Saturday, November 01, 2014

Turned Out Nice

Last February, when there was a wet spell, I wrote a little piece, Turned Out Wet in which I discussed probabilities of extreme weather events. I followed it a few days later with
Turned out Wet (and still raining).  If you didn't read them at the time, or need a refresher, please take a look before proceeding.

Right, done that?  Good.

Yesterday we had another one, another extreme weather event.  Ok, nobody's home was destroyed, it was just a rather pleasant day.  Up until yesterday, the highest temperature recorded in England on the last day of October had been 20°C.  This year the temperature reached 23°C in several places in North Kent, with Gravesend seeing 23.6°C, and over 20°C across a large part of England. (Let's ignore central London where the heat-island effect kicks in.)  So that's three degrees warmer than had ever been recorded. Does that make it another 3-sigma (or more) event?

Well, there's a kind of cherry-picking there if I say yes. There's nothing that special about a particular day.  I mean, we couldn't claim any significant record if there had been warmer days close to the 31st of October.  But there aren't. The nearest nearby record temperature was November the 4th 1946 when 21.7°C was recorded in Prestatyn.  In 2011 there was a very warm spell at the beginning of October (I remember it - I went swimming off the Lincolnshire coast) when Gravesend (again) reached 29.9°C.  But that was October the 1st, a whole month earlier.

So was yesterday's weather another portent of doom, more evidence for global warming?  Frankly, it really doesn't matter.  Writing this on the eve of the release of the IPCC AR5 Synopsis, we should understand that we already have enough knowledge and understanding to realise that we have to stop all burning of fossil carbon fuels now if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.  And even then a lot of people are going to have to adjust to not living close to the current sea level.

We no longer need a thermometer to know that the patient is critically ill.


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