Met Office Chief Scientist Predicts Wetter, Milder UK Winters


Carbon Brief recently ran an interview with the Met Office’s Chief Scientist, Prof Stephen Belcher. The interviewer brought up the subject of the Met Office’s updated UK climate projections, due to be released some time in 2018, known as UKCP18. The last projections were published in 2009 (UKCP09).

CB: The Met Office will be launching the next set of climate change projections for the UK, known as UKCP18, later this year. What can we expect from them, and how will they be different to the last round?

SB: So UK Climate Projections 18, UKCP18, will be the next generation of climate predictions for the UK. And they’ll be used by a range of researchers and consultants to understand potential impacts of climate change on the UK. The UKCP18, as you say, will replace UKCP09. So it’s a 10-year update. So one of the things that will be improved is the overall modelling that sits behind it has moved on enormously in those 10 years. And the observations that we use as part of the modelling have another 10 years of data, showing more of a climate change signal and, of course, the improved data improves the modelling. So there’s a general quality improvement.

So basically, bigger, better, supposedly more accurate climate modelling, along with another ‘ten’ (not sure how he gets that figure; looks like nine to me) years of data. What’s changed you may ask?

In addition to that, we’ve got several new angles and dimensions to the UKCP18 that we didn’t have before. So I think there are two main ones and the first one is that UKCP09 primarily gave evidence about average climate and how that might change, whereas I think the agenda has shifted now. People really want to know what are extreme events going to look like. How is their flavour going to have changed in a future climate? So CP18 will give much more evidence about seasonal climate and the range of possibilities that might encompass. So a headline message from UKCP09 was that summers will become hotter and dryer, but a question we may want to ask is, well, how many of those summers might be really hot and really dry and how many might be rather wet, disappointing summers? Similarly with cold winters, we’ve had a reasonably cold end to the winter this year. Are they going to disappear completely? Well, of course, not. But they’re going to be gradually replaced by more warmer, wetter winters. It’s those kind of changes in the extremes that I think people are looking for. So UKCP18 might have some of that information.

The agenda certainly has changed. With no significant overall UK warming since about 2005, the emphasis has switched from changes in mean temperature to a supposed increasing threat of extreme weather attributable to man-made climate change (droughts, floods, ‘exceptional’ hot days, ‘exceptional’ rainfall, ‘exceptional’ stormy weather, even ‘exceptional’ cold weather!).




Extreme weather is the new climate change and this is supposedly what interests the public most – how that extreme weather is becoming more extreme as a result of global warming. I would suggest that the British have always been very interested in the weather and now climate scientists are exploiting that fascination by attempting to attribute supposed ‘exceptional’ weather to anthropogenic climate change – because the British public has got bored with 13 years and counting of non-existent warming. But there’s been no shortage of ‘extreme’ weather – from record cold in Dec 2010, to record flooding in 2014, to the ‘hottest June day’ since 1976 in 2017 (recorded, naturally, on the tarmac at Heathrow). Britain’s buzzing with weather extremes.

But getting back to the boring stuff, Belcher informs us that, even though we can still expect to get colder than average winters in the coming years, winters will, on average, become wetter and milder. The Met Office tweeted today about their own study which appears to confirm this trend in Scotland and northern England:

‘High emissions’, note. Actual paper here. Carbon Brief’s interviewer quizzes Belcher about the two recently released papers on AMOC which I covered a few days ago.

CB: And we’ve seen a recent paper – yesterday, in fact – a couple of papers, talking about how there’s been a weakening of AMOC over the past 50 years, or 100 years or so, and that could potentially have great impact on the UK. So how do these new projections deal with something like that? Or is that too new, in a way, for it to be incorporated?

Belcher answers:

SB: So, more generally, we try and capture those variations and their effect on the climate in two separate ways. The first is when we’re trying to understand what might happen over the next few years, we can use the variations in the AMOC to initialise simulations and account for that initial state or weakening of that. And that, therefore, represents that impact on the weather. In UKCP18, the way we would treat it is that we run a whole bunch of simulations and they will have AMOCs in different phases at different times, so the spread of possibilities is partly due to the AMOC variability.

