Recent articles here have included Jit’s “The BBC’s Latest “Unreality” Check”i and Richard Drake’s “Malinformation”ii, so in a sense this contribution can be regarded as loosely continuing a series.
There is something of an irony in the fact that the BBC has now prominently employed Climate Disinformation Specialists to debunk claims it doesn’t like which don’t fit the climate emergency narrative, given that the BBC is no stranger to climate disinformation itself, as we will see below.
Climate change: Flooding is ‘the new reality’ in Wales
So says an articleiii appearing on the BBC website on 15th February 2022. The story was presented as follows:
Record-breaking flooding is becoming “the new reality” for communities, according to Natural Resources Wales (NRW).
Two years after storms wreaked havoc across Wales, the environmental watchdog warned urgent action was needed to prepare for climate change.
“The need to act now to prepare for climate impacts is more pressing than ever,” it said.
Storms Chiara, Dennis and Jorge led to record rainfall in February 2020.
The BBC seems to have learned from the Guardian to link to its own articles by way of supposed evidence in support of a claim, when the link – for those who trouble to follow it – provides no such thing. Thus, the last few words, in the original article, provide an embedded link to another BBC articleiv dating back to 23rd February 2020: “Flooding: Call for UK cash to fund flood relief in Wales”.
Nowhere does that linked article refer to or justify a claim of record rainfall in Wales in February 2020. In fact, a quick internet search shows that December 2015 was much wetter than February 2020 in Wales. However, we can do much better than a quick internet search. What follows, I’m afraid, is a detailed perusal of Met Office datav for the Welsh data sites in the Met Office’s records. Fortunately there are only four of them, and they provide data for what seems to me to be a surprisingly short, and certainly disappointing, length of time. Of course, the shorter and less complete the data, the sillier are dramatic claims of “record” weather of any type. Be that as it may, let’s take a look.
The data from this sitevi, if anything shows a less wet trend lately, with the wettest month since the detailed records began in January 1941, being November 1954.
Individual months there with more than 200mm of rainfall are: September 1950; November 1954; November 1959; November 1960; January 1974; October 1981; October 1987; November 1997; November 2009; and December 2015. I don’t see a trend there towards much wetter or record rainfall recently. February 2020 saw 150.8mm. In fact the only two months to see more than 220mm of rainfall were November 1954 and November 1959.
Cardiff Bute Park
Here the datavii begins only in September 1977. Since then, months with more than 200mm of rainfall are: December 1978; March 1981; September 1981; January 1984; November 1984; January 1988; November 1992; December 1993; January 1995; August 1997; October 1998; January 1999; August 1999; December 1999; October 2000; October 2002; November 2009; December 2012; October 2013; January 2014; November 2015; January 2016; October 2019; February 2020; December 2020; and May 2021.
Clearly Cardiff is wetter than Aberporth, and this time (albeit we don’t have 1950s records to compare with) the data seem to show an increasingly wet trend, with 5 months of 200mm+ rain in the 1980s; 7 months in the 1990s; 3 in the 2000s; 6 in the 2010s; and 3 already in the 2020s.
However, Cardiff being so much wetter, extreme rainfall here is more readily gauged by looking at months with more than 250mm of rainfall. These were August 1997; October 2000; and December 2020. That doesn’t like much of a trend towards increased heavy rainfall, especially as, of those three, the wettest was October 2000. There’s no denying that February 2020 was wet, but it falls 24.9mm behind October 2000.
Cwmystwyth Dataviii for this site in mid-Wales goes back to January 1959, but rainfall data commences only in January 1961.
Since then, months with more than 200mm of rainfall are: August 1962; September 1962; December 1962; November 1963; December 1964 (334.8mm); January 1965; September 1965; December 1965 (417.3mm); December 1966 (419.8mm); September 1967; October 1967 (400.1mm); December 1967; January 1968; January 1969; August 1969; November 1969; December 1969; February 1970; April 1970; October 1970; November 1970 (304.2mm); November 1971; April 1972; November 1972; November 1973; December 1973; January 1974; July 1974; September 1974; October 1974; November 1974; December 1974 (305.9mm); January 1975; October 1976; February 1977; November 1977; December 1977; November 1978; March 1979; May 1979; August 1979; November 1979; December 1979 (315.8mm); June 1980; October 1980; November 1980; December 1980; March 1981 (350mm); September 1981; October 1981 (356.1mm); November 1982; December 1982; January 1983; September 1983; October 1983; December 1983; January 1984; September 1984; October 1984; November 1984; June 1985; August 1985; January 1986; October 1986; November 1986 (315.4mm); December 1986 (356.4mm); October 1987; January 1988; March 1988; July 1988; August 1988; September 1988; February 1989; March 1989; October 1989; January 1990; February 1990; October 1990; December 1990; November 1991; March 1992; August 1992; October 1992; November 1992; December 1992; January 1993; July 1993; January 1994; March 1994 (323.1mm); October 1994; December 1994 (350.1mm); January 1995 (324.2mm); February 1995; October 1996; February 1997; November 1997; January 1998; March 1998; June 1998; September 1998; October 1998 (354.4mm); January 1999 (302.4mm); February 1999; October 1999; December 1999 (347.4mm); February 2000; October 2000 (352.5mm); November 2000 (424.4mm); December 2000; October 2001; November 2001 (311.6mm); January 2002; February 2002 (401.3mm); October 2002; November 2002; December 2002; December 2003; January 2004; September 2004; October 2004 (333.3mm); December 2004; November 2005; December 2005; October 2006; November 2006; December 2006 (304.2mm); January 2007; July 2007; December 2007; January 2008 (348.9mm); March 2008; August 2008; October 2008 (317.6mm); November 2008; July 2009; November 2009 (425.4mm); July 2010.
