Media coverage on ‘wet summers for a decade’

19 06 2013

There has been a lot of media coverage today following a science workshop held at the Met Office HQ in Exeter yesterday.

Most of the articles go some way to capturing the science as it was delivered in the press briefing following the event – such as this article on the BBC News website. However, some stories, and particularly some headlines, do not.

The key point revolves around discussion of Atlantic ocean cycles, specifically one known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), which can have an influence on UK summer weather.

Professor Stephen Belcher, Head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, and Dr James Screen, a NERC Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, were careful in their messaging about the AMO.

They talked about initial research which suggests this cycle, which can last for 10-20 years, can ‘load the dice’ to mean we may see a higher frequency of wetter than average summers before switching to its opposite phase, where we may see the opposite effect.

Currently, they said, it appears we are well into the ‘wet’ phase of this cycle, so it may continue to have an influence for a few more years to come.

That does not mean every summer will be a ‘washout’ for the next decade and shouldn’t be taken as a deterministic forecast for what we will see in the years to come.

First of all, we’ve seen five summers of higher than average rainfall in the last six years (with 2010 being the exception, which had average levels of rainfall). Even within each of those years we have seen periods of decent weather – so there’s no expectation of total washouts for the whole summer.

Secondly, the research suggests there is a tendency towards a higher frequency of wetter than average summers – so we could still see summers which buck this trend.

And finally, this research is still at an early phase and more work needs to be done to see exactly how this process works and how we can predict its influence on future seasons.

So, much like a blog we recently wrote about this year’s summer, it’s fair to say that you shouldn’t write off summers for the next decade or so.

We expect to be publishing a guest blog from scientists at the University of Reading on the science they presented to the workshop yesterday, so look out for that in the coming days.

You can now see video of the Professor Stephen Belcher speaking at the press conference which followed the science workshop on 18 June on our Youtube channel.








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