Storm Ellen and Francis – products of global warming?

Right on cue, and very much as I anticipated yesterday (see fishy smell), the Guardian published an article about storm Francis hinting at a link between storm Ellen and storm Francis to global warming. The Guardian reporter scrambled around to find the nearest expert to make the causal link and found Hannah Cloke of the university of Reading. I don’t know if I would have plumped for an hydrologist, maybe a ‘Climatologist’ or even a bog standard “Meteorologist”, but hydrologist? These days it seems everyone’s is an expert. So irregardless of her expertise in the tricky field of linking the formation of a couple of vigorous extratropical storms to AGW, she must know what she’s talking about because she’s a professor, right? She says that “scientists will be examining links to climate change, and says it’s too early to say what has driven this concoction of terrible August Weather“. I’m sure that they will, and I can almost hear the click click of keyboards down in the department of Climate Attribution in Exeter as I write.

The Met Office Spokesperson

Then into the fray steps the good old Met Office Spokesperson to reveal that: “We’ve never had a named storm in August before and now we’ve had two! “. The concept of ‘named storms’ and the metric ‘number of named storms‘ have been around for less than five years, and it’s therefore impossible to compare the named storms that occurred this August with ones earlier that 2016 because there aren’t any. The impact based criteria that the UKMO use to define them has not been published, at least Met Eireann link the naming of storms to the threshold of their amber warning for strong wind. Up until yesterday I was under the impression that the UKMO did a similar thing, but curiously for storm Ellen it was decided that a yellow wind warning would be sufficient. As I finish writing this article I notice with interest that the Met Office must have changed their minds because they have just issued an amber warning for storm Francis.

Unusual but not unheard of

I’ve had a quick look back in the ERA reanalysis archives on Wetterzentrale to see if I could find spot a few really cyclonic days for August and the start of September, just to illustrate the point that cyclonic days, although unusual in August, are not unheard of across IONA. I’ve even included two potential name storms from August 1986 just to show the spokesperson that it does happen. I wonder how professor Hannah explains these. I suppose she could argue that they are all the product of global warming since it has been going on since even before the Industrial revolution.

Products of global warming?

I believe storms Ellen and Francis are just examples of the day to day variations in ‘normal’ weather that we see across IONA, and because our lives are relatively short, our memories not so good, or maybe we just haven’t spent the time looking at the weather of the past, it’s very easy to ascribe or hint that these storms are indeed the product of global warming, when it’s patently impossible to do with any degree of certainty.

One final bit of evidence that I’ve found is that the month of August has become slightly less cyclonic across the British Isles than it was almost 150 years ago. That’s based on the objective LWT data from the CRU at the UEA. That reveals that the percentage of cyclonic days has decreased from 25.2% in 1871 to 20.3% in 2020.

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