Soaked British Isles Could Remain Flooded for Months

February 12, 2014

There is a thread running thru this narrative, that includes unseasonable melt and warmth in Alaska, brutal drought in California and the West, Frigid air masses in the US East, and the constant pounding of rain and storms in the UK  – all connected by a stubborn, “stuck” jet stream, that is behaving very much as we might expect if it is indeed responding to loss of arctic ice.

I’ve been talking to well informed observers on the ground in the UK, more  on this later – but as  one of them told me yesterday, it’s one thing to have a “one-in-150 year” event, that’s weather. But when you begin to have a string of “one-in-150 year” events, back to back, you begin to wonder if the dice are indeed loaded.

We are watching a globally significant environmental, and perhaps, political, event unfold.


The defence secretary, Philip Hammond, insisted the government has got a grip on the UK’s devastating floods as he tried to put an end to “recriminations” about whether more could have been done to prevent them.

The senior Tory cabinet minister argued that the military and emergency services have everything under control, as concern about the potential scale of serious flooding along the Thames Valley continues.

It comes after the government reaction to the severe weatherdescended into infighting over the weekend, forcing David Cameron to order his feuding cabinet ministers to stop sniping at the Environment Agency (EA).

The prime minister, who returned to the flooded West Country on Monday, was said to be exasperated by the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, who attacked the competence of the EA on Sunday and apologised for the policy decisions taken by the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, who is recuperating from eye surgery.

Cameron is continuing his tour of flood-hit areas of the south-west on Tuesday while thousands of properties in the Thames Valley are at risk of flooding on Wednesday.

Amid anger about the speed of the response to the crisis, Hammond told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The government has got a grip on this. The emergency services are in the lead and they are properly organised, the military have been mobilised to provide additional support [and] additional money has been available, equipment has been brought in …

“We’re dealing with an enormous force of nature here, vast quantities of water and an unprecedented weather pattern.”


The chairman of the Environment Agency risked further criticism on Monday night when he suggested that flooded residents were partly to blame for their problems by choosing to live in high-risk regions.

Lord Smith said people who bought homes in flood plains need to think about the “risk that that property faces”.

The remarks stoked the mounting anger towards Lord Smith’s agency, which has been criticised for its response to the floods.

It comes just a week after Lord Smith said Britain must decide whether to protect “town or country” from flooding because it can’t afford to do both.


Flooding affecting south-west England and along the Thames Valley should provide a “sharp reminder” even to climate change sceptics of the risk of flooding, a former Conservative environment secretary has warned.

Caroline Spelman told the Guardian that today’s climate was a consequence of what had happened twenty years ago – and that the UK must adapt to the changes that she said were still to come.

“This flooding is a sharp reminder that everyone, sceptic or not, has to think about the risk of flooding, whatever they think causes it,” she said. “We need to adapt. What is happening now relates to what we were doing two decades ago [in increasing greenhouse gas emissions].”

The debate over tackling climate change had become “muddied”, the former minister added, and criticised politicians for using the term “global warming” because it confuses people into thinking that climate change will result in warmer weather, rather than an increase in extreme weather such as higher rainfall.


46 Responses to “Soaked British Isles Could Remain Flooded for Months”

  1. omnologos Says:

    Where was the jet stream last year, or two years ago? What if it’s in a different position in one year’s time? Is it too much to ask for this climate-change-defining moments to be forecasted rather than explained after the fact?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Uh, O-Log? Where have you been that you have not noticed that extreme weather due to changes in the jet stream has been “forecasted” for quite some time now by climate scientists?

    • anotheralionel Says:

      But they have been forecast except that the exact time and place of any ‘climate-change-defining moment’ is impossible to predict as you should well know.

      The explanation in Met Office report pointed to from this blog two days ago via The Carbon Brief:

      Click to access Recent_Storms_Briefing_Final_07023.pdf

      should help you inform yourself.

      Could you predict the precise score run from the throwing of loaded dice?

