2015 Recap

Climate Nexus has made a video summarizing some of the extreme weather we got in 2015:

26 responses to “2015 Recap

  1. Hmmm.
    “In December, storm Desmond devastates cities across the UK”.
    No it did not.
    Storm Desmond can accurately be said to have devastated much of the city of Carlisle and caused considerable damage in the towns of Cockermouth and Appleby, and many nearby villages, by flooding, all in the north west of England, as well as some parts of southern Scotland and Northern Ireland. The storm produced the heaviest 24 hour rainfall, 13.4 inches, ever recorded in Britain. Other parts of Britain suffered little or no damage from this storm.

    Desmond was a very damaging storm, contributed to by climate change (see: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/11/storm-desmond-rainfall-flooding-partly-due-to-climate-change-scientists-conclude ). Exaggerating its impact by erroneously claiming that it devastated cities across the UK merely detracts from the video and makes viewers wonder if anything in the video is being accurately reported. Not good. Not good at all.

    • What is the specific inaccuracy – the word ‘cities’? Would “devastates towns and villages across the UK” be OK? Thats certainly the impression given by the guardian article. Or are you saying that “across the UK” implies “everywhere in the UK”?

      • Would “devastates towns and villages across the UK” be OK?

        No, because it devastated a pretty small area of the country: part of Cumbria. It barely even rained where I live, about 200 miles away: it was quite windy one night was the sum total of the ‘devastation’.

        The notable thing about this was the new UK record for 24 hour rainfall, and the second ‘100-yr’ flood in 10 years (in Carlisle).

      • As far as I am aware, Carlisle is the only actual city that was devastated. The others were towns, pretty small ones (with apologies to the people who actually live in them).
        Damage even 80 or 90 miles away, i.e. near me, was minimal.

      • So, after another couple of weeks this has become a lot more accurate than it was originally with 2 more large storms each causing major flooding in different towns, viliiages, and cities. We now have some quality devastation in Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, North Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland. That’s certainly ‘Major flooding across the (top half of the) UK’ with costs in the billions. River level records broken in many places. 200 year old buildings and bridges washed away. And of course miserable Christmas and New Year holidays for a lot of people. Only one person killed though (a kayaker, and as approx 4 kayakers/year die in the UK, sometimes on rivers in spate, I’m not sure how fair it is to call this unusual).

    • Desmond hit the south and west of Ireland really hard too, with extensive flooding in Cork, Kerry, Galway and Sligo.

    • They’re just been getting new helpings. Don’t know if map (2/3rds way down) is live, but right now flood warnings are all across UK:


      Carlisle is a lowland urban center.

  2. But it didn’t kill *me* and so I can ignore it. Look a squirrel.
    More seriously – who’s taking bets on 2016? Will it exceed 2015?

    David Evans’ bet looks shaky to me, because I think he leans on the immediate past too much

    I raise this because last year he as claiming that his force-X/solar hypothesis gave reason to expect cooling real soon now. A claim made at various times in the past.

    e.g. http://www.skepticalscience.com/david-evans-understanding-goes-cold.html

    (Sorry if this is O/T but it seems opportune to recall the false prophesies too)

  3. The inaccuracy is i) in the use of cities plural, when only one city was damaged and ii) in claiming that the devastation was was “across the UK”, when it was not. So, “devastates towns and villages across the UK” would not be OK, any more than saying storm Sandy devastated towns and villages across the USA.
    Exaggeration is so unnecessary and so counter-productive. Storm Desmond was a devastating storm from which policy makers need to learn urgent lessons. Those lessons are not only with respect to global warming and the climate changes that it brings, but also concerning land management in the uplands, because the lands upon which the rain fell with greatest intensity were uplands overgrazed by the busy teeth of sheep. That overgrazing has resulted (over centuries) in the loss of nearly all upland woodlands and tall ground vegetation. That loss increases both the rate and the volume of run-off (thus increasing the downstream peak flows that cause flooding) and causes greater erosion that fills the beds of rivers with sediments so that the waters more easily overflow their banks (it was that latter problem that devastated the village of Glenriding).
    Those are serious problems that are hardly being addressed and the production of an inaccurate (in that respect) video enables those who do not wish to face such problems, of which there are many, to dismiss them as exaggerated.

    • The use of “cities” here is probably a case of American vs British usage of “city”. An American might well label most of the towns and even some of the villages in Cumbria as “cities”, particularly if they are from the middle, where “cities” might have a population of under a thousand*, which wouldn’t even be called a town in the UK. For a US viewer, describing the damage in Cumbria as “devastated cities” will probably give a more accurate impression of the size of communities affected, even though it gives a wrong impression to UK viewers (who presumably are more familiar with the affected area anyway).

      I agree about the “across” point though – to my ears, describing the affected area as “across the UK” sounds about as accurate as describing Massachusetts or Washington (state) as “across the US”.

      *Clicking around on Google maps in the middle of the US, one can easily find cities with populations of 500 or so, 1/200th of the size of my hometown on the south coast of England (and 1/20th of the size of the town I live in in MA).

  4. In the UK a town becomes a city when it is given a charter by the monarch, which historically implies size and prosperity.

    In the US I suspect that any community wishing to do so can call itself a city.

    • Apparently so: this ‘answer’ lists ‘cities’ all of which have populations in the single digits:


      • Merriam-Webster, that quintessentially American dictionary, lists, in order of increasing size, ‘hamlet’, ‘village’, ‘town’, and ‘city’. However, though the relative sizes are clear enough, there is no quantification whatever given.

