Sunday, March 03, 2013

Refereed Journals: Do They Insure Quality or Enforce Orthodoxy?  The present system, if continued, may seriously impede, if not stop, the advance of science

The paper below, by Frank J. Tipler Professor of Mathematical Physics Tulane University New Orleans, was published in 2003 and there have been a few green shoots of doubt about the academic publication process since then.  There has been no systematic change however so the points made are still true to life.

My own experience reinforces everything he says.   With just one highly technical  exception NONE of my papers appeared in "mainstream" (APA) journals.  And the reason is glaringly obvious.  I have always been unwaveringly critical of Leftist ideas, which are the orthodoxy in academe.  So nearly all of my 200+ published papers were published in just  three journals with sympathetic editors.  Amusingly, however two of those journals are very widely circulated and cited.  So my papers still got good exposure and appeared in journals that were highly creditable.  As soon as the editors changed, however, my papers ceased to be accepted!

So the bias in the academic journals towards global warming is actually only one subset of a larger and highly discreditable phenomenon.  The excerpts from Tipler below do  therefore reinforce the view that ANY overall bias in the academic journals is to be distrusted

There is however now no reason to rely on academic journals as a path to truth.  The internet has made ALL ideas highly accessible and many "incorrect" ideas get good exposure.   So one can readily find all sides to a question aired and make up one's mind based on the balance of the evidence rather than on just one side of it.  Let the defenders of orthodoxy keep mumbling  to one another in their journals  while the rest of us  get on with the real work of understanding the world

NOTE on Christianity:

Tipler is rather amusing  in reporting the way Christianity is regarded with great horror among academics.  I can however confirm the basic truth of what he says.  I have been an unwavering atheist for the whole of my adult life so comments to me on the matter by colleagues have always been unguarded.  And their contempt for Christianity has been almost universal.

I on the other hand have always defended Christian ideas as creditable.  Although I have come to my own conclusions, I feel no need to be dogmatic about it.  And, as I have said before, I think there is better evidence for the divinity of Christ than there is for dangerous global warming!

I shall offer evidence that "peer" review is not peer review: the referee is quite often not as intellectually able as the author whose work he judges. We have pygmies standing in judgment on giants.

Einstein's experience is illustrative. He published three super breakthrough papers in 1905. One presented to the world his theory of (special) relativity. A second paper showed that light had to consist of particles that we now call photons; using this fact, he explained the emission of electrons from metals when illuminated by light. Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for this explanation. The third paper explained the vibration of dust particles in air by attributing the motion to molecules of air hitting the dust particles. Einstein's explanation of this "Brownian motion" allowed properties of the molecules to be calculated, and it was Einstein's explanation that finally convinced physicists that atoms actually existed. Not bad for one year!

And Einstein wrote these papers in his spare time, after he returned home from his paying job as a patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland. All three papers were published in Annalen der Physik, one of the major physics journals in Germany. But none of the papers were sent to referees. Instead the editors-either the editor in chief, Man Planck, or the editor for theoretical physics, Wilhelm Wien-made the decision to publish. It is unlikely that whoever made the decision spent much time on whether to publish. Almost every paper submitted was published.

 And if Annalen der Physik rejected a paper, for whatever reason, any professional German physicist had an alternative: Zeitschrift fr Physik. This journal would publish any paper submitted by any member of the German Physical Society. This journal published quite a few worthless papers. But it also published quite a few great papers, among them Heisenberg's first paper on the Uncertainty Principle, a central idea in quantum mechanics. There was no way in which referees or editors could stop an idea from appearing in the professional journals.

In illustration of this, the great Danish physicist Niels Bohr said, according to Abraham Pais (The Genius of Science, p. 307), that if a physicist has an idea that seems crazy and he hesitates to publish so that someone else publishes the idea first and gets the credit, he has no one to blame but himself. In other words, it never occurred to Bohr that referees or editors could stop the publication of a new idea.

Bohr would not say that today. If one reads memoirs or biographies of physicists who made their great breakthroughs after, say, 1950, one is struck by how often one reads that "the referees rejected for publication the paper that later won me the Nobel Prize." One example is Rosalyn Yalow, who described how her Nobel-prize-winning paper was received by the journals. "In 1955 we submitted the paper to Science.... The paper was held there for eight months before it was reviewed. It was finally rejected. We submitted it to the Journal of Clinical Investigations, which also rejected it." (Quoted from The Joys of Research, edited by Walter Shropshire, p. 109).

Another example is Gnter Blobel, who in a news conference given just after he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine, said that the main problem one encounters in 4 one's research is "when your grants and papers are rejected because some stupid reviewer rejected them for dogmatic adherence to old ideas." According to the New York Times (October 12, 1999, p. A29), these comments "drew thunderous applause from the hundreds of sympathetic colleagues and younger scientists in the auditorium."

