In this country, scientists have been historically averse to link weather disasters — such as flooding caused by huge storms — to climate change.
The scientific cliche is well-known: No single meteorological event can be caused by climate change.
A leading theorist of climate communications, Naomi Oreskes of UC San Diego argues that the general public is desperate for leadership on the subject of climate change, and that by always qualifying away the linkage between climate and meteorology, scientists are undermining their own authority.
In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times last year after Typhoon Haiyan, she wrote:
When we emphasize the uncertainty, we appear to justify a course of no action on climate.
Instead, we might focus on the reality of the threat that warming poses, even though we can't say with any certainty that it caused the particular case in front of us. We might focus on the fact that we expect warming to cause exactly this type of extremely intense typhoon to occur more often — as well as a range of other harmful and irreversible consequences, some of them quite certain.
Well, In the UK this year, after the worst flooding in 248 years, Dame Julia Sligo — the chief scientist of the Met Office — did exactly what Oreskes counseled,and bluntly warned that climate change means more such disasters to come, and unapologetically linked climate change to the flooding.
Climate change is almost certainly to blame for the severe weather that has caused chaos across Britain in recent weeks, the Met Office's chief scientist has said.
Dame Julia Slingo said there was not yet "definitive proof" but that "all the evidence" pointed to a role for the phenomenon.
Climate change is almost certainly to blame for the severe weather that has caused chaos across Britain in recent weeks, the Met Office's chief scientist has said [to Rupert Murdoch's SkyNews network].
Dame Julia said the southerly track of the storms had been something of surprise.
She said: "They have been slamming into the southern part of Britain. We also know that the subtropical, tropical Atlantic is now quite a lot warmer than it was 50 years ago.
"The air that enters this storm system comes from that part of the Atlantic where it is obviously going to be warmer and carrying more moisture.
"This is just basic physics.'"
To an audience at the American Geophysical Union a couple of years ago, Dame Sligo said that her office was working on ways to forecast extreme events. Be interesting to find out if that system worked for the UK this year.
Here's a picture of one creature that might actually enjoy flooding — in Worcester last week, from the Daily Mail.