First published on February 3, 2014
Think Progress has a headline that screams, UK’s January Flooding Surpasses all 247 Years of Data on the Books! The headline is absurd. They are going by the Radcliffe Meteorological Station at Oxford University, which began recording such things, daily, in 1767. Anyone who is a student of British history understands the abject stupidity of this headline. You want stupidity and futility? Do they bother mentioning the wet years of 1258 and 1527? Of course not.
“…December 25th (assumed 817, presumably logged as ‘Christmas Day’): Ireland – snow: many rivers & lakes frozen to February 22nd. [ Although only tied to Ireland, given the severity & length of the event, Britain must also have been affected. ] [ The following from research work on Irish texts (and coupling same to major volcanic eruptions affecting the stratosphere) . . . ” There was abnormal ice and much snow from the Epiphany to Shrovetide. The Boyne and other rivers were crossed dry-footed; lakes likewise. Herds and hunting-parties were on Loch Neagh, (and) wild deer were hunted. The materials for an oratory were afterwards brought by a large company from the lands of Connacht over Upper and Lower Loch Erne into [Leinster]; and other unusual things were done in the frost and hail. Epiphany is 6 January, Julian Calendar or 10 January, Gregorian Calendar. Shrovetide is a moveable feast relative to the date of Easter, occurring in later January this year. Loch Neagh and Upper and Lower Loch Erne are large Irish lakes. Source: Annals of Ulster, 818 CE. …”
In fact, a history of climate for the British Isles can be found from 11,000BC onward. The first recorded flood of the Thames was anywhere from 7 – 9AD. The first real effects of climate change were recorded c536AD when Tambora erupted, and the British Isles, as well as much of the northern hemisphere experienced a year without a summer. In 695 the Thames at London was frozen for 6 weeks.
Only a few years of recorded history? How about a tsunami on St. Michael’s Day, 1014? 1098 was one of the wettest years to date, in England. 1114 was considered one of the driest years on record. The year 1142 saw a deadly tornado in Wellsbourne, Warwickshire. The first authentic report of the Thames being frozen in London was in 1149. Westminster Palace flooded due to the heavy rains of 1236. And then, golly gee, there are records for almost every single year after 1299! We know which year was dry, which was wet, where the bad floods were, and the winters, when the Thames flooded, dried up, and froze. Only the foolish would use about 250 years worth of records when thousands of years worth are available.
What about 1607-1608?
“...The ‘Great Winter’**: apparently, trees died due to the severity (and length) of the frost; ships were stranded by ice several miles out into the North Sea – this latter a major concern as much commerce was done in these days via coastal shipping. In December, a “deep” frost until mid-month, then a thaw until just before Christmas, then from ~21st December(OSP) intense freeze for much of the time until at least mid-January. Ice formed on the Thames in London, sufficient to bear all sorts of sports, perambulations and even cooking! The frost lasted overall for some two months. (much of the foregoing from Ian Currie). The severe weather lasted in parts of England until about 20th February(OSP), though with variations in depth of cold. For example, in records from Kendal (Westmorland / Cumbria) ‘hard frost’ is noted from November 3rd, 1607 to March 6th, 1608(OSP). The Firth of Forth is noted as being ‘frozen’ during January 1608 & the River Exe (south of Exeter) also experienced major ice formation by the latter-third of January – at this latter location, damage was caused to a local weir. (** lots of winters will be found in the literature known as “The Great Winter”: treat this title with some caution, however, in a series developed by C.Easton, in CHMW / Lamb, this ranks near the top of the most severe winters of the last 1000 yr.) [ This may have been the first occasion of the use of the term ‘Frost Fair’ ]…”
Then there was November of 1703:
“…The ‘Great Storm’ of 1703 which commenced on Friday 26th November (old-style, 7th December new-style) was probably the worst ever experienced in England; it is described by Defoe in his work: “The Storm 1703”. This storm was associated with a deep secondary depression which swept across Ireland, Wales & central England; it is possible that this secondary developed from a West Indian hurricane which had been off the coast of Florida a few days previously. The gale first blew from the south, then veered to west-south-west and finally to north-west. The southern half of the country felt the full force of the storm and it was worst in London on the nights of Friday 26th November(OS) and Tuesday 30th November(OS), when bricks, tiles and stones flew about with such force, and were so numerous, that none dared venture forth from their homes. After the storm the price of tiles increased by about 300%.
The tidal flood affecting the Thames on Sunday 30th(OS) was associated with this storm, though the tidal storm surge for this event was more significant on the Severn and along the Dutch coast. Twelve warships with 1300 men on board were lost in sight of land, Eddystone lighthouse was destroyed and practically all shipping in the Thames was destroyed or damaged. In London alone, 22 people were drowned, 21 people were killed and 200 injured by falling and flying debris. It was estimated that 8000 people lost their lives in the floods caused by the storm in the rivers Thames and Severn and in Holland. The damage due to the storm and flood in London alone was estimated to be £ 2 000 000.
[ Lamb quotes ‘new-style’ dates for this event of 7th/8th December 1703.]