Unfortunately the site closed in March 2011, so further comparison is impossible. However, what (other than the fact that Cwmystwyth is very wet) can we discern? Months per decade with more than 200mm of rainfall: 1960s (incomplete): 17. 1970s: 26. 1980s: 31. 1990s: 30. 2000s: 32. At first blush, a dry 1960s, wetter 1970s, thereafter wetter still, but fairly stable for the next three decades. But let's look a little deeper. How many months per decade with more than 400mm of rain? 1960s (incomplete): 3 1970s: 0 1980s: 0 1990s: 0 2000s: 3. On the face of it, no trend there towards excessive wetness, given that the 2000s (a complete decade) had the same number of very wet months as the 1960s (an incomplete decade). How many months per decade with 300-400mm of rain? 1960s: (incomplete): 1 1970s: 3 1980s: 4 1990s: 6 2000s: 6
Added to the 400mm+ months, maybe that does show a trend to increasing wetness. And the wettest month was November 2009. It’s a pity we have don’t have data for the last ten years.
Dataix for this site in Anglesey goes back to December 1930.
It is less wet than the other three weather station locations, so I have restricted my search for heavy rain there to months with more than 150mm of rain. They are as follows, by decade:
November 1931; December 1934 (240.5mm); September 1935; November 1935; October 1937; October 1938; November 1938; January 1939.
January 1940; November 1940; January 1942; November 1946; January 1948.
September 1950; November 1951; October 1954; November 1954; August 1956 (210.4mm); September 1958; November 1959; December 1959.
November 1960; October 1961; December 1964; December 1965; October 1967; November 1969.
November 1970; September 1974; February 1977; December 1979;
March 1981; October 1981; November 1982; December 1986; October 1987.
October 2000 (209mm); November 2000; (220mm); October 2002; November 2002; October 2005; October 2008; November 2009 (205.6mm).
October 2013; January 2014; October 2014; December 2015 (254.2mm).
December 2020; October 2021 (provisional) (201.2mm).
By decades, then, we saw the following numbers of months with more than 150mm of rainfall:
1930s (incomplete data): 8
2020s (so far): 1 definite, 1 provisional (but likely to be confirmed).
I don’t see an increasing trend to wetness in those statistics, though I will concede a moderate increase in occasional particulaly wet months – months with more than 200mm of rainfall were December 1934; August 1956; October 2000; November 2000; November 2009; and December 2015. December 2015 was the wettest month, but the second wettest was December 1934. It’s worth noticing how dry were the 1990s and 2010s. Nothing supports the claim that there was record rainfall in February 2020 (which saw only 113.4mm of rain).
This site isn’t in Wales, but it is only just across the border, and in view of the paucity of rain data for Wales at the Met Office website, I thought it would be worth reviewing, in case it supported the BBC’s claims and undermined my argument.
Happily, the datax for Ross-on Wye goes back to December 1930. It’s one of the driest of the data sites I have looked at, so in terms of looking for unusually wet months, in this case I have set the threshold at 125mm per month:
November 1931; October 1932; December 1934; November 1935; July 1936; January 1939.
November 1940 (158.2mm); January 1943 (161.3mm); December 1945; March 1947 (176.6mm); October 1949 (155.9mm).
February 1950; November 1951 (180.8mm); November 1954 (177.8mm); May 1955; February 1958; September 1958 (158.0mm); November 1959; December 1959 (186.0mm).
October 1960 (170.0mm); November 1960; November 1963; May 1967 (157.0mm); October 1967.
January 1970; November 1970; January 1974; September 1976 (162.4mm); October 1976; August 1977; December 1978; December 1979.
September 1981 (151.8mm); December 1981; November 1984; August 1986; October 1987; December 1989 (150.7mm).
January 1990; February 1990; January 1995; August 1997; January 1999.
April 2000 (172.0mm); October 2000; November 2000; December 2000 (177.0mm); October 2001 (162.3mm); February 2002; October 2002 (183.2mm); October 2004; October 2005; May 2007; June 2007; July 2007 (161.1mm); July 2009; November 2009 (168.1mm).
April 2012 (184.9mm); June 2012; November 2012; October 2013 (184.0mm); January 2014 (180.5mm); February 2014 (168.1mm); December 2015; March 2018; June 2019; October 2019.
February 2020 (162.6mm); October 2020; December 2020 (174.6mm); May 2021; October 2021.
By decade, the number of months with more than 125mm rainfall (of which, months with more than 150mm are in brackets following):
1930s (incomplete): 6 (0).
1940s: 5 (4).
1950s: 8 (4).
1960s: 4 (2).
1970s: 8 (1).
1980s: 6 (2).
1990s: 5 (0).
2000s: 13 (6).
2010s: 10 (3).
2020s (to date): 5 (2).
From this it can be seen that the 1950s were wet (December 1959 remains the wettest month in the entire series), there followed some dry decades, culminating in the 1990s, since when it has turned wet again. The wet start to the 21st century cannot be denied, but the 2010s were actually less wet than the 2000s. Can we discern a definite trend, or is this just natural variability?
We have data from four Welsh weather stations to work with. The most complete one (Aberporth) doesn’t show an increasing trend towards wetness; Cardiff (not so complete, but up to date) might indicate a trend towards more rainfall, but not to increased excessive rainfall, and neither of these stations, or Valley (the three with up to date data) support the BBC’s claim (on the contrary, they actively contradict it) that “Storms Chiara, Dennis and Jorge led to record rainfall in February 2020.”
Furthermore, although data from Cwmystwyth, in mid-Wales does support claims that things are turning wetter, the lack of data since 2011 means that the vital information is missing (and given the dry 2010s at Valley, that missing data might be important in assessing rainfall trends). Even throwing Ross-on-Wye, from just over the border, into the mix doesn’t alter the central finding: the key claims in the BBC report (that flooding is the new reality in Wales, and that February 2020 saw record rainfall there) are disinformation.
The article BBC article of “23rd February 2020: “Flooding: Call for UK cash to fund flood relief in Wales” may actually be quite a good link for “evidence” of increased flooding from a post normal science perspective. The mass of people believe that floods are getting worse due to climate change, so they look to evidence that confirms this. The problem is that increased flooding may have more immediate causes. For instance up a tributary to the Rhondda River that flows through Pontypridd are the Castell Nos & Lluest Wen Reservoirs. Was the the outflow of these reservoirs managed optimally? It is something that the water companies would keep quiet about, lest insurance companies send them a large bill. Also has anything happened to other features, both natural and human made that may have increased natural run-off?
