December so far has been characterised by intense media discussions about climate change and its relationship to weather.
Early in the month, the Met Office welcomed the BBC Trust report, which recognised there was a serious breach of their editorial guidelines and that the What’s the Point of the.. Met Office programme, aired in August, had failed to make clear that the Met Office’s underlying views on climate change science were supported by the majority of scientists.
Trustees considered audiences were not given sufficient information about prevailing scientific opinion to allow them to assess the position of the Met Office and the Met Office position on these criticisms was not adequately included in the programme.
In the wake of Storm Desmond, there have been further media comments about the relationship between climate change and weather.
On Monday, in a blog, we were very clear not to link the record-breaking rainfall with climate change. This is what Professor Dame Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist has said: “It’s too early to say definitively whether climate change has made a contribution to the exceptional rainfall. We anticipated a wet, stormy start to winter in our three-month outlooks, associated with the strong El Niño and other factors.
“However, just as with the stormy winter of two years ago, all the evidence from fundamental physics, and our understanding of our weather systems, suggests there may be a link between climate change and record-breaking winter rainfall. Last month, we published a paper showing that for the same weather pattern, an extended period of extreme UK winter rainfall is now seven times more likely than in a world without human emissions of greenhouse gases.”
So, we have been clear: it’s not easy to link a single weather event to climate change, but last weekend’s record rainfall aligns with the pattern highlighted by our scientists. The Met Office expects an increase in heavy rainfall associated with climate change and this is an active area of research. A recent paper by the Met Office’s Mike Kendon highlights several key findings connected with rainfall records:
- Since 2000 there have been almost 10 times as many wet records as dry records.
- Remarkably, the period since 2010 accounts for more wet records than any other decade – even though this is only a five-year period. It also includes the winter of 2013/14: the wettest on record.
Guided by peer-reviewed science, the Met Office recognises the climate is changing, and with that comes an expectation that more records will be broken.