In an article for Twentieth Century Physics, a book commissioned by the American Physical Society (the professional organization for U.S. physicists) to describe the great achievements of 20th century physics, the inventor of chaos theory, Mitchell J. Feigenbaum, described the reception that his revolutionary papers on chaos theory received:

"This has been my full experience. Papers on established subjects are immediately accepted. Every novel paper of mine, without exception, has been rejected by the refereeing process. The reader can easily gather that I regard this entire process as a false guardian and wastefully dishonest. (Volume III, p. 1850)."

Earlier in the same volume on 20th century physics, in a history of the development of optical physics, the invention of the laser by Theodore Maiman was described. The result was so important that it was announced in the New York Times on July 7, 1960. But the leading American physics journal, Physical Review Letters, rejected Maiman's paper on how to make a laser (p. 1426).

Scientific eminence is no protection from a peer review system gone wild. John Bardeen, the only man to ever have won two Nobel Prizes in physics, had difficulty publishing a theory in low-temperature solid state physics (the area of one of his Prizes) that went against the established view. But rank hath its privileges. Bardeen appealed to his friend David Lazarus, who was editor in chief for the American Physical Society. Lazarus investigated and found that "the referee was totally out of line. I couldn't believe it. John really did have a hard time with [his] last few papers and it was not his fault at all. They were important papers, they did get published, but they gave him a harder time than he should have had." (True Genius: The Life and Science of John Bardeen, p. 300).

Stephen W. Hawking is the world's most famous physicist. According to his first wife Jane (Music to Move the Stars: A Life with Stephen Hawking, p. 239), when Hawking submitted to Nature what is generally regarded as his most important paper, the paper on black hole evaporation, the paper was initially rejected. I have heard from colleagues who must remain nameless that when Hawking submitted to Physical Review what I personally regard as his most important paper, his paper showing that a most fundamental law of physics called "unitarity" would be violated in black hole evaporation, it, too, was initially rejected.

Today it is known that the Hawaiian Islands were formed sequentially as the Pacific plate moved over a hot spot deep inside the Earth. The theory was first developed in the paper by an eminent Princeton geophysicist, Tuzo Wilson: "I . sent [my paper] to the Journal of Geophysical Research. They turned it down.. They said my paper had no mathematics in it, no new data, and that it didn't agree with the current views. Therefore, it must be no good.

Apparently, whether one gets turned down or not depends largely on the reviewer. The editors too, if they don't see it your way, or if they think it's something unusual, may turn it down. Well, this annoyed me, and instead of keeping the rejection letter, I threw it into the wastepaper basket. I sent the manuscript to the newly founded Canadian Journal of Physics. That was not a very obvious place to send it, but I was a Canadian physicist. I thought they would publish almost anything I wrote, so I sent it there and they published it!" (Quoted from The Joys of Research, p. 130.)

The most important development in cloning after the original breakthrough of Dolly the Sheep was the cloning of mice. The result was once again described on the front page of the New York Times, where it was also mentioned that the paper was rejected for publication by the leading American science journal, Science.

Everyone knows today that the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago when a giant asteroid hit the Earth. Science did publish the article presenting this theory, but only after a fierce fight with the referees, as one of these referees later confessed.

On the Nobel Prize web page one can read the autobiographies of recent laureates. Quite a few complain that they had great difficulty publishing the ideas that won them the Prize. One does not find similar statements by Nobel Prize winners earlier in the century.

Why is there more resistance to new ideas today? Why Does Peer Review Suppress New Ideas Today? Philip Anderson, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics opines that "in the early part of the postwar [post-WWII] period [a scientist's] career was science-driven, motivated mostly by absorption with the great enterprise of discovery, and by genuine curiosity as to how nature operates. By the last decade of the century far too many, especially of the young people, were seeing science as a competitive interpersonal game, in which the winner was not the one who was objectively right as [to] the nature of scientific reality, but the one who was successful at getting grants, publishing in Physical Review Letters, and being noticed in the news pages of Nature, Science, or Physics Today.... [A] general deterioration in quality, which came primarily from excessive specialization and careerist sociology, meant quite literally that more was worse." (20th Century Physics, pp. 2029).

 In the first part of the 20th century, a grant rejection, like a paper rejection, would not stop an idea from being presented or from being developed. In this earlier period, a tenured professorship came with a small amount of research funds. Since the universities of the time were not dependent on government grant money, tenure decisions were not dominated by whether a scholar up for tenure obtained a grant. Now most American universities, even the liberal arts colleges, are desperately dependent on government grants.

Pushing an idea that is contrary to current opinion is not a good way to obtain large grants. I have experienced this form of discrimination first hand. When I came up for tenure at Tulane in 1983, I was already controversial. At the time I had proposed that general relativity  might allow time travel, and I had published a series of papers claiming that we might be the only intelligent life form in the visible universe. At the time, these claims were far outside the mainstream. (They are standard claims now. Kip Thorne of Cal Tech has argued for the possibility of time travel, using the same mechanism I originally proposed. The scientific community is now largely skeptical of extraterrestrial intelligence, if for no other reason than the failure of the SETI radio searches.)

