So just how cold have Britain’s winters become? Well, according to the Central England Temperature series, not very! The winter just gone ranks an unremarkable 187th coldest in the 354 years since the index started in 1660.
According to the Sun,
Britain’s winters are getting colder because of melting Arctic ice, the Government’s forecaster said yesterday.
Met Office chief scientist Julia Slingo said climate change was “loading the dice” towards freezing, drier weather — and called publicly for the first time for an urgent investigation.
Prof Slingo said: “If you look at the way our weather patterns have behaved over the past four or five years, we’re beginning to think that there is something happening.
“Our climate is being disrupted by the warming of the Arctic that we have observed very dramatically since 2007.
“We should pull together the best scientists to see how we can detect the influence of the Arctic on the jet stream, and on weather around the world.”
So just how cold have Britain’s winters become? Well, according to the Central England Temperature series, not very! The winter just gone ranks an unremarkable 187th coldest in the 354 years since the index started in 1660. Figure 1 shows just how unremarkable it has been. The 2012/13 winter finished at 3.83C, a fraction above the mean over the whole record of 3.72C.
Slingo also talks about the 5 year trend, so let’s look at that as well.
There has certainly been a sharp drop away from the abnormally mild winters between 1998 and 2008, but this only takes us back to the sort of winters that were prevalent during most of the last century, and still much warmer than the 19thC. The current 5-year average is 3.6C, exactly the same as the average temperature from 1980-89. And from 1960-69, the average was, you’ve guessed it, also exactly 3.6C.
Previous Predictions For Milder Winters
So why is Slingo so concerned? To understand this, we need to look back at all of the predictions, made in recent years by the Met Office and others, of warmer, wetter winters.
These, of course, were based on the handful of milder winters around the turn of the century. There are too many to list, but here’s a few examples:-
1) In 2006, Met Office meteorologist Wayne Elliott told the BBC
“It is consistent with the climate change message. It is exactly what we expect winters to be like – warmer and wetter”
2) In 2011, Slingo signed off the Met’s “Climate: observations, projections and impacts” Report that had this to say about the extreme cold in December 2010
It is considerably warmer than the winter of 1962/63, which is the coldest since 1900 in the CRUTEM3 dataset. In the absence of human influences, the season lies near the central sector of the temperature distribution and would therefore be an average season.
3) Myles Allen told the Telegraph in 2009
“Even though this is quite a cold winter by recent standards it is still perfectly consistent with predictions for global warming. If it wasn’t for global warming this cold snap would happen much more regularly. What is interesting is that we are now surprised by this kind of weather. I doubt we would have been in the 1950s because it was much more common. “
4) DEFRA’s Climate Change Risk Assessment Report, issued last year, states
“In the UK, we currently expect a shift towards generally wetter winters…..and an increase in winter rainfall volumes of between 3% and 70%.
5) In December 2010, Slingo , talking about the cold weather, told the Independent,
“Global warming is continuing and we know that from the global trends. There will, of course, be large local and regional variations from year to year. So this event that we’re currently experiencing is not unprecedented.”, adding “A final complication is that a regular pattern of natural climate change over the North Atlantic, called the multi-decadal oscillation, may be about to enter a cooler phase, just as it did in the 1960s, when Britain also experienced colder-than-normal winters.”
6) And the Met’s own private briefing for the Environment Agency last summer admitted
If low levels of Arctic sea ice were found to be affecting the track of the jet stream, for example, this could be seen as linked to the warming of our climate – but this is currently an unknown.
7) And in 2010, Slingo presented a “Briefing on the likelihood of severe winter weather over the next 20-30 years “to Sir John Beddington, which concluded
a) Prolonged snowfall and low temperatures, comparable with conditions seen during November and December 2010 are within the range of natural climate variability observed over the past 50 years.
b) The latest available regional climate projections for the UK (UKCP09) indicate a reducing likelihood of severe winters in future, due to the long-term warming climate. Natural climate variability implies that severe events remain possible but with reduced likelihood.
And we won’t even have to mention David Viner’s famous “Snow is a thing of the past”.