Huh? Not much of an answer really. If AMOC slows significantly in the coming decades, British winters are likely to get a lot colder than we’ve been used to since the mid 1970s. They’ll also probably become drier as easterlies start to dominate and the influence of the warm Atlantic wanes. But this is the complete opposite of what Belcher is saying the Met Office’s UK climate projections 2018 predict for winters over the 21st century. Belcher notably fails to even mention the possibility of the progression into a grand solar minimum starting as soon as 2020. This is a glaring omission for a climate scientist, particularly a chief scientist in charge of a publicly funded organisation which is tasked with informing us about possible future trends in British weather based upon scientific observations and current scientific knowledge. As far as I can see, the Met Office’s climate projections are still based upon GCMs heavily biased in favour of GHG warming, which fail to adequately account for natural variability such as cloud cover variance, AMO/NAO/PDO cycles, AMOC variability and solar variability.

To me, this is scandalous because it effectively means that UK public institutions will not be prepared for possible cooling of the British climate and our so called ‘Conservative’ government, in thrall to the Sustainability Monster (aka the Green Blob), will take this as further justification to push full speed ahead with its virtue signaling climate mitigation measures which are driving electricity bills sky high for consumers – not to mention, wrecking the environment and decreasing the reliability and robustness of our national energy supply. The Perfect Storm of industrial and social decline in Britain is looming and the Met Office is busily steering us straight into its cold black heart.


  1. I think the agenda has shifted now. People really want to know what are extreme events going to look like.

    Translation: The old agenda of accelerating temperatures crashed and burned, so we came up with a new climate scare to wave in front of the masses.


  2. The long-range forecast for Britain is therefore long heatwaves in summer and fewer frosts in winter. To combat this we need to build bigger reservoirs to contain the winter rains through the summer. No huge problem here as long as planners are not allowed to put through eccentric nationwide schemes. There is no sign of climate change impacts costing 5% or more of GDP, as prophesied in the Stern Review. In fact, there will be fewer roads breaking up due to frosts and small spikes in the death rate in December and January.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. That’s a smashing graph. I note that between 2010 and 2011 average temperatures soared 1.6°C. That’s about twice the entire rise for the past century! How did we survive?

    An odd thing I’ve noticed about average annual temperature graphs is they change direction far more often than they continue the previous trend. Between 1916 and 2015 I counted 68 years when the temperature peaked (or troughed) and only 32 when they continued to rise of fall as they had done the previous year. There’s probably a simple statistical reason for it, but it does have an interesting psychological consequence. If this year is warmer than last year, then its 2:1 that next year will be cooler than this year. No wonder the Met is having such difficulty persuading us of the danger of global warming.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Geoff makes some good comments about the random variation being more significant than the underlying trend.
    Since WW2 (skewed by my lifetime experiences) the years of extreme winters were 1947 and 1963. 1981 and 2010 were meant to have been more moderate by comparison in terms of snowfall. For instance, my late Father remembered 1947, with the deep snow for months, and a steam locomotive being run up and down the local branch line through the night to keep the line open. I remember 1981. when for two weeks the temperature never got above zero, and record low temperatures were set at night. Yet, on average, 1947 and 1981 were not particularly cold.
    Similarly, I remember the record summer of 1976, sunbathing in the lunchtime at school. I also remember on Nationwide the snippets about finding hidden sources of water in old quarries, and getting Red Indians into the studio to perform a rain dance. Also in 2003, taking the children to a shaded stream in the Peak District (at 700 feet height) to cool off in the 32C heat. Yet 1976 was about average, and 2003 was similar to the years before and after.
    The extreme cold of 1981 and 2010 was below -15C at night. The extreme heat of 1976 and 2003 was above 30C. It is the huge differentials that we remember rather than the changes of a few tenths in average temperature over decades. Yet insofar as there is a human signal it will be in the latter. Yet the so-called climate scientists are rightly called “alarmists” as they emphasize the short-term extremes over the long-term signal.
    Of course, if AGW causes more variability as well as the barely imperceptible warming, then the unusually cold winter of 2010 (and the cold start to 2018) would have been offset by lots of record summer heatwaves exceeding that of 1976. Apart from 2003 and the drought of 2006 (when water tables were forecast never to recover in July but did by December), there has been nothing comparable.
    In Britain we live in a highly variable climate. In cricket we have a rather strange national sport, with games lasting for days on end. With huge permutations in cricket, with every test match, there is the potential for some sort of record. Such as the most maiden overs by an under-24 bowler after tea on the third day, following two spells of rain after lunch at Trent Bridge, in a second innings since 1955. Similarly, with long temperature records at many points in the UK, there is a similar potential for some sort of record somewhere most days.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. AGW won’t cause anything, because it’s BS. Everyone should know this by now – there’s only so many times the story can be changed before people rumble the storytellers.


