Global Warming Did Not Cause The Storms, Says Met Office Expert

  • Date: 16/02/14
  • David Rose, Mail on Sunday

One of the Met Office’s most senior experts yesterday made a dramatic intervention in the climate change debate by insisting there is no link between the storms that have battered Britain and global warming.

Mat Collins, a Professor in climate systems at Exeter University, said the storms have been driven by the jet stream – the high-speed current of air that girdles the globe – which has been ‘stuck’ further south than usual.

Professor Collins told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge.’

His statement carries particular significance because he is an internationally acknowledged expert on climate computer models and forecasts, and his university post is jointly funded by the Met Office.

Prof Collins is also a senior adviser – a ‘co-ordinating lead author’ – for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His statement appears to contradict Met Office chief scientist Dame Julia Slingo.

Last weekend, she said ‘all  the evidence suggests that climate change has a role to  play’ in the storms.

Prof Collins made clear that he believes it is likely global warming could lead to higher rainfall totals, because a warmer atmosphere can hold more water. But he said this has nothing to do with the storm conveyor belt.

He said that when the IPCC was compiling its Fifth Assessment Report on climate change last year, it discussed whether warming might affect the jet stream. But, he went on, ‘there was very low confidence that climate change has any effect on the jet stream getting stuck’. In the end, the possibility was not even mentioned in the report.

Prof Collins declined to comment on his difference of opinion with Dame Julia.

Five months ago, in a briefing on the IPCC report to Ministers, Dame Julia conceded the consequence of warming for rainfall ‘is not simulated well’ by climate models – though they are the basis for most of what she and other scientists say about the effects of climate change.

Last April, after the temperature fell to -11C in Aberdeenshire, the coldest April temperature for more than 100 years, Dame Julia said the cold winter and spring might also be due to global warming, because of ice melting in the Arctic. 

Meanwhile, the Met Office has continued to issue questionable long-term forecasts. In mid-November, two weeks before the first of the storms, it predicted persistent high pressure for the winter, which was ‘likely to lead to drier-than-normal conditions across the country’.

It added that its models showed the probability of the winter being in the driest of five official categories was 25 per cent. The chances of it being in the wettest category was 15 per cent.

Infamously, in April 2009, the Met Office promised a ‘barbecue summer’ – which then turned out to be a washout. It forecast the winter of 2010 to 2011 would be mild: it was the coldest for 120 years.

In 2007, the Met Office said that globally, the decade 2004-2014 would see warming of 0.3C. In fact, the world has not got any warmer at all in this period.

At the beginning of 13 of the past 14 years, the Met Office has predicted the following 12 months would be significantly warmer than they have been. This, says the sceptic think-tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation, indicates ‘systemic’ bias.

Mail on Sunday, 16 February 2014