Summer's been a washout so far. Does that tell us anything about climate change?
- 15 May 2012, 12:33
- Verity Payne
It was clearly raining on Louise Mensch MP this morning. So much
so that she
This prompted 'outrage,' she
tweeted a bit later, from "sandalistas in my timeline
completely incapable of detecting a joke".
Well, as people who love joking about the difference between
weather and climate, we certainly emitted an appreciative snort. In
a similar vein, basically everything you need to know about weather
and climate is contained in this video:
However, why not take the opportunity to head off any potential
confusion between a rainy day and long term climate change?
In the past climate skeptics have made statements, seemingly in
all earnestness, perpetuating the myth that the weather outside
your window on a particular day means that long-term climate change
is not happening.
This was particularly apparent during the cold winters
experienced by parts of Europe and North America in 2009 and 2010.
Take, for example, Benny Peiser, director of the climate skeptic
lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation, who was quoted in
the Times in December 2009:
"We look out of the window and it's very
cold, it doesn't seem to be warming."
Of course, a couple of cold winters in certain parts of the
world (or even just, you know, winter) don't derail global warming
theory, and doesn't mean that climate change isn't happening.
Indeed, some research
suggests that cold European winters may become more prevalent as
the world warms and we lose more Arctic sea ice - although the
jury is still out on that one.
Overall, the climate in Britain is likely to become warmer and
wetter as the planet warms up. Here's
the Met Office, on observations over the past half century:
"[H]eavy rainfall and peak river flows
[...] have been increasing in frequency and magnitude over the past
50 years. This pattern is consistent with model predictions of how
human-induced climate change affects rainfall.
It is, of course, worth pointing out that we cannot attribute a
single precipitation event to climate change. Getting soaked coming
out of Westminster tube, (or wandering the Pennines, Appalachians
or outback, for our non-London readers) doesn't really tell you
anything about how the climate is changing.