For a few years Cockermouth, Cumbria was in the news a few times for frequent flooding in part of the town. There are now schemes to re-utilise natural flood plains further up the Cocker river & its tributaries along with the repair of leaky dams.
Thank you for the link. As a Cockermouth resident I found the work upstream interesting (I know well the locations concerned). It may help a bit, but not much, I suspect. The big problem is that Cockermouth town centre is built right next to a confluence of rivers (the Cocker and the Derwent) and that much new housing has been built on the flood plain. Looking at the history of flooding in the town, I don’t think that floods are getting worse, just that more people with more assets than previously now stand directly in the line of them and stand to suffer more form them.
I should perhaps have made more in the article of the relatively short timescale of the Welsh data series, which makes a mockery of new “records” claims. It’s much the same here. The record (for rainfall) supposedly set at Honister Pass ignores the fact that data has been collected there for only a short time period to date.
If flooding is “the new normal” whether in Wales, Cockermouth, London or elsewhere, I suspect it is down to factors other than climate change and increased rainfall. This report in the Observer bigs up the climate change aspect, of course:
“London flooding poses ‘significant risk’ unless immediate action taken
Expert report warns of dangers of relying on Victorian drainage system, lack of funding and awareness of risks”
However, I suspect that this is the key paragraph:
“The report also warned that “London has an increasing area of impermeable surfacing and still essentially relies on a Victorian drainage system that was not designed to cope with the city’s current and predicted future populations.” It highlighted the fact there was no single organisation in charge of tackling surface water flooding in London; there was insufficient funding to manage the risk, and a lack of understanding of the risks posed by surface water flooding. Major improvements in all these areas were urgently needed if the city is to cope with future serious inundations.”
By the way, as regard this:
“This point was highlighted by Bob Ward, deputy chair of the London Climate Change Partnership. “There is now a real risk of people drowning, particularly in basement flats if a major flash flood occurred in the middle of the night,” he told the Observer. “The problem is particularly worrying because we have no idea how many people live in basement properties in London.””
Is the deputy chair of the London Climate Change Partnership THAT Bob Ward?
Mark, thanks for sending me down a rabbit hole looking for more rain data from Cardiff. The fact is that the KNMI (GHCN V2) data goes back to 1859. Alas it stops in 1999. Here I have “spliced” the GHCN with the UKMO – in the overlapping period you can see the UKMO data behind the GHCN. In the earlier part of the overlap the UKMO numbers are 2% ish higher than GHCN, perhaps because the latter has been downwardly adjusted owing to the measurement equipment – I’m not sure about this and haven’t looked it up.
I’ve labelled up all months with >250 mm rain (strictly precipitation). The winner is Sep 1866 with 309.1 mm. Of interest is Nov 1929 at 283 mm, because the following month was pretty wet too (238.5 mm), so that these two make up the wettest 2 months in the series.
Why don’t UKMO show the older data? Don’t know the answer to that.
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Jit, that’s fascinating – thanks for digging. Do you have a website link to that older information, so that I might try to be able to dig a bit further myself too?
A little over 2 years ago I set up a discussion thread at Bishop Hill, it being rather more active then that it is now. It’s here if anyone wishes to take a look:
Given the effort that went in to posting there, I’m going to cut & paste some of what was posted there, and add it as comments to this article at Cliscep, starting with this:
I’ve just finished reading Harry Griffin’s book, written in 1961, called “Inside the Real Lakeland”, and a section on extreme weather events reminded me about how often I’ve read of extraordinary weather events in history books or (like this one) books on a specific subject or about a specific area. It also occurred to me that I’ve given many of those books away or they were borrowed from the library in the first place, and now I can’t remember the multitudinous references to extreme and/or extraordinary weather I’ve read about over the years. That’s a shame, because those of us who have read much history are aware that the increasingly strident claims about unprecedented weather events seem to fly in the face of what we know about previous weather events, and a bit more balance might be brought to the debate if those earlier events were better understood, were more widely known, and particularly if they could be sourced in a single, convenient location. To that end, what follows is a long quote from Griffin’s book, so that it’s saved here for posterity, and if I find other examples from future reading, I’ll add them to this thread. Please do feel free to add your own examples, if you have them:
“The records give Seathwaite the doubtful distinction of staging the wettest Lake District day ever – 8.03 inches on November 12th, 1897 – and the hamlet can also claim eight of the ten wettest days in the country during the last 100 years. But when Seathwaite was having its eight inches of rain in a day it is quite possible that ten or even twelve inches were falling on the tops of the Scafell fells where there are no rain gauges.”
[The relevance of this is that Harry Griffin was a true mountain man, and was well aware that it rains much more heavily on the fells than in the valleys. The “record” set in a new (and not necessarily officially accurate) rain gauge high on the Honister fells a few years ago might not have been a record at all if we’d had a rain gauge there on November 12th 1897].
“…I can also remember a day at Seathwaite, not many years ago, when the floods washed away the bridge which carries the road to the hamlet, tore down the walls around the intake fields, and swirled into the farm kitchens.”
“The worst August Mr Bainbridge could remember was that of 1950, when nearly 27 inches of rain fell on the Seathwaite fells – more rain than some parts of the country get in a whole year.
“But, of course, there have been much worse months in Lakeland than that over the years, and, on many occasions, some quite incredible downpours. One of the worst of these in recent years was the cloudburst which cut Kirkstone Pass a few years ago and brought a trail of destruction to Troutbeck village, but the cloudburst over Scafell in the summer of 1958 might have been even more remarkable, although I believe nobody saw it happen. Thousands of tons of rock were gouged, perhaps within seconds, out of the mountainside and hurled down towards the valleys. Avalanches of boulders were hurled over the precipices, huge sections of fellside were laid bare, old becks heaped high with rocks, turf and bracken and new gullies carved out of the upland slopes. Nothing could possibly have survived the crash and havoc of the upheaval, but perhaps nobody even heard it, as I think it happened during the night.”
