Azara Blog: The UK has the wettest summer since records began in 1914

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Date published: 2007/09/01

The BBC says:

This summer appears to have been the wettest since rainfall records began in 1914, according to provisional data from the UK's Met Office.

Britain had 358.5mm of rain, just beating the 1956 record of 358.4mm.

The main reason for the high rainfall has been the unusually southerly position of the jet stream, a band of strong winds high in the atmosphere.

Well the difference between 358.4 and 358.5 is lost in the noise, the error bars must be much higher than that. But after a few dry years, 2007 has brought back the rain with a vengeance. Of course with climate change (which unbelievably the BBC article does not mention) we were told for years that we would end up with hot, dry summers like the Mediterranean, but it seems we can still have good old-fashioned wet British summers as well. The climate change story now seems to be that the weather will just be "extreme", which of course is a safer bet to make than just saying it will be hot and dry. Well, what is "extreme"? Some people would take a record to be indicative of an extreme, which is why the BBC has been so keen the last couple of days to cheer for that extra 0.1 mm of rain (what kind of story would it have been to say it was the second wettest summer). Well, if you have recorded the same measurement N times, then the odds that the last measurement was the most extreme of all N would just be 1/N, if the distribution was not changing in time (and no doubt the climate change people would claim the distribution is changing). So since they've apparently been measuring the rainfall records since 1914, these days one expects a record roughly once a century, which sounds like an extrememly rare thing to happen. Only there are zillions of records (wettest summer, dryest summer, wettest winter, dryest May, hottest 13th of July, coldest autumn, etc.), which means there are always going to be plenty of records that are going to be broken, even without climate change, which is good news for the media because they love to report "extremes".

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