    Your comment raises a question I’ve been trying to formulate sensible for a while. Put brutally: What’s the point of weather forecasts? We all like to know if it’s going to rain tomorrow, but would it help to know three months in advance? A farmer may adjust his activities accordingly, but he can’t – say – put off sowing by more than a few days, surely? If I knew for sure that July was going to be lovely and August horrible, I’d plan my holidays accordingly. But so would everyone else, so how useful is that?
    And it’s even worse for long term forecasts. If I know that there will be more and worse floods in fifty years time, I need to be sure the drains and dykes and watercourses are in good repair. But I need to do that anyway, because a once-a-century rare event may arrive any time. The fact that in fifty years time the once-a-century event will become a once-a-decade event makes no difference to the steps I need to take.
    Professor Belcher seems to concede this when he says:

    So a headline message from UKCP09 was that summers will become hotter and dryer, but a question we may want to ask is, well, how many of those summers might be really hot and really dry and how many might be rather wet, disappointing summers? Similarly with cold winters… Are they going to disappear completely? Well, of course, not. But they’re going to be gradually replaced by more warmer, wetter winters.

    I mean, this is really less than fascinating information, and Professor Belcher seems dimly aware of the fact. People think they would like to know the future, because they imagine it being like knowing who will win the 3;30 at Kempton Park tomorrow, but it rarely is. When I was 18 a fortune teller told me that I would have three children and contract a serious possibly fatal illness in middle age. Both these (to me then unwelcome) pieces of information turned out to be true, but it made not the slightest difference being forewarned decades in advance.


  7. The very essence of the British weather/climate is it’s variability from day to day, year to year. It’s very ‘noisy’ as they say, flipping from one extreme to the other as Geoff points out in his comment above. Just look at what’s happened with our weather in the last couple of weeks. A sweltering 29C a week or so ago. Now it’s looking more like winter and the forecast for my area on Monday is 8C, heavy rain all day and near gale force northerly winds! The engine which drives this variability is the jet stream and it does appear that the jet stream, in recent years, has become more meandering, allowing for hotter air from the Sahara to penetrate far north across Europe (as we saw in the recent short-lived heatwave) and correspondingly much colder polar maritime air to sink far south over the British Isles on other occasions. When meteorological conditions favour the jet stream getting ‘stuck’ in position over the British isles, we can get very long, very hot spells of dry weather like we saw in summer 1976.

