By Sean Thomas Science Last updated: June 19th, 2013
Whither the weather? As you may have heard, a conference of national forecasters assembled this week in Exeter: to discuss the future of the British climate, following the spate of harsher than expected winters, and unusually wet summers, since 2007.
Already, commentators are asking if global warming is to blame. In particular, some are wondering if the direction of the Jet Stream is being altered by Arctic ice melt. Others are speculating that natural variations, such as the “Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation”, might be responsible for recent evolutions.
However, most of this reportage has been second-hand. Unprecedentedly, I had direct access to the meteorologists concerned, as I was in Exeter in spirit form, and I managed to speak to the principal actors.
First, I asked Stephen Belcher, the head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, whether the recent extended winter was related to global warming. Shaking his famous “ghost stick”, and fingering his trademark necklace of sharks’ teeth and mammoth bones, the loin-clothed Belcher blew smoke into a conch, and replied, “Here come de heap big warmy. Bigtime warmy warmy. Is big big hot. Plenty big warm burny hot. Hot! Hot hot! But now not hot. Not hot now. De hot come go, come go. Now Is Coldy Coldy. Is ice. Hot den cold. Frreeeezy ice til hot again. Den de rain. It faaaalllll. Make pasty.”
Startled by this sobering analysis, I moved on to Professor Rowan Sutton, Climate Director of NCAS at the University of Reading. Professor Sutton said that many scientists are, as of this moment, examining the complex patterns in the North Atlantic, and trying to work out whether the current run of inclement European winters will persist.
When pressed on the particular outlook for the British Isles. Professor Sutton shook his head, moaned eerily unto the heavens, and stuffed his fingers into the entrails of a recently disembowelled chicken, bought fresh from Waitrose in Teignmouth.
Hurling the still-beating heart of the chicken into a shallow copper salver, Professor Sutton inhaled the aroma of burning incense, then told the Telegraph: “The seven towers of Agamemnon tremble. Much is the discord in the latitude of Gemini. When, when cry the sirens of doom and love. Speckly showers on Tuesday.”
It’s a pretty stark analysis, and not without merit. There are plenty of climate change scientists who are equally forthright on the possibilities of change, or no change, and of more hot, or less hot, or of rain, or no rain, or of Britain turning into the Sahara by next weekend, or instead becoming a freezing cold Frostyworld ruled by a strange, glistening ice-queen – crucially, it all depends on the time of day you ask them, and whether or not they had asparagus the day before.
So who are we to believe? For a final word, I turned to the greatest climate change scientist of all, Dr David Viner, one-time senior research scientist at the climatic research unit of the University of East Anglia, who predicted in 2000 that, within a few years, winter snowfall would become “a very rare and exciting event”.
However, he was trapped under a glacier in Stockport, so was unable to comment at the time the Telegraph went to press.