A New Kind of Rain

Environment Agency chief says ‘weather is unpredictable’.

Environment Agency chairman Chris Smith said flooding is getting worse because of a ‘new kind of rain’. (Click image for link to article in Daily Mail)

In an article published in the Sunday Telegraph (and also covered by the Daily Mail – link image right), Lord Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, perpetuates the ‘extreme weather’ meme.

Referring to the recent flooding and last year’s drought:

“Last year taught us that weather patterns are getting more extreme,” says Lord Smith. “If you’d said to me a decade ago that we’d have a year in which the first three months would be facing a serious prospect of very severe drought, but we’d then have nine months of the wettest period since records began, I’d have just said, ‘No, that sort of extreme weather does not happen here in Britain.’ Increasingly, it does.

Oh puhlease!

The weather is highly unpredictable and presents new challenges, he says, adding: “We are experiencing a new kind of rain.”

It may sound like an excuse from a railway company, but Lord Smith insists that it is true. “Instead of rain sweeping in a curtain across the country, we are getting convective rain, which sits in one place and just dumps itself in a deluge over a long period of time. From the point of view of filling up the rivers and the drains, that is quite severe.”

That doesn’t exactly sound like an endorsement of the Met Office.

Tonyb, whose penchant is historical records and texts recording weather, often bemoans the lack of attention paid by the Met Office in Exeter to their own archive records housed there.  If we could go back to a previous period following one of those where Arctic ice was known to be low by historical accounts (as explored by Tonyb; also see detailed poster here: http://acsys.npolar.no/meetings/final/abstracts/posters/Session_1/poster_s1_027.pdf), would we find similar weather patterns to those today in the UK?

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26 Responses to A New Kind of Rain

  1. It’s just a new kind of “poppycock”.

    Chris Smith was born in 1951, and was educated at George Watson’s College, Edinburgh, and Pembroke College, Cambridge where he took a double first in English.

    Just the kind of educational background to qualify one for pronouncing on matters climatological.

    • As an alumnus of Pembroke I am highly amused by your comment. Cambridge University is known for its prowess in the “Hard Sciences” as witnessed by 89 Nobel prizes since 1904. Pembroke College only accounted for three of them (two in Medicine and one in physics) but it is a small college with roughly 500 undergraduates.

      The real problem here is the otherwise brilliant Chris Smith pontificating outside his field of expertise.

      • You missed my point – “double first in English”. I’m familiar with life & times in Cambridge – I have several friends who attended Churchill College.

  2. Bloke down the pub says:

    I read this in the Getalaugh and hardly knew where to start with the shovel. The idea that we don’t normally get convection rain in the UK fair takes your breath away. And as for it sitting in one place while it dumps a deluge, that beggars belief. In the UK, prolonged torrential rain is often associated with a series of frontal systems when the direction of travel is aligned with the fronts. Thus instead of the old adage of rain by seven, dry by eleven, anywhere unfortunately under the boundary could receive many hours, or even days, of heavy rain. I suspect that this arrangement of fronts is most common when the jet stream is meridional in nature.

  3. John Shade says:

    We have a plague of climate oafs and buffoons throughout the land.

  4. hro001 says:

    A “new kind of rain”?!! Strikes me that Lord Smith might have taken Bob Dylan a little to seriously for his own good and credibility! [hoping the link below works … if it doesn’t, relevant song starts at 16:14 … although 1st song on list might be good for Smith to hear, as well ;-)]

  5. hro001 says:

    Sorry, that didn’t work too well: but this one might:

  6. Pingback: A New Kind Of Rain « NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT

  7. The monthly rainfall stats for June/July/August don’t support his claims.


  8. Pingback: A New Kind Of Rain | Watts Up With That?

  9. Caleb says:

    I saw this over on WUWR, and commented that in his picture he looks like he is punching his own face, likely because the forecasts are so amazingly wrong.

    The word for Lord Chris Smith’s explainations is “balderdash.” It reminds me very much of the amazingly inventive tales my brain could produce when I was young, and a teacher asked me why my homework wasn’t done.

    • Verity Jones says:

      I’m travelling again this week, so a bit slow to reply to comments.

      I do wonder who this ‘wisdom’ has come from. Usually when some knowledge is needed, for example related to policy, politicos tend to absorb some of what they are told but then typically apply it across the board and miss the context. They are also good with memes. So if we are blaming Chris Smith with his English degree, it is probably his ‘knowledge’ has originated in some form or other from EA advisers on climate/weather.