    Climate models are telling us that mild, wet winters will become gradually more frequent and cold, dry winters will become correspondingly less frequent. They also tell us that hot, dry summers will become more frequent. There is little to no evidence of any observable trend in British weather records so far which would tend to suggest this has been happening whilst CO2 has sharply increased over the latter half of the 20th century. So we’re supposed to take this projection on good faith. Meanwhile, we’ve had, just since 2009, several very cold winters, the second coldest December since 1659 in England in 2010, a record breaking cold spring (in 2013), and numerous warmth and rainfall records in the El Nino years 2014/16. Our weather is all over the place at the moment and ‘scientists’ are telling us it’s because of the build up of trace CO2 in the atmosphere. But the British weather has always been ‘all over the place’. The Great Fire of London was made possible by an extremely dry and hot summer in 1666. The Great Storm of 1703 made the night of Oct 15th 1987 look like a storm in a teacup by comparison. There were huge floods and rainfall events recorded throughout the Little Ice Age. The British climate churns out superlatives in abundance via the ever changeable British weather. Second guessing what it’s going to be doing in 80 years’ time is a fool’s game.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Long, long ago I was offered a piece of weatherlore which may be true but which is difficult to prove just based upon one’s own memory. It is that for a given weather condition, say a hot or cold spell, the longer the spell, the more likely it is that the following day will be similar, and if so, then the next day would be even more likely to be hot (or cold).
    I have never seen this stated recently, but if true it flies against the commonly stated view that Britain’s weather is unpredictable or infinitely variable. The success rate of five-day weather forecasts (at least for East Anglia) strongly suggests weather is no longer unpredictable that far into the future.

    As to short term climate change, my experience is that it has definitely happened. In particular when I began living in East Anglia (1989) most Autumns were characterized by several epiodes of extremely thick fog. These have definitely disappeared and I cannot recall the last one I experienced. This I consider a definite climate improvement.


  9. I would never have the temerity to ask that question of someone else’s offspring, Alan. My own … well, that’s an ongoing research topic 🙂

    I was I admit amused by the fortune telling of “serious possibly fatal illness”. It’s a striking story but this seemed a fatal weakness in the original message, so to speak.


  10. It is my pleasure to be in the UK visiting family these last few days of April.
    I wish your Met was foucusing on weather reporting more on weather and less on “climate change”. When we checked the weather just prior to packing this cold dreary April was not in their forecast.


  11. Richard,
    Thank you for asking.
    No, this trip is just passing through to visit our niece studying at King’s College near Somerset House. We leave Monday for more of our Eurpean tour. I wish our time was more flexible. However the UK in general and London in particular are such wonderful places to visit. And the weather here is a clear reminder of the hubris of the climatocracy.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Geoff @ 27 Apr 18 at 9:44 pm
    I would say that a minimum requirement for weather forecasting being “useful” is if by heeding the forecasts and altering one’s plans accordingly there is, in the long run, a net benefit to doing so. For instance, suppose you heeded the advice the forecasts for storms, making sure that wheelie bins were weight down, windows shut etc. Or heeding the forecasts of snow, by gritting paths, or carrying sand and a spade in the car. It would be net beneficial, even if the forecasts were not correct all the time, so long as the damage costs are likely far greater than the extra time and effort to build in precautions.
    But this also means putting the forecasts in context. Plan a summer holiday in the UK more than two weeks before the departure date and you take a gamble with the weather. The long-range forecasts tend to be as meaningful as those by Mystic Meg. Taking the extreme prognosis as truth you could end up not taking that holiday due to the forecast being worse than average. But it there is also an important aspect of how one reacts to the weather. If the success or not of a holiday in your view is based on everything being near perfect, then worse than average weather can ruin that holiday. However, if you alter your plans according to changing conditions, or just take shelter from the showers and, then carry on it may turn out that the holiday provides takes a course that you never expected.
    The real problem is when those who think that the climate will change for the worse, try to make life harder and impose lifestyles upon us that will make either no difference or near zero difference to the future climatic conditions. This is due to an illusory belief that they are able to control the climate. A necessary, but far from sufficient condition for controlling climate, is having the power the control global emissions. That power is denied by countries with at least two-thirds of global emissions and accounting for all the net growth in emissions since 1990. It is further denied by countries with the vast majority of proven reserves of fossil fuels being unwilling to leave most those reserves in the ground. All that policy-makers manage to do is to make life net harder and compel observance of environmentalist belief systems on everyone so that the true believers can be seen to be virtuous.

