Are UK Winters Becoming More Extreme?
According to the UK’s last Chief Scientist, Sir John Beddington, we can expect more extreme, cold winters in the UK, courtesy of global warming. In an interview with ITV News last March he was asked :
“whether extreme weather events such as this cold spell were linked to climate change”
“What you can say is that these extreme events are more likely because climate has happened…. What we have been able to analyse shows that the probability of these more extreme events has been increased by the fact of having climate change”
This was despite the fact that Met Office had sent him a report two years earlier, saying that there was nothing abnormal at all about recent cold winters and that their projections forecast less extreme winters.
So what do the facts say? Let’s start by looking at the Met Office winter mean temperature stats.
Clearly the extremely cold winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 were nothing out of the ordinary, when compared with the 20thC. They only appeared unusual after the run of mild winters which started in 1989.
Of the 20 coldest winters since 1910, two have been in the last decade – 2010 and 2011. This is, of course, exactly the ratio you would expect.
Even the exceptionally cold weather experienced last March, that Beddington was specifically referring to, was not that unusual. There had been two colder Marches, 1947 and 1962. Indeed, cold weather in March was actually quite common in the early 20thC, and again between 1947 and 1970.