Pages 203 – 205:
“Some long-forgotten Lakeland storms must have been even worse. One of these caused the torrent which gouged out the ravine, 18 feet dip, north of the summit of High Street…”.
“The floods of Wednesday, November 2nd, 1898, were probably the worst in Lakeland in living memory – very much worse than those of December 1954. It is said that the level of Windermere was so high that people were able to row right across Belle Isle which was completely submerged, only the tree tops showing above the water. And craft in boat houses around Bowness Bay rose on the flood waters until they were bumping up against the ceilings. Kentmere Reservoir was so full in 1898 that there were fears that it might overflow, with disastrous consequences to the people of Keswick, Burneside and Staveley, but the level stayed just below the very top of the bank. Ambleside was cut off form the north by road and the postman to Dungeon Ghyll could only get as far as Chapel Stile…..Langdale was practically one huge lake, some of the buildings at the gunpowder works were washed away, bridges were destroyed at Patterdale and Coniston, a train was held up at Torver because of the risk of the swollen beck putting out the fire in the driver’s cab, and the water was six feet deep on some of the roads.
“As the angry Troutbeck came swirling down the valley towards Windermere, carrying away walls and causing landslides from the fellsides, the dalesfolk could hear, above the roar of the flood waters, the nasty sound of huge boulders gouging out the river bed. Some of these boulders weighed several tons, and they say the bed of the stream was hollowed out a further three or four feet during that one day’s flooding. Two Kendal bridges over the River Kent and several other bridges in the district were smashed. Sheep swept down the valley from Troutbeck Park were afterwards found to have been shorn of their wool as neatly as if they had been clipped. The level of Windermere was said to be several inches over the steam pier at Bowness and six inches deep on the station waregouse floor.
“The main road from Grasmere to Keswick was completely wrecked and the northern side of Dunmail Raise was covered with boulders so that it looked like a dried-up river bed. Nearer Wythburn the road was buried beneath four feet of rubble and gravel, with “yeast-like mud” about a foot deep on either side of the road. Further along the road, where Sandy Gill descends from Browncove Crags to the lake, the road was washed away to the depth of 10 feet, while boulders were piled up nearly 20 feet high on either side of the new stream bed.
“…A few years before the war, the Martindale Beck pounded into Ullswater with such force that its current forced the steamer which was at least 200 yards from the shore, out of its course. On another occasion a torrent from High Street brought down a landslide at Hartsop which covered fields to a depth of 30 feet, while a landslide at Threlkeld once crashed across the main road, burying a bus in the debris.
“…The records speak of a particularly tremendous flood on October 13th, 1771, which destroyed all the bridges across the Tyne and Wear except one. In Kendal this same flood washed away an addition to Nether Bridge which had been completed only three weeks previously while at Beetham it was said that graves were washed open and corpses and coffins floated about the flooded fields.
“The cloudburst which broke over the slopes of Wansfell on a June afternoon in 1953 is fresh in the memory of many of us. Within three hours that day nearly two and a half inches of rain and hailstones fell in Ambleside but nobody knows the tremendous weight of rain which fell on the fellside during the cloudburst. The shade temperature had crawled into the eighties when nature suddenly went berserk in that quiet corner and within two hours did more damage than a thousand men could do in a week. One moment the fells were steaming in the sunshine but within half an hour hailstones as big as pigeons’ eggs were falling out of the skies, huge trees were being wrenched out by their roots, and boulders, many tons in weight, were crashing down the fellside. Great floods carved out new ravines and tore up walls and roads as they surged, in boiling brown fury, down to the valley, and a holiday visitor was washed to his death.”
“Many people will also remember the last day of September, 1953 when, in the short space of 17 hours, 6.29 inches of rain fell in Langdale, so that the beck carved out a new course and the road was washed away.”
Good old golf charlie added this:
I remember being taught in Geography during the late 1970s, about the Lynmouth floods. Global Warming was never mentioned. I don’t remember previous floods being referred to
“Similar floods had been recorded at Lynmouth in 1607 and 1796. After the 1952 disaster, Lynmouth village was rebuilt, including diverting the river around the village. The small group of houses on the bank of the East Lyn river called Middleham between Lynmouth and Watersmeet was destroyed and never rebuilt. Today, there stands a memorial garden.
On 16 August 2004, a similar event happened in Cornwall, when flash floods caused extensive damage to Boscastle, but without loss of life. The hydrological setting of these two villages is very similar”
But when Boscastle flooded, unprecedented Global Warming was mentioned, despite all the evidence it had happened before:
“The last time Boscastle had suffered notable flooding was in 1996 as a result of Hurricane Lili, but floods are recorded in 1847, 1957, on 3 June 1958 (one man drowned) and in 1963. On 16 August 1952 the small town of Lynmouth, 50 miles (80 km) north-east along the north coast in Devon near Exmoor, suffered extensive damage in a catastrophic flood, in which 34 people lost their lives. Coincidentally, this was 52 years to the day before Boscastle’s 2004 flood.”
It is easy to say something is unprecedented, if you don’t bother to do any research. This comes naturally to journalists seeking sensational headlines.
And golf charlie also added this:
Flooding of the River Thames is routinely reported as Unprecedented. The flooding of January 2003 was bad, but lower than 1947 (caused by rapid snow melt, rather than heavy rain).
From Reading upstream through Oxford, 1894 was worse than 1947
The Thames Valley has seen intensive development over the last 100+ years, much of it on land not previously built on, because “everybody” knew it flooded. Developers know best, and Planning Officers are overruled by politically motivated elected Councillors (all Parties)
Developments not on floodplains simply increase the rate at which rainfall enters drainage systems and water courses. They may not flood, but increase the risks for those downstream.