1. Possibly a rejuvinated Atlantic hurricane, this storm produced estimated winds reaching 120mph/104 knots (Lamb estimates 150kn).
2. There was apparently little rain.
3. On the south Wales coast, a tidal surge drove up the Bristol Channel, leaving the port of Bristol in ruins, and the hinterland under water.
4. Considerable structural damage occurred across England & Wales, with large loss of standing timber (much as 1987/Oct). Estimates of total loss of life are around 8000, which makes it much worse than the October 1987 event. The heavy lead on the roof of Westminster Abbey being ripped off and carried well clear of the building. The Eddystone lighthouse (newly built/2nd time) was destroyed, and its designer/builder (Henry Winstanley) was killed as he was on site at the time.
5. The storm dealt a severe blow to Merchant and Royal Navy shipping in the Channel and along the English east coast. For the latter, over 1000 seamen were killed, including many senior RN personnel, and 15 ships. (England was then at war with France).
6. Much salt contamination of inland fields by wind-driven spray/salt-laden winds.
7. The depression (possibly a secondary within the circulation of a parent further north/North of Scotland) approached SW England/Celtic Sea and moved across Wales to Yorkshire (estimated eastward speed ~ 40kn; a factor in the surface wind speeds), with widespread southwesterly severe gales on the 26th, and a rearward surge of strength affected the eastern English Channel during the early hours of the 27th.
8. It is estimated that a very intense pressure gradient developed on it’s southern flank, with central MSLP almost certainly below 960mbar (some sources, and Lamb, say possibly 950mbar).
9. During 27th & 28th, this storm caused widespread problems Low Countries, North Germany, Denmark and adjacent areas.
[ NB: the ‘stormy’ spell had actually started around two weeks earlier, with local damage / loss of shipping reported; for example on the 24th, a storm of such proportions would, if this latter had not occurred, been regarded as the ‘major’ event of this time. Earlier still, on the 12th, another severe gale affected the English Channel & southern North Sea. The ‘final’ storm marked the conclusion of the spell.])…”
Oh, there is a reason for the massive flooding. They aren’t dredging the damn canals and rivers like they once did. Oh, and the real reason for the lack of dredging? Well…. it seems like the extreme austerity that has ruined the UK’s economy. You can’t blame this one on climate change. It’s about the austerity – or is it about appeasing the ‘greens’? Cameron has given the go ahead for dredging, as the ‘greens’ complain that dredging is not the answer.
At the risk of being attacked, the headline is one of the reasons there are those of us who think the hysteria of climate change is damaging the message. Anyone who is a student of British history knows how absurd the very headline is. It refers to the Radcliffe station at Oxford, which began such records in 1767. Do I look that stupid to fall for such scanty information when learned individuals have been recording such data, through the British Isles, for centuries?
I am NOT denying climate change. I am pointing out the abject damage anyone trying to prove a point does with such hysteria, when records have been kept for centuries. Show me 1500 years of data then we have something. And – if someone truly bothered doing the research, the data would be there. It’s like hysteria over ‘recorded temperature’, when temperatures have only really been recorded since the 1870s, when accurate thermometers were invented. What about all the time leading up to the 1870s? Too bad we don’t have the data for the winter of 1816, or it might blow a heck of a lot of data up, big time. Something is going on, with climate, but there are those of us who happen to think that there is a huge connection between solar activity and temperatures and volcanic activity and temperatures.
I find climate change hysteria to be so foolish. While this Think Progress post screams apocalypse, the information is cherry-picked. The headline screams 247 years. BUT – the author of the piece did not bother going back to the summer of 1763, which may have been the 2nd wettest the British Isles experienced. There are other records that suggest that 1768 may have been the 2nd wettest on record. The second wettest November was 1770.
If you are a Regency fan, the way I am, this information is like gold. It tells you exactly what was going on and what should be worn for fashion.
“… 1. Spring & Summer 1812 were notably cold. The anomaly for both seasons on the whole-series (CET) mean was around -1.5C, with March, April, June, July & August having anomalies in excess of -1C. April 1812 was unusually cold, with a CET value of 5.5degC (-2.4C) & thus one of the ‘top-dozen’ or so cold such-named months. It was the coldest Spring since 1799, and it was not to as cold again in Spring until 1837, though in this latter year, the summer was warm. By contrast, 1812 experienced one of the coldest summers across England & Wales using the CET series (began 1659).
2. In addition to the extended cold, rainfall was often excessive. The months of February & March 1812 experienced EWP anomalies of 177% & 150% respectively, which with the cold ground, would have had a severe effect on the germination of crops sown, or about to be sown. Indeed, although April was drier than average, May, June and July were all wet (averaging ~135%), so sowing may have been impossible on heavier soils.
3. The backwardness of the crops, plus the extended wet/cold weather (with probably a lack of sunshine, though there are no contemporary records for this), meant that the harvest that year was also delayed, as well as being of a low yield. From records in Yorkshire, the harvest began around 20th September, and was not finished until the second week of November (Wintringham Parish Register).
