled weather.
If the research is correct, it suggests that the swings we have experienced in the last few years could become the norm, although it doesn't suggest we would always have poor summers.
We could also become 'stuck' on the warm side of the jet stream in summer, leading to heat wave conditions like parts of America has been experiencing.
But there are some climate scientists who say that the weak solar activity that we have observed in recent years is altering the position of the jet stream.
One of the problems with this theory is that no-one understand the precise mechanism as to how solar activity could lead to changes in the position of the jet stream - and until we do, it can't be described mathematically, and so can't be modelled by computers.
Looking back, the early 1800s was a period of unusually weak solar activity, so much so that it was named after British meteorologist John Dalton, the so called 'Dalton solar minima'.
And data shows that from 1809-1819, after what was described as a 'relatively benign period with several warm summers and less cold winters', the period saw a return to 'often harsh winters, and cold, wet summers'.
The decade from 1810-1819 was in fact the coldest since the 1690's.
One complicating factor to this is that in 1815, a huge volcanic eruption in Indonesia depressed temperature levels because of the amount of volcanic ash in the atmosphere, and contributed to the well documented 'year without a summer' in 1816.
But this example shows that the weather patterns we have experienced in the last few years are not unprecedented.
And even from a specific extreme rainfall perspective, as high as local rainfall figures have been this summer, none have been anywhere near the levels reached in Sheffield on 15th July 1973 when 119mm fell in just one day (and which incidentally led to severe flooding despite much less development on the flood plain, a subject for another day perhaps).
Whether you favour the theory of melting Arctic ice and the link to global warming, or weak solar activity, both suggest that more extremes are likely in the future.
And of course it's possible that both could be working together at the same time.
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