Also from golf charlie:
“The Great Storm of 1703 was a destructive extratropical cyclone that struck central and southern England on 26 November 1703 (7 December 1703 in the Gregorian calendar in use today). High winds caused 2,000 chimney stacks to collapse in London and damaged the New Forest, which lost 4,000 oaks. Ships were blown hundreds of miles off-course, and over 1,000 seamen died on the Goodwin Sands alone. News bulletins of casualties and damage were sold all over England – a novelty at that time. The Church of England declared that the storm was God’s vengeance for the sins of the nation. Daniel Defoe thought it was a divine punishment for poor performance against Catholic armies in the War of the Spanish Succession.”
From a book called “Since records began – the highs and lows of Britain’s weather” by Paul Simons, first published in 2008:
August 1912 broke the records for the coldest, dullest, wettest August in history. To cap it all, it was also the rainiest summer on record. Amazingly, this hideous weather came after the astonishing heat of the summer of 1911. But the summer of 1912 was dogged by gales, thunderstorms and cloudbursts of exceptional rainfalls….
At the end of August, rain had been falling for several days before a gigantic deluge on 25 and 26 August. Over 7″ of rain fell in a single day in Norwich and the city collapsed into chaos. Large trees were blown down in the winds, rivers burst their banks, drains clogged up with debris and the streets turned into rivers surging through the city.
In those days, Norwich was densely populated with 100,000 inhabitants living within a mile of the city centre, and thousands of people were trapped in their homes….
Heroic rescue efforts were made in rowing boats, but four people died. About 15,000 people suffered damage to homes and 2,000 were left homeless. ‘Not within living memory has there been such an August as that now drawing to a close, nor, in view of this week’s terrible experiences one so disastrous,’ read one report.
Norfolk was cut off from the rest of the country as 52 bridges collapsed and roads and railways vanished under floodwaters. There was enormous damage to crops and the ‘new-fangled’ tractors proved useless in waterlogged fields. The rest of that year remained thoroughly wet, and a large are of East Anglia stayed under water through the winter….
The summer of 1903 was another travesty, and June was desperately wet and cold. Rain fell continuously at Camden Square, London for 58.5 hours from 13 to 15 June, the longest period of continuous rain recorded in England. At the same time, snows blanketed the Scottish Highlands and even parts of lowland England…
That summer farmworkers suffered an epidemic of lung disease from mouldy hay and grain.
The interesting feature of both these wet summers is that they can be linked back to volcanic eruptions….
“A Dales Heritage” (sub-titled “Life stories from documents and folk memory”) by Marie Hartley & Joan Ingilby (Dalesman Books, 1984), pp 133 & 134:
“in the late nineteenth century William and Elizabeth Kilburn and their daughters occupied the top house [at Hoggarths, in upper Swaledale, North Yorkshire], the other being used as outbuildings, and their experiences on 4 July 1899 have been passed down in vivid detail in the family. The day started close and thundery, and they were in tow minds whether to gather the sheep for clipping or to fetch coal from Tan Hill. They opted for Tan Hill, and William returning about noon, tipped out the coal, put up the cart shafts and led the horse still harnessed into the stable meaning to attend to it after they had had a meal.
It was raining hard by now and water began running into the yard as was not unusual. Elizabeth took a besom to sweep it out of the front door. William went on eating, declaring that he ‘wasn’t going to shift for a sup o’ watter.’ But very soon they saw water rushing down the gill and heard the noise of clashing boulders. The women ran upstairs and as William came up too water followed him up step by step until it was door top height. He put his heavy boot through the landing window and they all escaped on to the hillside. This well-known flood, the result of a triple cloudburst on Great Shunner Fell, did enormous damage to houses, bridges and land here and elsewhere.
When it subsided in Ash Gill William found the horse standing tied up in its stall up to its belly in sludge and its head held high. A very good sheepdog chained up in the next stall had slipped its collar and run away to Stone House. A puppy which had been lying in front of the fire in the house was found straddled across a wringing machine. There were two pigs in a sty with half doors opening inwards. They were swimming round and round so exhausted that when the door was opened and the water released they staggered out and fell down on the ground.
The cart and the coal had disappeared. The front door was taken off its hinges and the house wall damaged. All the paddocks were covered with soil and boulders which took years to clear and the spring never re-appeared.
…Hoggarths Bridge nearby was one of several washed away….”.
Duke of Buckingham’s Water
It came as quite a shock in the wet summer of 2007 to discover how the Rivers Wye and Severn can devastate so much of middle England in floods. But these rivers have a long history of disastrous flooding, and in one case helped defeat a rebellion that threatened the monarchy.
…Buckingham planned on raising forces in and around Wales, before crossing the River Severn at Gloucester and joining up with other rebel forces in the West of England. Buckingham declared his rebellion at Brecon, South Wales on 18 October, but his advance was soon stopped dead in its tracks by a fearful storm. ‘In the evening there was the greatest wind ever heard of, which caused a wonderful great flood in most part of the land from Bristol to “Mount” and many other places, drowning the Counties roundabout,’ recorded one chronicle of the time.
The rains were horrendous and both the River Wye in Herefordshire and the Severn in Worcestershire rose rapidly. ‘There was so great an inundation of water that men were drowned in their beds, houses were overturned, children were carried about the fields swimming in cradles, beats were drowned on the hills.’ This extraordinary flood was reckoned to have drowned over 200 people and afterwards became known as ‘the Duke of Buckingham’s Water’.
Crossing of the Severn was impossible for ten days and left Buckingham hopelessly stranded…..
When the Romans established Londinium they soon realised that the Thames was a dangerous river prone to flooding, so they built embankments along the riverbanks. In 1099 the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle relates that ‘On the festival of St Martin [11 November], the sea flood sprung up to such a height and did so much harm as no man remembered that it ever did before.’ At Woolwich in 1237 the marshes were described as ‘a sea wherein many were drowned’ and in the Great Hall at Westminster Palace lawyers had to row around in wherries, row boats. In 1242 the river overflowed at Lambeth over 6 miles, which would have included all the land up to and past Elephant and Castle, including, perhaps ironically, Waterloo.
Flood water receding from the Great Hall of Westminster Palace in 1579 left fishes gasping on its floor.
