Professor John Beddington, the outgoing UK Chief Scientist, has been ramping up the alarmism with his prediction of drastic weather extremes in the coming 25 years in an interview with the BBC.
Amongst his claims was this:-
“The variation in the temperature or rainfall, which Britain has been experiencing lately, is double the average rate.”
Let’s check the facts.
The Met Office have produced an England & Wales Precipitation Series, dating back to 1766. The annual totals are plotted in Figure 1.
There are ups and downs, as you would expect with English weather. Wet though last year was, it was not as wet as 1768 or 1872. And dry though 2011 was, it was only the 33rd driest in the series.
Still, this is not what Beddington was referring to. He was specifically talking about the variation in rainfall, large swings from dry to wet, or vice versa. So Figure 2 shows the variation from year to year.
Now let’s change all the negative values to positive, so that increases and decreases are both shown on the same scale, and add a 10 year running average.
The large increase in rainfall between 2011 and 2012 is apparent, but was less than the increase in 1789, and of a similar level to four other years. But, more importantly, what about the trend?
There has certainly been more variability in the last few years compared to the 1980’s and early 90’s. But the current level of variability is similar to that which has existed throughout the larger part of the series. There is also no sign, despite the events of last year, that variability is on the increase.
Could it be that the Professor is overreacting to the events of just one year, or is he not aware of the historical facts? It is difficult to understand how a top scientist could make such basic errors, but it is hard to come to any other conclusion.