    Liked by 2 people

    comment above has just destroyed in three paragraphs the entire jsutification for action on climate change, and all without once mentioning equilibrium climate sensitivity or global temperature anomalies. Can we make it a post and then we can all pack up and go home?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Much wisdom.
    We most assuredly do not rely on weather for the success of our holidays.
    The cold spring allows us to walk even more in this lovely city and feel invigorated, not wrung out.


  15. Weather forecasters are regularly unable to predict the weather even 12 hours in advance. Today’s rain event is a case in point. They had it much further west originally, then it shifted east. Only yesterday evening my forecast said heavy rain all day. Now the ‘forecast’ is that today will be light rain and it is currently dry. Ah yes, they say, but we get it ‘most’ of the time and when it comes to ‘forecasting’ weather/climate 70 years hence, we’re only assessing likely trends, which will be unaffected by short term chaotic meteorological ups and downs. Will they? Is chaotic behaviour unmanifest on multidecadal time scales?


  16. Jaime. April 27th you wrote:
    “Climate models are telling us that mild, wet winters will become gradually more frequent and cold, dry winters will become correspondingly less frequent. They also tell us that hot, dry summers will become more frequent. There is little to no evidence of any observable trend in British weather records so far which would tend to suggest this has been happening whilst CO2 has sharply increased over the latter half of the 20th century.”
    At the time I meant to comment but it slipped my mind.

    There is a more informed method of determining how our (or at least my) climate might change in the future. The early part of the Holocene (=the Optimum) and several of the interglacials were distinctly warmer than today. We can assess this, and other aspects of the climate by examining soils that are preserved in deposits of the time preserved in Eastern England. (Another even more successful method is by examining beetle remains which preserve well and are very climate sensitive) Many of these soils contain concentrations of calcium carbonate making them caliches, similar to those found in semi-arid climates. One might initially think that this would imply Eastern England was much drier in the past, but it doesn’t. Much of Eastern England is already semi-arid, receiving less than 25in of rain. Caliche soils don’t form today because carbonate-bearing soils require a dry season in order to form (usually summer) and currently East Anglia has its rainfall equally distributed over the whole year. So if England’s climate were to change toward what it was in the past, all that need happen is for summers to become drier.

    Caliches also can form in cold semiarid climates so long as they have seasonal dryness. I believe some ancient caliches in Suffolk are of this type but I have few supporters (= subject of my last published research paper).

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Interesting Alan. Seasonal summer dryness in East Anglia. Of course, one should note that the warmth of the Early Holocene was as a result of orbital forcing which resulted in increased insolation in NH mid to high latitudes during summer. The warming which we can expect from increasing GHGs will be rather different in character to the early Holocene orbital forcing, so the paleo evidence might not be a useful guide to what we might expect weatherwise in the future. It seems to me that whilst climate scientists are predicting hotter, drier summers, they’re also telling us that summer rain will be a lot more intense with the possibility of flooding! Useful, because when we get another 2003, they can say ‘we told you so’ and when we get a washout summer with widespread flooding, or even a one-off ‘unprecedented’ summer rainfall event, they can say ‘we told you so’.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. “Is chaotic behaviour unmanifest on multidecadal time scales?”

    As I understand it chaotic behaviour is generally fractal, so possesses the property of self-similarity at all levels of zoom, so the pattern repeats endlessly as it is scaled up or down within physical limits, but is never identical.


  19. Alan, heh, many suffer from short term climate change. Herewith from climate
    historian Tony Brown’s study of CET record, ‘Little Ice Age Thermometers’

    ‘This short paper is a preliminary examination of BEST data to 1753, as compared
    the Central England Temperature Record (CET) to 1660 (instrumental record) and
    1538 (Extended by Tony Brown using thousands of contemporary observations)’


    ‘This extension to 1538 was a central part of my article ‘The Long Slow Thaw,’ which
    also examined historic temperature reconstructions by Dr Michael Mann and Hubert Lamb’


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