‘There was last night the greatest tide that ever was remembered in England to have been in this River, all Whitehall having been drowned,’ wrote Samuel Pepys in his diary on 7 December 1663.
These days the threat of Thames floods is worsening. As Britain recovers from the last ice age, southern England is sinking about 1ft a century. On top of that, sea levels are rising because of global warming [I told you the book acknowledges global warming and is not written to disprove it]. As a result, tie levels are rising in the Thames Estuary relative to the land by about 23.5in per century. Surge tides from storms down the North Sea are a particular threat: when a trough of low pressure moves across the Atlantic towards the British Isles, the sea beneath it rises above the normal level, creating a ‘hump’ of water that can sometimes threaten London.
This is how London came close to catastrophe in January 1928. Christmas had been unusually cold and snowy, and when the snows melted on 2 January it coincided with a terrific downpour of heavy rain, swelling the river. Then in a further blow, on 6 January a storm blew across Scotland, pushing water down into the funnel shape of the North Sea. As this storm surge pushed into the bottleneck of the English Channel it rose higher and pushed the swollen waters up the Thames Estuary, where they collided with the swollen waters rushing down the river. And in yet another freakish coincidence, the storm surge came at around the time of a high spring tide.
As a result, the Thames rose higher and higher until it burst through the river embankment walls. There was no warning in a dark, cold and windy night. Torrents of water rushed through roads, cascading down into basement flats, and drowned people in their beds. Those that did wake up in time fought for their lives, battling the surging waters and floating debris, imprisoned behind security bars on the outside of their windows….
River embankments were collapsing at many places among the Thames. At 1am in Putney, a large block of flats by the river was inundated and two girls in a basement flat managed to escape through a small window and swim out in the swirling waters and scream for help. Neighbours in the flat above tied together sheets to rescue the rest of their family trapped in the flat and hauled them out.
The worst of the floods struck Millbank, near the Houses of Parliament….Five people were drowned in the area, all trapped in their basements.
By midnight flooding started in Battersea, Poplar and Greenwich and at Temple underground station, Sewage seeped out at Barking as the sewage works were overwhelmed. Warehouses, factories, hospitals, town halls were flooded. The Blackwall and Rotherhithe Tunnels were flooded. The moat around the Tower of London, normally dry, was filled with water. Water cascaded into the courtyard at the foot of Big Ben and the Old Palace Yard was left a foot under water. The ground floor of the Tate Gallery was flooded, destroying a collection of Landseer pictures, Turner watercolours and drawings. One worker at the gallery was trapped in the basement and policemen had to strip off and dive into the dark waters to rescue him.
Further upriver, the London Underground power station at Lots Road was under water, which put the Underground system out of action. Chelsea and Wandsworth gasworks were partially flooded. There was even a fish caught in the police station at Battersea as it sank under water.
It was incredible that only 14 people drowned and some 4,000 people evacuated and left homeless, but London had come close to a catastrophic flood that could have killed thousands……
The Atlantis of Sussex
The old town of Winchelsea near the Sussex coast is a quaint medieval place full of bric-a-brac and cream tea shops, but strangely it was a new town planned and built on a rectangular grid pattern with streets numbered rather than named. In fact it is not the original town at all.
Old Winchelsea lay a few miles away on a large shingle bank, a major fishing and trading port famous for imports of French wines, a key gateway to Normandy, a safe anchorage for passing shipping, with a thriving shipbuilding and ship repair industry and a lucrative sideline in piracy.
But from 1233, a series of storms shattered the old town. One of the worst storms struck on 1 October 1250, described by the chronicler Raphael Holinshed: ‘The sea appeared in the dark of the night to burn as if it had been on fire, and the waves to strive and fight so that the mariners could not devise how to save their ships. Three large ships and many smaller ones sank, their wreckage strewn for miles, whilst bridges, windmills and 300 houses were swamped.
Just two years later, the writer Matthew Paris told of another storm, on 14 January 1252, that swept England.
‘A terrible wind prevailed – drove back the sea from the shore, tore off the roofs of houses, or threw them down, uprooted completely the largest trees, stripped churches of their lead, and did other great damage by land, and still greater by sea, and especially at the port of Winchelsea…The waves of the sea returned and came into the shore, and overflowed the mills and houses, and carried away a number of drowned men.’
Edward 1 was so concerned with Winchelsea’s pummelling by storms that soon after his coronation he visited the town and realised it had to be rebuilt on another site. Plans were drawn up for a new town on a nearby hill, but before the work could be completed one last, devastating storm struck in 1287. This was so violent that the coastline was reshaped, rivers took new courses, and Old Winchelsea was wiped off the map, although its ruins appeared at low tide for years afterwards. Today the site of the old town is roughly where Pontins holiday camp lies at Camber Sands.
The Great Storm
British storms, by and large, hardly compare to the power of tropical cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes. But on 26 November 1703, the worst storm recorded in English history was so ferocious it would qualify as a Category 3 hurricane. Nothing in recent times has come close to the ferocity, death and destruction of such a tempest. Winds raged up to 120mph through the night, driving up waves 60ft high that pulverised the coastline. The storm carved a swath 100 miles wide through southern England, devastating towns and cities, and left some 8,000 people dead. Around a tenth of the Royal Navy’s manpower was lost, along with some of its finest warships. Millions of trees were torn up, barns swept away and windmills burnt down. ‘Never was such a storm of wind, such a hurricane and tempest known in the memory of man, nor the like to be found in the histories ofEngland,’ wrote the Observator newspaper.
That November was incredibly stormy as a series of Atlantic gales swept the country. But on 25 November a lull in the winds allowed ships to make for safe anchorages as ports around the coast frantically unloaded cargoes and berthed vessels, with every harbour and estuary full of merchant vessels….
