Weather, we seem to have had a lot of it recently. Since about a fortnight before Christmas It seems as if we have had a never-ending sequence of heavy rain accompanied by gale force winds, with the occasional hour or two of sunshine in between. The south of England has experienced the wettest January in two hundred and fifty years and the weather patterns show no signs of letting up.
Almost incessant storms battering the South-west coast lead to the railway line to Cornwall being washed away, considerable damage to coastal defences, not to mention Cornish beach cafés, as well as some quite spectacular photos.
The explanation for this is fairly simple. The jet stream, which drives North Atlantic weather is running further south than normal. This drives the low pressure systems, which normally run northwards into the gap between Scotland and Iceland into the southern part of the Great Britain. This also explains why, if you look at the map, the Northwest of Scotland has only had about 85% of its normal rainfall this January (although it has probably still been pretty damp).
This is obviously what can be described as an extreme weather event, and while I would agree that no one weather event can be ascribed to Global Climate Change, this is the type of event that climate change models predict will occur with increasing regularity. If this is going to be the case what steps will we need to take to alleviate the situation. Politicians and business leaders world-wide show no signs of being willing or able to address the fundamental cause of Climate Change, i.e. the amount of Carbon Dioxide we are pumping into the atmosphere.
I feel for the people who live on the Somerset Levels, which have been underwater for about six weeks now. They may have a point that increased dredging of their rivers and drainage canals might have lessened the flooding. Having said that there are others who say that, with the volume of water involved, it wouldn’t have made any difference. A more fundamental question is this; If this current pattern of winter weather becomes the norm, is trying to preserve this area, which is below sea level, as agricultural land practical, or should we let it revert to salt-marsh? Looking wider, we will need to make a choice between flooding agricultural land to absorb the excess waters in our rivers or allowing towns downstream to be flooded. Always remembering that all this costs money, and while the Daily Mail believes that “Something must be done”© the Daily Mail and a lot of the British public are not keen on the tax rises that may be required to fund such programmes.
The railway line to Cornwall can be routed inland. There is a line that was axed by Dr Beeching’s notorious cuts to the railway network that used to link Exeter to Plymouth by an alternative route. Apparently the rail bed is still more or less intact, and while it probably wouldn’t be cheap, it shouldn’t be any harder to do than reinstating the Waverley Line. Though I must admit that section of the line at Dawlish is quite spectacular.
Unfortunately I don’t have any answers, just questions. Any effective answers will ultimately need to come from politicians who can’t tell the truth, because we their electorate don’t want to hear it.
At least it has stopped raining for the time being, though it will be back on Tuesday, possibly in spades.