1. One of the four or five coldest winters in the CET record. See also 1683/84; 1739/40 and 1962/63. Particularly cold January to March: CET values, with anomalies ref. 1961-90 averages: Jan: -2.9(-6.7), Feb: 1.4(-2.4), Mar: 2.9(-2.8): We had to wait until 1962/63 for comparable, extended cold periods, in particular for the January values. The last time that the ‘tidal’ River Thames froze over sufficiently to hold ‘frost fairs’ etc. The activities surrounding the fair lasted well into February, but around 5th/6th February, a thaw set in and the ice started to break up, helped by rain: some people were drowned and many booths were destroyed. The loose ice did much damage to shipping of all sizes on the river. (After this time, the removal of the old London Bridge in 1831, plus other work enabled the Thames to increase it’s flow, and freezing of the tidal stretches has not occurred since.) Most commentators say this was the ‘last great frost fair’ held on the Thames. The greatest frost of the 19th century commenced on the 27th December 1813; the onset of the frost was accompanied by thick fog.
2. Probably one of the snowiest winters in these islands in the last 300 years (1947 comparable). Much disruption in January in particular due to the snow. Reports from Perth (Scotland) spoke of low temperatures in the first week of January: by the end of the week, snow was falling in Aberdeenshire and a few days later reports from Kelso (Borders) spoke of heavy snow blocking roads to Edinburgh. By Monday, 17th January, the storm had become so severe that the newspapers opined that this storm was the worst since 1795. In Dublin, the snowfall was so severe that people were trapped inside their houses, and it is reported that Canterbury (Kent) was cut off for at least six days.
Heavy snow fell during the period 3rd to 5th January, 1814 and this was followed by a temporary thaw which only lasted one day; the frost then returned (often severe over snow cover) and persisted until the 5th February. The Thames was frozen solid from 31st January to 5th February and a frost fair was held on the river; a thaw took place between 5th and 7th February and the drifting ice damaged shipping considerably. [Note also that other rivers had ice problems, such as the Mersey & the Severn – the Thames always gets the headlines! Mention in chronicles of skating at Bristol and horses being ridden over these rivers: no doubt others in the country were similarly affected.]
In addition to the heavy frost, fog was an additional hazard, which commenced (in London) on the 26th/27th December, and only lifted on the 3rd January, 1814. On the 27th December, the fog was so dense (under 20 yards/metres) that the Prince Regent (later George IV), who was on his way to visit the Marquis of Salisbury at Hatfield House, near St. Albans, had to turn back at Kentish Town and return to Carlton House. This short journey took several hours and one of the Prince Regent’s outriders fell into a ditch at Kentish Town. The fog was still dense on the 28th December and on that night the Maidenhead coach, which was returning from London, lost its way and overturned. Dense fog continued on 29th December and the Birmingham mail coach took nearly 7 hours to go from London to just past Uxbridge (west Middlesex). Traffic was almost at a standstill in London on the nights of 30th and 31st December; many coachmen had to lead their horses and others only drove at a walking pace. Only pedestrians who knew the locality well dared venture forth, and even some of them lost their way. The fog was finally cleared by a cold northerly wind, accompanied by heavy snow, which set in on the 3rd January 1814 (though Lamb in ref. 6 says this occurred 5th/6th).
1814 & 1816 These years were as cold, if not colder than, 1695. The ‘Frost Fair’ in February of 1814 is thought to be the last held on the Thames in London (1st to 4th). The summer of 1814 was cold: This year, together with that of 1816 (q.v.), were two of the coldest years in the CET record (began 1659). The value for 1814 was 7.7degC, which places it within the ‘top-10’ of all-series cold years.
1816 is famously known as ‘the year without a summer’: in this latter year, heavy snow fell all day on the 14th April, and snow fell on the 12th May.
The May and June of 1815 were very unsettled, and marked by high rainfall totals across the Low Countries. In particular, the heavy rain-storms in the lead up to, and immediately prior to the Battle of Waterloo (17th/18th) across Belgium may have been a contributory factor in the defeat of the Napoleonic French forces – the French cavalry in particular finding it difficult to traverse the rain-sodden ground….”
What does this tell us? First, much of the extreme weather in the UK is cyclical. Volcanic activity greatly effects it. Now, if we are seeing drastic weather, and there is no volcanic activity, then maybe there is a problem with carbon. But – going back to 11,000BC it is obvious the theory of volcanic activity and ‘carbon’ isn’t even half the story. I’d love to see a breakdown of solar activity. What it also shows us is that those who are trying to prove a point with climate change are indeed picking and choosing what information they care to present. They’re also not quite playing very fair because in their hysteria they are doing everyone a dis-service.
Climate change is real. But – if you study, in detail, the thousands of years of available records and detailed almost yearly records from 1200, it is also quite evident that the weather in the UK is cyclical. It is abjectly foolish to read anything more into this. The fool who doesn’t know much about history is bound to look, think, and act like an even bigger fool when they open their mouths.