    • Ah yes, the skeptic argument that until a climate scientist has a crystal ball where they can accurately predict chaos and the randomness of weather, anything they say must be ignored. Don’t you ever get tired of this short-circuit thinking?

      If you had bothered to listen, the claim has been that whenever these weather events happen they will bring more moisture, and indeed as we see with the jetstream slowing down, more prolonged weather, or “stuck weather” as some like to call it. Or indeed as in California suck whatever moisture is in the ground out for months on end.

      Climate change has never been about predicting weather events, it has been about predicting the severity of them when they do impact an area. Much like climate scientists cant predict when the next volcano will erupt to cool the atmospheric temperatures and neither any reasonable prediction for when the next big El Ninõ will occur (except through statistical chances). None of these change the physical underlying fact that the earth has an energy imbalance and that will continue to warm up the planet for as long as the CO2 levels are higher than the carbon cycle is able to digest and we haven’t reached any equilibrium with energy in vs energy out.

  2. greenman3610 Says:

    The recent “stuck” behavior of the jet stream has been widely noted, and it is consistent with general predictions of more extreme weather events. That this emergent behavior has not been predicted months in advance should not be a surprise.
    See tomorrow’s video on Abrupt Climate Change. It’s the Unexpected stuff that we expect.

  3. johnrussell40 Says:

    Yes, omnologos, it is “too much to ask for this climate-change-defining moments to be forecasted”. That’s because these particular events are weather, and weather can’t be forecast more than a few weeks ahead because there’s too much variability in the system.

    Climate forecasting can only warn of the statistical likelihood of extreme weather events occurring, not precisely when we’ll see droughts, heatwaves or floods. It’s like the impossibility of predicting heads or tails on the next throw, compared with ease of forecasting that if you toss a coin 1,000 times you’ll land on heads, near as dammit, 50% of the time.

    • omnologos Says:

      The net is far too wide to be of much use..paradoxically, if the jetstream had been moving erratically, we would be reading now of climate change making it move, just as we read of climate change making it get stuck.

      What I mean is, any extreme of any sort would be used to demonstrate that climate change is happening right now exactly as predicted. But the prediction is too nebulous…

      It would have been far superior service from the MeOffice to have generated a list of probable what-if’s, one of them including the current stuck-jetstream configuration.

      Otherwise it’s like discussing with those convinced Nostradamus predicted it all…they are just as good in finding explanations after the fact, you know.

      • skeptictmac57 Says:

        I think “the use” of these not specifically predicted events, is to be taken as a sign that what was once considered a reasonably small risk to life property and infrastructure has now shown signs of increasing,and those who want to avoid the negative effects of those increased risks may want to change the odds back in their favor.
        Hence, hardening of infrastructure,moving away from flood zones,increased conservation of water resources,avoiding of building on cliffs or coastlines subject to erosion,need to be taken more seriously.
        And finally,the recognition that we have to do as much as we can to stop fueling the problem,by reducing our output of greenhouse gasses would be a good “use” for that wide cast “net”.

        • omnologos Says:

          Skepticmac57 – I agree with the point about being able to finally withstand what Nature can throw at us.

          I do not think we need to wait until we have or haven’t evidence of climate change before going in that direction. Obviously too many people are unprepared to the weather of today, let alone to the one of 2100 whatever that will be.

          I wish therefore that the issue of adaptation were de-coupled completely from discussions about climate change and mitigation. Some wish, of course.

          • ubrew12 Says:

            “I wish… adaptation were de-coupled completely from… climate change” That’s a little like wishing the subject of hardening London from bombing could be decoupled from the Blitz. The Roman’s founded London. Maybe, having been there for two thousand years, London was adapted just fine for the climate that was, and is no longer.

            This speaks to the significance of what is happening in England today. This is the empire upon which the sun will never set, and Nature is setting to drown her. Whats up with that?