      Time this rubbish was put to bed.

      • I remember when I were a lad (I do, I do!) that rain was an inconvenience on journeys to school, eliminated long-awaited school breaks, yet was a boon to farmers. All has changed – this “new kind of rain” is rather intimidating. Is the snow we’ve been getting the last few winters a “new kind of snow”? It must be – we were promised warmer, wetter winters. Cold winters with white stuff clearly constitute “extreme weather”, which we’ve never seen in the past (as far back as 1989).. Excuse me, must throw another copy of “Climate Change is Real” magazine on the fire – gotta keep warm.

  10. I met Chris smith last year at the opening of our local flood defences! He knows nothing of climate.

    . Ironically the environment agency offices for the south west are about a mile from the hq of the met office whose archives I frequently visit as verity mentioned.

    For a recent article I went through the archives and compiled this supplementary information from 1430 to 1700-the period the article covered

    Click to access long-slow-thaw-supplementary-information.pdf

    I was looking for temperature information but noticed-but did not always record unless it was relevant- numerous prodigious weather events. Great deluges of rain were very frequent with enormous flooding, violent storms that destroyed villages, baking heat, frightening intensity of drought or floods or winds.
    I am currently trying to locate a start date for the little ice age so am researching the 13th and 14th century. Thank goodness I wasn’t alive then, it must have been a terrifying time to live at times. The 13th century annual accounts of the see of Winchester record extraordinary events, it seems to have rained solidly for several years at a time, for example in 1315/16 then there were great droughts that lasted for similar periods

    We live in very benign times climatically and my already low opinion of Chris smith has not been improved by reading his silly and uninformed comments.


  11. mwhite says:


    “Britain could have enough shale gas to heat every home for 1,500 years, according to new estimates that suggest reserves are 200 times greater than experts previously believed.”


    ” The British Geological Survey is understood to have increased dramatically its official estimate of the amount of shale gas to between 1,300 trillion and 1,700 trillion cubic feet, dwarfing its previous estimate of 5.3 trillion cubic feet.”

    • Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
      29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.
      Sounds like a clear set of instructions to exploit Earth’s resources to me. I’m not at all religious, but I can spot a good supporting reference when I see it.

      “Did the Earth move for you too, darling?”
      “Yes, but I’m sure it was just Centrica doing a bit of fracking up the road”.

  12. TomO says:

    The Environment Agency is diseased… and seemingly incapable of transparency and honesty.

    We’ve had a gut-full via The High Court, House of Commons, The Information Commissioner, The Parliamentary Ombudsman and much else…

    An Absolute Shower of Hubris

  13. TomO

    I was involved with the Environment Agency for nine years. On the whole-at the coalface- they are a fine organisation doing a difficult job. However, there is a distinct political echelon within it-nowhere better exemplified by Chris Smith who is simply not capable of doing his job (whatever it is) .

    It must be remembered that there is a chain of environmental decision making and the EA is following instrctions from DEfra who in turn take them from the Govt, who in turn take them either from Brussels or, if within their competance, as a signatory, directly from the framweork established by Kyoto/IPCC.

    The EA at senior level (but not all of them) are a mix of (considerable) bureaucracy, politics and environmentalism motivated by following rules they ideologically agree with and which often have no relationship to real life, which is a very toxic combination.

    • TomO says:

      Hi Tony
      yeah… I can see some of what you say is in place – our experience is that the bureaucracy is delinquent – we have clear evidence (from multiple areas esp. waste recycling and environmental enforcement) that the organisation has developed a quite extraordinary capacity for inconsistent arbitrariness enforced by bullying tactics.

      We’ve experienced mendacity and intrigue on an industrial scale spiced up with a wholesale disregard for The Law. See here for a snapshot earlier this year.

      We know that capable and honest people work in the organisation – we’ve met some – it’s just that they also have a generous sprinkling of toxic boobs too… And these boobs are letting the side down big time.

  14. TomO says:

    oops! last year 🙂

    Doesn’t time fly!

  15. TomO

    Interesting. We were asked -as the appropriate committee-to comment on an increasing number of ‘green power’ schemes submitted to the EA in our area (devon and Cornwall), mostly of a hydro electric nature.

    The problems come partially in the paragraph here;

    “An entirely obvious feature of any restoration project was the refurbishment of the property’s capacity to generate power (Green subsidy was welcome but not a showstopper) and the Earls engaged a reputable hydro project consultancy to manage the process and they applied for the required water abstraction and impoundment licences from the Environment Agency on behalf of the Earls in September 2009.”

