Britain's Flooding 'Not Caused
By Global Warming' Say Scientists
By Robert Matthews
An international conference of experts on the European climate will be told that the heavy rainfall and flooding of recent months is entirely consistent with a well-known weather system, and shows no signs of being linked to global warming. The rebuttal comes as John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, returns from negotiations in The Hague aimed at cutting greenhouse gas levels and reducing global warming. According to environmentalists, global warming is to blame for the stormy weather and floods of recent months.
It is a claim which Government ministers have repeatedly endorsed, with Mr Prescott claiming that Britain's recent floodings were "a wake-up call" on global warming. Yet climate experts will reveal this week that the most likely cause is the so-called North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), a pattern of atmospheric pressure which forms over the ocean.
Discovered by meteorologists long before the idea of global warming became fashionable, the NAO is known to play a key role in determining the weather experienced across the Continent.
When the NAO is in its so-called negative state, winters are typically cold, dry and calm. When in its positive state, however - as it was during the autumn - the NAO produces mild, wet and stormy winters in Britain. According to Dr David Stephenson, head of the Climate Analysis Group at the University of Reading, the recent weather has been in line with normal variation in this Atlantic pressure pattern. He told The Telegraph: "The NAO was positive in October, but not by an unprecedented amount. The October storms were not extreme in terms of intensity or rainfall amounts, but caused floods due to their accumulated effects."
According to Dr Stephenson, one of the organisers of this week's conference, being held in Orense, Spain, Government insistence that the floods are due to global warming are not based on solid science. Records dating back to the mid-1800s show that the NAO has flipped between its two states more or less at random - with no signs at all of permanent change.
Dr Stephenson said: "I am not convinced that the Government can attribute these events to global warming. They have jumped on the global warming bandwagon because it's easier to do that than take action on things like protecting infrastructure." Fresh evidence contradicting the supposed link between global warming and the recent floods will also be revealed at the NAO conference by scientists from the universities of Newcastle and Exeter.
By studying stalagmite growth, the team has built a record of rainfall dating back to the Norman Conquest - the biggest archive ever assembled. According to Dr Andy Baker of the University of Newcastle, this record confirms that the recent bad weather is far from exceptional, and shows no signs of getting worse. Dr Baker said: "We have shown that nature is able to repeat current events without the help of global warming. Politicians and other decision-makers should be aware of both natural and human-induced rainfall variability."
The emerging evidence that Britain's weather is naturally capable of much greater extremes than previously thought is prompting calls for more action to minimise its impact on homes and transport. Dr Mike Hulme, chief executive of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, said: "The key question is, are we well-prepared to cope with this - and this autumn has shown that in the UK we're not."
Dr Hulme insisted, however, that international action on greenhouse gases remained crucial. Dr Hulme said: "Those who disagree have to explain what will happen to all that carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere, which we know produces a warming effect."
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