      • David H. Says:

        Climate scientists develop models, and those models are in turn used to generate predictions. However, these are not predictions in the “weather forecast” sense, but only in the sense of what observations we should or should not get if the model is correct. So the only real question is whether the observations of reality are consistent, or not consistent, with the models. If they are consistent, then it’s a clue (but not necessarily proof) that the models are working properly. If inconsistent, it means they have some work to do to figure out why its wrong, and to modify or abandon the model as necessary.

        Since the current climate models predict that both periods of stability and erratic behavior will occur, the observation of either alone indeed does not, on its own, give cause for concern. Only if some other aspect of the observations fails, say perhaps the relative frequency of the two conditions occurring, will it be evidence that the models are wrong in some way.

        In either case, it’s seriously dishonest to insinuate that it’s all just some kind of post-facto rationalization on the part of the scientists, instead of the proper functioning of the scientific method.

        • omnologos Says:

          David H – it is also dishonest to suggest I said what I did not.

          The point about the locked jetstream being a sign of climate change because it’s an extreme event among many, has been made by Peter in his post and repeated by others in the comments.

          My reply is therefore to them and not to some ‘scientists’ that would not be here to answer anyway.

          • David H. Says:

            Of course you didn’t “say” it. Being the excellent little contrarian troll you are you are careful to never come out and clearly accuse anyone of anything. Instead you suggest and hint and insinuate, and then backtrack whenever you’re called out on it.

          • omnologos Says:

            David – if I didn’t say it, I didn’t say it, and unless you have magical power of mindreading via the internet, stick to what I actually say. You have just wasted four comments to talk about your paranoid dreams about what I did not say.

      • talies Says:

        The *increased frequency* of droughts, floods and storms is itself a well-predicted event.

      • You know if someone pushes you off a cliff, the investigators could after scraping you off the ground come to these two conclusions:

        A) You tripped and fell (random event)
        B) Someone pushed you (physical external event)

        You try to make it sound like anything is happening by faith or by gods hand, do you really believe in that? Don’t you ever consider the fact that mans action might be responsible for something happening?

        I mean paleoclimate records clearly shows there is a clear correlation between the amount of CO2 and temperature. We don’t need to guess about what future events mean like some Nostradamus match-up because we already have facts about past events that give us physical facts about what we can expect in the future based on CO2 levels.

        So, Climate change is?

        A) Just random events when God throws dice
        B) Influenced by physical changes to the biosphere

        • omnologos Says:

          Jcl -you’re simplifying -there’s too much handwaving. “Something will happen” then “Something has happened”. It’s too easy and provides zero information because something is bound to happen. Like the infantile game of saying to people “I’ve commanded you to say what you just said” after they said it.

          To move forward we’d need figures, befores and afters, multidecadal values, the works. SREX had trouble even in defining “extreme”. Maybe a future version will deal with the issue.

          I understand Peter is a visual guy by profession so images make sense to him. Am just not sure they do from a purely scientific point of view.

          So CC is something that is happening but still we can’t tell how badly already and we can only guesstimate about in the future, not even sure if the new normal will be “more of the same”. In the meanwhile I can predict weather will cause troubles in 2014. 100% certainty.

          • Well, there is no real action to curb emissions globally yet is there? But still we know by now that our emissions are already altering climate and if anything it will not get better in the future. So why stalling action? Why demanding more detailed predictions?

            It’s like walking into a room filled with poisonous snakes and asking the expert at the door, “but there is a chance I might not get bitten right?”. Why on earth does that besides people who love gambling at high stakes?

            Are we really prepared to gamble with the lives of so many people today and coming generations? Do we as individuals have the right to decide not to deal with this?

            I think there is more than enough evidence to act now. And I believe Peter’s blog sort of emphasize that with both info about technological possibilities to get us off fossil fuels and events likely caused by current climate change from AGW.

            The way I interpret your messages is almost like the guy in the the Naked Gun movie standing before the fireworks factory that is on fire yelling “Nothing to see here”. It’s pretty silly wouldn’t you agree by now?