    As a committee we were very nervous of ‘impoundment’ (possible flooding problems AND wildlife/fish restrictions) and the words ‘water abstraction’ because of effects on the water table/drought. On the whole abstraction tends to be looked at askance as there are thousands of abstraction licences which collectively have a considerable effect on rivers (I can speak from personal experience concerning the River Kennet and its tributaries).Official policy is to try and reduce the number of such licences

    Generally speaking-and I’m not saying this was so in your case- there would have to be compelling reasons to allow such a green scheme as you describe, as the power generated was likely to be trivial compared to the possible downsides.The EA would advise the local authority of their concerns and collectively, high up the bureaucratic food chain, there might be resistance (legal/cost implications ) that wasn’t present on the ground by people who were looking at the scheme from a different perspective.

    Generally (but not always) these very small scale schemes were seen as self indulgences by the proposer of the scheme which would add little to the overall public enjoyment and might have severe ramifications.

    I don’t know where you are now with progressing this? The system has changed, but in our area until last year, the EA meetings at which such schemes as yours were discussed by the appointed committee were open to the public. Generally it was possible to ask a member to pose a question on your behalf in the meeting which the EA were obliged to answer. The presence of a newspaper reporter would also focus minds wonderfully.

    You must remember that LOTS of things are discussed at such meetings and the scheme you propose (should it have gone to the committee in your area) would have been described in a one paragraph summary. Personally I would have voted AGAINST it because of the frivolous nature of many of the green power schemes proposed, which were ovewhelmed by the possible consequences-flooding/drought, restricting movement of fish etc etc.

    If it had been resubmitted with new information, with those behind the scheme explaining why they wanted to proceed, I may have changed my mind and this general agreement may have become known at all levels-officer and executive.

    • TomO says:

      Hi Tony
      in three years there has never been a public meeting about the Avoncliff scheme and one has never been suggested. The Environment Agency water licence department in Sheffield have and still do strive to keep their detail deliberations secret… Witness the £35K demanded for FoI regarding the present botched determination.

      In our particular case – long term neglect of the weir has resulted in turbulence severely (and possibly catastrophically according to one report) undercutting the weir and consequent repairs mandate considerable capital expenditure on “civils” to protect our long term investment in the property. We could have run a turbine in the original, existing wheel pit without resorting to an abstraction / impoundment licence using “Miller’s Rights”. Our proposal for a twin Archimedes turbine is a cost benefit judgement against the outlay for refurbishment of the existing structure and power generated (both with and without FiTs).

      We have volunteered a fish pass where none exists, the reinstatement of the flow through the old turbine pit increases the overall flow (according to EA internal report). The scheme has been approved by the EA’s flood defence team.

      The intrigue behind the scenes has been epic.

      Your mentioning of meetings up till last year is interesting – as it indicates to us regional variation in EA policy regarding their interactions with the public – this is something that we have heard criticism of from other hydro power operators and privately from some EA officials and ex NRA water company people.

      I should add that we haven’t been alone in the treatment that we’ve endured at the hands of the bureaucracy – we know of two other schemes that have suffered similar manipulation – resulting in one case in personal bankruptcy.

  16. TomO

    I previously lived in the Wessex area of the EA and we considered them as mad as Hatters and totally illogical. I now live in the Devon/Cornwall region and they are much more sensible-no doubt due to my presence on their committtees for nine years 🙂

    We had great trouble with Wessex over flooding of our local river as they refused to dredge it.

    We eventually found out it was because they belived it was the habitat for water voles. The EA lose any sense of reality when it comes to water voles…


    Is there a water vole colony on your strech of the river (or other bio diversity issue) as this could seiously cloud their judgement at differing layers of the bureaucracy.


  17. TomO says:

    Oh yes… we are well aware of voles, crayfish, bats, newts, rare plants, migratory and non-migratory fish etcetera.

    I’d say we actually have a reasonable working relationship with the footsoldiers of the EA who’ve been observed to roll their eyes, sigh audibly and develop “thousand yard stares” in the presence of management…. A recent local episode of river dredging (by a private landowner) had a moment of high farce when an earnest young EA biologist insisted that the riverbed be searched for crayfish to be “temporarily re-homed” whilst 100 metres of bank and riverbed were adjusted.

  18. Tonyb says:


    How familiar that tale is.

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