This was the calm before the storm, though, and the following morning the winds picked up again. By nightfall the sky was thick with clouds and the wind was howling. Ships’ barometers recorded alarming falls as a depression from the Atlantic exploded in what meteorologists today call a ‘bomb’ for the way its pressure suddenly plunged to an intense low. …
Not even the best defended harbours were safe. Ships were ripped off their anchors in ports and left battered on stone walls, smashed into each other, or tossed out to sea. One small ship anchored in the River Helford in Cornwall was torn off its moorings, hurled out to sea, and eight hours later ended up aground on the Isle of Wight , 275 miles away.
…The greatest shipping losses struck the northeast coast of Kent, where some 160 merchant ships and several men-of-war came to grief, many driven on to the Goodwin Sands, a notorious stretch of shoals and sandbars. However, in one dramatic escape the Association, a giant 96 gun man-of-war of the Royal Navy, was ripped off its anchorage on the Essex coast near Harwich and hurled across the North Sea all the way to Gothenburg, Sweden.
The Severn Estuary caught the full fury of the storm as a storm surge piled directly into its funnel-shaped mouth. As the mass of water rammed into the neck of the estuary it got squeezed, the sea level rose rapidly and burst through the earth bank sea defences and inundated the flatlands of Monmouth and Somerset. Thousands of sheep and cattle were washed away like flotsam, villages and farms disappeared, and even ships were swept inland on the surging waters – one vessel was dumped 15 miles inshore. The bodies of hundreds of sailors from shipwrecks were found in fields for weeks afterwards.
Further inland, the country rapidly took on the look of a battlefield. Streets were left scattered with debris from hundreds of slates torn off roofs, crashed chimneys and fallen trees. The Bishop of Bath and Wells and his wife were both crushed to death by a falling chimney that smashed through their roof, bedroom and and down onto the ground below….
London received the full onslaught of the storm at around 3am. Entire houses collapsed, others lost roofs, walls and windows. Falling chimneys made lethal bombs that crashed through densely packed buildings….
…[Daniel Defoe] estimated that 400 windmills were destroyed as their wooden brakes broke and their sails spun out of control so furiously that the intense friction set the mills ablaze.
At least 123 people were killed on land apart from thousands lost at sea, but these are only rough estimates and the true figures were possibly much higher. Considering that the population of England was only about 5 million, this was a huge loss, and by far the deadliest storm in recorded English history….
From Molly Lefebure’s book, “Cumbrian Discovery”, published in 1977, page 230:
“At Grasmoor’s feet lies Cinderdale Common, so named after the smelting that once went on here; while further on lies Lanthwaite Green, where the early British had a large settlement: but few traces of it now remain, for all this area of flat land lying at the feet of these fells and extending down to the lake and even away to the plain of the Cocker itself was laid waste by a disaster which occurred in 1760. On 9 September of that year a terrible storm burst over the Coledale Fells. An enormous deluge of water tore its way down Gasket Gill, between Grasmoor and Whiteside, to explode over Lanthwaite Green. “It laid devastate ten acres with stones.” Brackenthwaite, the hamlet of Scale Hill, escaped only by what at the time seemed a miracle. The avalanche of water, mud and stone, wrenched from the sides of the mountains as the flood rushed down the funnel-like gill, accumulated material as it travelled; every wall and building was destroyed, boulders were uprooted, each swollen beck added to the tide, which at last poured into the River Cocker. This, in turn, burst its banks, to become a vast, stagnant inundation. West, describing the affected area 30 years later, spoke of the “great ruin” still visible.
“Fearful storms and deluges occur from time to time in the Lake Country, usually in late summer. The last was in 1966, when devastation was caused in Borrowdale on such a scale that it was suggested that it should be designated a “disaster area”. Today , evidence of the havoc may still be seen in Stonethwaite and Rosthwaite, while the appearance of Seathwaite, the lower slopes of the Sty, and the area above Burnthwaite, at Wastdale Head, is entirely altered. Visitors who were staying in Borrowdale at the time returned home with goggle-eyed tales of cars caught in the tops of trees and furniture afloat in hotel lounges and bar parlours. Fortunately the storm broke in the late afternoon, before campers were in their tents, therefore no human lives were lost, but Seathwaite poultry drowned in multitudes and sheep by the score.”
In 1760 and 1966 people didn’t know that they should blame all this on CAGW.
From golf charlie again:
Local knowledge and local history is ignored by Experts, unless it suits their purposes.
26th August 2005
Borrowdale’s worst floods in 40 years
“Susan Dowie, of the Royal Oak Hotel, said: “I’ve been here since 1970 and never seen it like this. Three of the guest bedrooms are under eight inches of water. Stonethwaite beck is four metres above its normal level.”
Two tents pitched at Stonethwaite campsite were washed away.”
” Campsite owner and farmer Victor Brownlee, who was drying out campers’ sleeping bags in his barn, said he hadn’t seen water as high since August 1966.”
From Lakeland 50 Years Ago, by Kenneth Shepherd (first published in 1989, so it’s more like Lakeland over 80 years ago now…
It’s a series of old photos with captions. The one for Seathwaite (the one in Borrowdale, that is, not the one in Dunnerdale) says:
“The tiny hamlet of Seathwaite, at the end of the road from Keswick to Borrowdale, is well-known as the wettest place in England. The average rainfall up to 1946 was 125.30 inches per year compared with 21.79 inches in London.
“On 2nd November 1898 nearly 5.25 inches of rain fell in 24 hours causing the river to flood and its course to divert. These same conditions occurred in 1942 and Edmondson’s farm (shown in the photograph) was badly damaged.”
It depends whose website you visit, but you can still find modern websites saying “The village of Seathwaite, Borrowdale, Cumbria which is the wettest inhabited place in England – having an annual rainfall of 124 inches.”
Today, Greenwich averages 21.94″ of rainfall per annum, though admittedly some other LOndon weather stations show very slightly more rainfall, but still, not a lot seems to have changed.
So, not a lot has changed really.
