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Met Office’s State of the UK climate report misleads

Dr David Whitehouse, GWPF Science Editor

According to the UK Met Office and repeated by the BBC, The Financial Times and The Independent and others the UK is already undergoing disruptive climate change with increased rainfall, sunshine and temperatures.

The year 2020 was the third warmest, fifth wettest and eight sunniest on record according to the latest UK State of the Climate report. It adds that no other year is in the top 10 on all three criteria.

Let’s look a little more closely at that claim. The data can be found here.

The top ten years for sunshine in the UK are, in order, 2003, 1995, 2018, 1989, 1955, 1959, 1949, 2020, 1929 and 1921. Note that five of these years are before 1960 and only three this century with the sunniest year being 17 years ago and the years 1949, 1955, and 1959 being sunnier than 2020. Conclusion, on this metric alone 2020 is nothing unusual.

The top ten years for average temperature in the UK are, in order, 2014, 2003, 2006, 2020, 2011, 2007, 2018, 1921, 1949 and 1959. Note three years are before 1960 and only three are in the past decade. Note also that six years, 2003, 2018, 2020, 1959, 1949 and 1921 appear on both lists, half of them before 1960. Conclusion, on this metric: we live in the warmest two decades of the Met Office instrumental record which seems to have plateaued.

The top ten UK rainfall years are, in order, 1872, 1903, 2000, 1877, 2020, 2012, 1954, 1998, 2008, 2014. Note two are in the 19th century, three are before 1905, four are before 1955, five are in this century and three are in the past decade at 5th, 6th and 10th place. Only 2020 and 2014 are in the temperature and rainfall top ten, but 2003, 2018, 1959, 1949, 2020 and 1921 are in the temperature and sunniest top ten list. The only year on all three lists is 2020 which is probably statistically unimportant.

That the past five years on the rainfall list can occupy between the 5th and the 108th place on the list shows what year on year fluctuations can take place. Other years this century not previously mentioned can be found 2002 (11th), 2015 (14th), 2004 (25th), 2009 (26th), 2007 (35th), 2006 (43rd) and 2011 (45th). Conclusion regarding rainfall: very variable, 2020 nothing unusual.

Also the table in the Met Office’s press release detailing 2020 “climate extremes” is as big a non sequitur as one could find in climate science. What happens in one year is not climate.