          • omnologos Says:

            John – please respond to me and not to a fantasy “skeptic” you have in mind. I cannot remember when it was last time I said on Crocks that action should be stalled on the mitigation side (besides, even if I had said that, I would not have any power to stall any action on anything really).

            If you ask me, I’d like to see a mitigation plan seriously expected to work. So far we had the ETS (where money got transferred from all citizens to Big Energy companies), Palm Oil (an environmental and social disaster that is making some Big Palm companies richer), ethanol (probably the opposite of mitigation, once again with huge monetary transfers from citizens to wealthy individuals), wind farms (never mind the birds, this scheme is perfect to enrich very rich landowners), solar energy (Solyndra anybody, plus lots of dodgy metals awaiting to be incorrectly disposed of). Maybe we had some more.

            Now, I presume we all agree none of those efforts has done anything noticeable to reduce the risk of having Britain flooded for months. Or let me know if you think otherwise.

          • redskylite Says:

            The IPCC reports do more than “guesstimates about the future” and much more than mere predictions, they project different scenarios well into the future with differing parameters (which is mankind’s option), i.e business as usual (as is happening now), serious emission cuts and so on. The models agree that future times will be toughest nearer the tropics places like Africa, South Pacific Islands, South America (in all scenarios), where there will be severe food shortages and species extinction. This is not a Nostradamus dream vision, this is the result of scientific projection. Sea level rise will not be uniform will also affect Africa and the tropics more than many other places. CO2 at 450 ppm will stop the corals growing and start marine species extinction. This is not mere speculation, all this is known. People who persistently ignore this and put up cranky and bizarre alternatives are dangerous to health and should like cigarette packages come with a government health warning. By Murex consultancy I guestimate you are into trading, not the genus of tropical sea snails. Well good luck with the share trading and risk management business.

          • omnologos Says:

            redskylite – fyi no, I am not “into trading”. I am an IT guy, by profession.

          • andrewfez Says:

            Let it be written: IT now = Into Trading

          • omnologos Says:

            This is a great site to collect information about the general inhuman aspect of climate change alarmism. I do not think any of you guys has ever escaped the chance of showing your inner, true, people-hating nature.

            There is no actually need to look for any other reason why, after so many years, climatism is a side issue to energy production instead of the other way around.

          • Eh we are people-hating?!? We are trying to inform people of climate change from global warming and you are trying to do what exactly? If anyone is people-hating it must be those who stand in the way of the change needed in order to reduce the amount of suffering people will have from climate change. There is nothing people-hating about wanting to reduce any kind of emission, whether it be poison in the rivers upstream or CO2 from burning of fossil fuels.

          • andrewfez Says:

            My attempt at humor was not intended to be at your expense Omno. If it makes you feel any better i, myself, am into trading, and do indeed hold equities from all over the energy sector spectrum.

          • omnologos Says:

            Ok Andrew and sorry for the outburst…sometimes I do wonder if people are here to talk climate change or just hanging around waiting for some ‘enemy skeptic’ to talk against, at a personal level

            And just in case, I do not do any trading and do not hold any stock myself in any company apart from my own. Same for all immediate members of my family (for the others, I have no idea, as I have never asked them).

            If I will ever find a job remotely connected to the energy sector, I will be wary to discuss climate change in any shape or form, and maybe go silent altogether as I already do for anything that relates to my day job.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            “I understand Peter is a visual guy by profession so images make sense to him. Am just not sure they do from a purely scientific point of view”.

            Add this to the list of “1000 Dumbest Things O-Log Has Ever Said”. I’m a visual guy too, and maybe I wouldn’t have believed the 15 inches of snow I shoveled yesterday if I had done it blindfolded. And I wouldn’t be able to see the chunk of snow half the the size of a Smart Car that the %&@*# sadistic plow driver pushed in front of my driveway while I slept.

            Yes, let’s blind all the climate scientists—-then their “scientific point of view” will be reduced to sticking a hand out the window and trying to “make sense” of what they can feel on it.