From Ann Lingard’s “The Fresh and the Salt – the Story of the Solway”
Some time between August 1301 and April 1304 there was a mighty storm and the port and part of the hamlet of Skinburness was washed away….As you drive east from Skinburness towards Newton Arlosh, for some of the way the road runs between the marsh and a high grassy bank, the medieval sea dyke, built to protect against further inundation
…the Solway Moss to the north east of Gretna now barely exists, partly because of peat-harvesting and partly due to a massive ‘bog-burst’ in November 1771. Back then, after ‘three days’ rain of unusual violence’, the skin of the bog was unable to hold more water and ruptured. Thomas Pennant visited it a year later and head the story: ‘About three hundred acres of the moss were thus discharged, and above four hundred of land covered; the houses either overthrown or filled to their roofs; and the hedges overwhelmed…
It was the Solway’s wild waves that eventually finished off the port [of Parton] and the export business. In February 1796 a tremendous storm thrashed the west coast of Britain, and Parton’s port was totally destroyed, its sandstone quay swept away, the bay’s sandbanks and shingle shifted and redistributed.
Mark, the anonymous start page for monthly data is https://climexp.knmi.nl/selectstation.cgi?id=someone@somewhere
First use the radio buttons to pick which database to seach.
If you don’t know the station name you can put in the approximate lat lon and it will display the nearest stations and metadata (use negative numbers for W or S), e.g. 52 -3 would include Cardiff in the nearest 10.
Jit, many thanks indeed for that. Going to Valley, I find the same dataset as the UKMO supplied, but the graph is interesting. Other than the very wet February 2015 (since when it seems to have been rather dry), I can see no trend towards increased rainfall:
The graph for Cwmystwyth also provides a nice visual confirmation of no trend towards wetter weather:
And here are the graphs for Wye:
Again, no trend towards higher rainfall levels.
I posted this on Open Mic when it first appeared, because it is just the most bizarre headline and story. However, it also seems appropriate to put it here:
“Climate change: Covid shutdown linked to record rainfall in China”
“Scientists say that a rapid drop in emissions because of Covid played a key role in record rainfall in China in 2020….
…Many parts of eastern China experienced severe flooding in June and July in 2020….
The Yangtze river saw the heaviest rainfall since 1961, with a 79% increase in June and July compared to the average for the period over the previous 41 years….”.
If it was the most rainfall since 1961, then by definition 1961 saw more rainfall, so the 2020 rainfall wasn’t a record.
Mark & others with comments on this – I notice the TV weather people slip in “since we started bla bla in 2008”
take they mean “named” storms but not sure if it applies to other events ?
Dougie, I think they started issuing amber alerts etc in ?2011? and started naming storms in ?2015?
You could say that the number of named storms since then has gone up infinity percent.
From MO’s report, Cardiff, 1866:
The good old days before the climate crisis when British people were dying of cholera.
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Nothing to do with the weather or floods per se but I mentioned this detail in passing on the FENTON thread
He became the great Sir Arthur Eddington, confirmer of Einstein’s general relativity through his meticulous observations during a solar eclipse, but what a start for his mother, his sister and the poor wee bairn. There’s only one valid response to this kind of thing and that’s not climate scaremongering. It’s gratitude for all that we have that previous generations did not.
Sorry, Mark, as you were.
Digressions are fine. 🙂
I am a keen family historian, and I know that a great grandmother of mine was born in Kendal in 1877. Her family were not, however, Quakers, but I can dream that she met or knew the Eddington family.
On a darker note, a 2 x great grandfather of mine died on Christmas Day 1882 of typhoid fever, aged just 28.
We live in much times now, despite today’s grim news.
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But back to the thread. Who to believe?
“Shrewsbury residents frustrated as floods grow more frequent
Pleas for short- and long-term solutions as town is flooded for third consecutive year”
“…Peter Andrews, an ice-cream vendor, had decided to stay put in his cottage on the banks of the river and was relying on a water pump and thick metal boards to keep the waters at bay.
“This is the third year running we’ve been flooded, so I’m getting used to it now. But prior to that it was around 2000 we had floods. It’s got to be down to global warming and all these freaky storms,” he said. …”.
“Analysis Of Winter Extreme Rainfall”
“…But is rainfall now more extreme? There is no evidence of this in monthly or daily totals. But often the key factor in fluvial flooding is the accumulation of rain over a period of time, rather than one big storm.
The European Climate Assessment & Dataset (ECA&D) provides some good tools for analysing rainfall data, in particular the Highest 5-Day Rainfall total for each year.
I have used this to analyse rainfall during the winter-half year, October to March, for most of the long running stations in England.
Trends are either flat or even decreasing.”.
“Storm Dennis: Review of Wales’ floods of past two years”
“…Flooding in February 2020 overwhelmed defences and saw communities that had not seen flooding for decades inundated with water.
The Welsh government said since that event Wales has experience [sic] a more rapid increase in the frequency of storm and flood events than at any other time in recorded history.
Heavy rainfall and storms are likely to become more frequent as as result of climate change, it said….”
Let’s hope the barrister looks at the real evidence, as provided in my article above. Where are the BBC Climate Misinformation Reporters when you need them?
The BBC is at it again, but this time it’s Northern Ireland which is supposedly wetter, where last time it was Wales:
“Floods are ‘the new normal’, says academic”
“An academic has warned that flooding events like those in the north west this weekend will become more likely as climate change takes hold.
Six people had to be rescued as torrential rain caused water to rise in parts of Strabane and Londonderry.
“Sadly, this is the new normal as we further progress in heating up the planet’s climate,” said Prof John Barry, Queen’s University, Belfast.”
There’s just one problem – the data. The Met Office provides long-term data from two sites in Northern Ireland. First, Armagh:
I can see no discernible rainfall trend in the data, and the wettest month (Dec 2015 at 186.1mm) only narrowly pips December 1914 (at 181.5mm) and February 1868 (at 183.1mm).
The rainfall records for the other (Ballypatrick Forest) go back only to Nov 1988, so the timeframe is a bit short to draw any definite conclusions. However, the only months since then which saw more than 300mm of rainfall are Dec 1999 (300.2mm) and Aug 2008 (313mm). The next highest is Jan 2008 at 268mm.
Still, as Anoop Guram, who owns a takeaway business, said:
“Climate change is one thing, but the infrastructure is not good enough….”.