        The only reasonably specific guidance is that London, Rome and New York are examples of the class ‘city.’ (Duh!) In America, a city seems to be pretty much what you make it–as long as you leave room for three smaller classes.


        Hamlet: <100
        Village: 100-999
        Town: 1000-99,999
        City: 100,000-

        NB–Doesn't work for my natal region. In Northern Ontario, the 4 principal 'cities' are Thunder Bay (pop. 108,359), Sudbury (160,274), Sault Ste. Marie (75,141), and North Bay (53,651), all of which are invariably referred to as 'cities'. Oh, well, maybe it's contextual or something.

      • But then there’s this:

        “n. pl. cit·ies
        1. A center of population, commerce, and culture; a town of significant size and importance.
        a. An incorporated municipality in the United States with definite boundaries and legal powers set forth in a charter granted by the state.
        b. A Canadian municipality of high rank, usually determined by population but varying by province.
        c. A large incorporated town in Great Britain, usually the seat of a bishop, with its title conferred by the Crown.”


      • Clearly different countries have different perceptions of what “city” means, so here’s some population data based on the 2011 census.

        The only city with floods caused by Storm Desmond was Carlisle (75,306, with 107,524 in the wider urban area).
        Towns elsewhere in Cumbria affected by flooding were Appleby-in-Westmorland (3,048), Keswick (4,821), and Kendal (28,586). The village of Glenridding apparently had a population of about 425 in 1995.

        Storm Eva caused further flooding on 22 December 2015 in Appleby, Glenridding, Keswick and Kendal when rivers burst their banks.

  5. Comments are closed in the Lamar Smith posts so I will post this info here in case anyone has not seen it.
    The right wing has opened up a new front in its denialist war against climate science and NOAA. Judicial Watch is sueing the Obama Administration for the emails that Smith was trying to acquire. They claim some success already:


  6. Unfortunately 2015 isn’t over yet. My thoughts are with those who’ve suffered through the exceptional weather and storms of the last day. Extreme weather, in every sense.

  7. Intense thunderstorm as I write. Luckily, the tornado threat seems to have receded, but yesterday several states experienced them. Six reported dead, with many injured, in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Indiana. Ugh.

  8. I midly agreed with Slioch’s criticism…
    “Exaggerating its impact by erroneously claiming that it devastated cities across the UK merely detracts from the video …”

    However, it looks like this criticism may be overtaken by new events…

    “UK flood alerts: ‘Danger to life’ warnings issued as forecasters predict an entire month’s rain in hours in parts of Britain”

    • Sadly, things have been getting worse across what the Independent calls a “swathe of Britain”, including Wales and the north of England.
      Several towns have been badly affected, including Rochdale (88,068) which is larger than the city of Carlisle (75,306). There’s apparently been flooding in the centres of the cities of Leeds (766,399) and Manchester (520,215) but smaller villages and towns seem to be the worst affected.

      The Conservative government has appeared to be flirting with climate change denial, but after some cabinet changes the Floods Minister seems to be getting a clue:
      “If somebody had said two years ago when we were designing these flood defences that we could get 13 inches of rain in a day, the answer from the engineers would have been ‘Why are you making that kind of prediction? We have never seen this before.'” … It has been the wettest December on record, according to the Met Office. “I think this is why people are right to start focusing on uncertainty and why people obviously are very interested in the question of climate change,” Mr Stewart added.

      That raises the question about that the projections were two years ago for future climate change increasing the amount of rain in a day..

  9. Update: not clear how much damage was done in the city of Manchester, though a lot in Greater Manchester, but now there’s also nasty looking flooding in the city of York (204,439) which has had floods previously, but not so much at once.

    My closing paragraph was meant to question what the projections were two years ago, looks like they were ignored anyway:
    “The UK government was warned by its official climate change advisers in October [2015] that it needed to take action on the increasing number of homes at high risk of flooding but rejected the advice. …. In June, the CCC’s statutory report on the UK’s progress on climate change highlighted dealing with floods from extreme weather as the government’s most serious failing in preparing for the impacts of global warming. It stated: ‘Plans and policies, or progress in addressing vulnerabilities, are lacking’.”

  10. Unfortunately, the weather has now obliged with regards to flooding in multiple cities. York and Leeds both have bad flooding, as well as multiple towns affected over a large swathe of the south of the north of England.

  11. I’m now marooned in my 1st floor flat.in York – since Saturday night. Not serious for me. I can wade out if I put shorts on but it will be a bit mucky.

    The Guardian came and reported:

    ‘Beacon blamed not the Environment Agency, but climate change – or, more accurately, the humans who cause the planet to warm. “To stop this happening, really we need to stop eating beef, driving cars and building buildings out of steel and concrete,’ he bellowed from his first floor perch.”

    No doubt I was a bit pompous and the reporter clearly wanted an ordinary ‘vox pops’ but, if I put my laughter/irritation aside, does “bellowed from his first floor perch” mean even the Guardian shies away from any hints that we must drastically change our way of life?

    Slioch’s criticism is being overtaken by events.

    • As I read it, no–the context seemed mainly to be that the relative positions of interviewer and interviewee entailed raised voices. Were the Grauniad to be “shying away” you wouldn’t have been quoted at all.

    • “Slioch’s criticism is being overtaken by events.”

      No, it is not. My criticism of Climate Nexus’s video concerned its inaccurate reporting of the effects of storm Desmond.
      The fact that devastating storms have continued to effect parts of Britain after Desmond is irrelevant to that criticism.