            Lord love a duck, but I am getting tired of watching us waste time on O-log. 40+ Crock comments to wade through this AM, and the ones on this thread seem to be too much about O-Log and not enough about climate science. (I know this because I am a visual guy who reads and analyzes “from a purely scientific point of view”, not from a delusional state like O-Log)

  4. The first Guardian article is partially correct, but the UK government really haven’t got a grip on the situation at all. First the y cut spending on flood defences, hence hampering the Environment Agency (EA), then the Communties minister waded in with unfolding criticism of the EA. Finally the Prime Minister, David Cameron stated there was no limit to finance to deal with the flooding.

    You couldn’t make it up.

    The Telegraph article is typical right-wing rubbish. Chris Smith, the head of the EA is doing a marvellous job. He is being scapegoated so that government incompetence, and a general failure to manage is not focused on.

    But the blame game has backfired and Cameron now looks like a fool.

    I really hope this disaster gets the message across that climate change can no longer be ignored. The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, needs to acknowledge that the climate is changing. That would be a good start.

  5. talies Says:

    The Met Office is now saying that the causal chain you describe also goes back to Pacific Ocean warming – extreme rain in Indonesia, causing the jetstream to buckle northwards in N Pacific.

    So it seems to me there are 2 “starting points” we could select in the global weather system: warming Arctic and warming tropical Pacific, both caused by agw.

    Very good article as usual. Thank you for all your work.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      excellent summary article. Here is more discussion of the issue – arctic vs tropical influence in jet stream instability

  6. rayduray Says:

    Well, this staid item cites the leftish Guardian and the Establishment Telegraph on the political mud-slinging the rains make so enticing.

    But for sheer entertainment sake, I do have to say I enjoy the UK’s tabloids and their colorful stylings.

    Tory Eric Pickles got into quite a bit of trouble for castigating the technocrat Environment Agency head Lord Smith. What was the Mirror’s response? That Eric Pickles highest calling in life would be to serve as a “sandbag”.

    I do so love the irony of Tory Pickles chastising the EA for not dredging the rivers draining the Somerset Levels, after the Tory government cut the funding for such work. It takes real chutzpah to be as breathtakingly hypocritical as Eric Pickles, the winner of the Mr. Sandman of the Year Award.

    • omnologos Says:

      so much for the insurance industry being already prepared for “climate change”…

      • redskylite Says:

        The process is very slow, Southern U.K is sinking at the rate 5cm by the end of the century, sea rise is slow, atmospheric CO2 is rising slowly. All of these things are slow but progressive.

        Events are not happening dramatically and are not particularly visible in a single person’s life time (the exception may be glacier melts and Arctic melts but you need to see it with your own eyes). Spring is arriving on average two weeks earlier than in the last century. Whether this latest set of storms and jet stream configuration is a persistent pattern or a quirk of variability remains to be proven by time.

        However we are warned of sleeping monsters and tipping points, and need to blow the cobwebs of doubt away. Things are definitely changing. I have lived for 3 score years and ten and have never seen such weather patterns in the U.K, and I doubt my father or grandfather saw such events either, although I admit my grandfather did experience some very tough times of flooding.

        We use computer models as there are just too many things for human minds to compute, conceive and comprehend, you have challenged the programming standards in the past (by horribly mis-quoting a light hearted New York Times, NASA article in a previous post ) and (although you say you are an IT guy) that makes me wonder how deeply you are experienced in the technology. In my world of programming code is audited and peer reviewed and shoddy programming will not pass and be tolerated at all in professional academic and scientific institutions.

        • omnologos Says:

          We’re getting OT. Not sure where you’ve been in the past few years, where Windows has taken the world, and successive UK governments have suffered repeated software project failures, and Harry has written a readme file at the UEA, and and and.

  7. […] 2014/02/12: PSinclair: Soaked British Isles Could Remain Flooded for Months […]

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