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A resident cycles through deep water after the river Thames flooded the village of Datchet, southern England Feb. 10, 2014. (REUTERS/Eddie Keogh) A resident cycles through deep water after the river Thames flooded the village of Datchet, southern England Feb. 10, 2014. (REUTERS/Eddie Keogh)  

Top UK scientist criticized by peers for saying floods caused by global warming

Britain’s top climate scientist is being criticized for linking the recent deluge of winter storms and floods to global warming.

After the UK’s Met Office released a report on “extreme weather,” the office’s chief scientist Dame Julia Slingo said that “all the evidence” pointed to global warming playing a role in the harsh winter weather.

“In a nutshell, while there is no definitive answer for the current weather patterns that we have seen, all the evidence suggests that climate change has a role to play in it,” Slingo said.

Slingo’s remarks came after Prime Minister David Cameron said he “very much suspected” a connection between harsher winters and global warming. Scientists, however, have criticized Slingo, arguing that there’s not enough evidence to link extreme weather to global warming.

“What Dame Julia says goes, at least by implication, beyond what most climate scientists are willing to say,” one academic told the Times newspaper. “I find it very hard to look inside her mind as to what made her think that was a sensible thing to say.”

“I would be reluctant to go out and say any one instance is primarily attributable to climate change, but we are going to see adverse effects,” said Lord May of Oxford, a former chief scientific adviser to the government who now sits on the Committee on Climate Change.

The UK has been hit by fierce winter storms and widespread flooding this winter. the Met Office said it was one of the most exceptional periods of winter rainfall in the last 248 years. In December and January the southeast and central parts of England saw nearly 14.7 inches of rainfall — the wettest two-month period from 1910.

While it’s not clear if this one particularly harsh winter can be linked to man-made global warming, Slingo went ahead and subtly made the link — which critics derided.

“She’s a very senior official. She ought to have the experience, the judgment, to know that if she’s going to make comments like that it can be taken out of context,” Douglas Carswell, a Conservative Member of Parliament and former environmentalist turned climate skeptic.

It was only two years ago that Slingo claimed that global warming would cause winters to be drier and colder, and not wetter like the country is currently experiencing. This is, of course, when the country was going through a very dry and cold winter in 2012.

Slingo told UK members of Parliament that shrinking Arctic sea ice coverage was one of the factors driving the past trend of colder and drier winters.

The Guardian reported in 2012 that: “The south-east and other parts of England are experiencing especially dry conditions after months of below-average rainfall, with some water companies pledging on Monday to introduce hosepipe bans to conserve water.”

The southeastern part of the UK experienced torrential downpours this winter, in contrast to what they were experiencing just two winters ago.

In 2012, Slingo told UK Parliament there was “increasing evidence in the last few months of that depletion of ice, in particular in the Bering and Kara seas, can plausibly impact on our winter weather and lead to colder winters over northern Europe.”

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