But my views made it very difficult to get an NSF grant. One reviewer of one of my grant proposals wrote that it would be inadvisable to award me a grant because I might spend some of the time working on my "crazy" ideas on ETI. I didn't get the grant. It began to look as if I wouldn't get tenure. I had a large number of papers published in refereed journals-including Physical Review Letters and Nature-but no government grants. For this reason, and for this reason alone (I was told later), the initial vote of the Tulane Physics Department was to deny me tenure.

But I had another grant proposal under consideration by the NSF. I called Rich Isaacson, the head of the Gravitation Division of the NSF, and told him about my situation. Rich called me a few weeks later, and told me that the referee reports for my proposal were "all over the map"-some reviewers said I was the most original relativity physicist since Einstein, and others said I was an incompetent crackpot. Rich said that in such a circumstance, he could act as he saw fit. He saw fit to fund my proposal. I had grant support! I also had tenure; the physics department reversed its negative vote.

But even at the time I worried that this sequence of events boded ill for science. Rich was the head of the only government agency that supplied funds for research in relativity physics. He knew that an influential minority of physicists thought well of my work (especially John Wheeler of Princeton, who is really the father of most relativity research in the U.S.). But what if I was engaged in a long-term project that had not definitely established itself? Except for the lack of a grant, I had impressed many of my colleagues as a capable physicist. But in today's science, this is not enough. It is absolutely essential to obtain a government grant.

 I got the grant-and tenure-only because a single man thought well of my work. If he did not, then I would not have gotten tenure. Nor would I have gotten tenure at any other American university.

 The most radical ideas are those that are perceived to support religion, specifically Judaism and Christianity. When I was a student at MIT in the late 1960s, I audited a course in cosmology from the physics Nobelist Steven Weinberg. He told his class that of the theories of cosmology, he preferred the Steady State Theory because "it least resembled the account in Genesis" (my emphasis).

 A recent poll of the members of the National Academy of Sciences, published in Scientific American, indicated that more than ninety percent are atheists. These men and women have built their entire worldview on atheism. They would be exceedingly reluctant to admit that any result of science could be valid if it even suggested that God could exist.

 I discovered this the hard way when I published my book The Physics of Immortality. The entire book is devoted to describing what the known laws of physics predict the far future of the universe will be like. Not once in the entire book do I use anything but the known physical laws, the laws of physics that are in all the textbooks, and which agree with all experiments conducted to date.

Unfortunately, in the book I gave reasons for believing that the final state of the universe-a state outside of space and time, and not material-should be identified with the Judeo-Christian God. (It would take a book to explain why!)

My scientific colleagues, atheists to a man, were outraged. Even though the theory of the final state of the universe involved only known physics, my fellow physicists refused even to discuss the theory. If the known laws of physics imply that God exists, then in their opinion, this can only mean that the laws of physics have to be wrong.

This past September, at a conference held at Windsor Castle, I asked the wellknown cosmologist Paul Davies what he thought of my theory. He replied that he could find nothing wrong with it mathematically, but he asked what justified my assumption that the known laws of physics were correct.

At the same conference, the famous physicist Freeman Dyson refused to discuss my theory-period. I would not encounter such refusals if I had not chosen to point out my theory's theological implications.

In the foreword to The Physics of Immortality, I included the standard acknowledgment of grant support. The government official (of Austria in this case) who provided funds to partially support my research told me that he had received enormous criticism from his fellow bureaucrats. They were outraged that a defense of Christianity was being supported by a respectable science organization.

The California Skeptics Society founder, Michael Shermer, informs me that a proposal to the NSF to fund the publication of all of Isaac Newton's to-date unpublished work on theology was rejected even though the proposal was made by one of the world's leading Newton scholars. The reason given, according to Shermer, was that it would be bad for science if it became generally known that the greatest scientist of all time actually believed in God.

Clearly, the scientific community is not open to any evidence or any theory that might even hint that God really exists and might actually act the in physical universe.


An alleged  skeptic decides that the grass is greener on the other side

He seems to have been skeptical because sea temperatures off California were falling.  As soon as he found a way out of that dilemma, he embraced authority, no doubt with great relief.  He makes no attempt to look at any other climate history.  And note that any "conversion" on Mr Lindsey's part is at least not recent.  He was already a Warmist four years ago

I was a global warming skeptic. I questioned the validity of the studies purporting to be factual. You see, since the 1970s seawater temperatures along the coastline of San Luis Obispo County weren't changing to any great extent. If anything, they've been slowly trending downward. What caused this condition if the oceans were supposedly warming?

After careful review of the wind data from the Diablo Canyon meteorological tower, I discovered that the northwesterly winds during the spring and summer months have slowly increased from decade to decade. These onshore winds produce greater amounts of upwelling and cooler seawater temperatures along our beaches.

Our northwesterly winds may have increased in response to a more intense area of low pressure that develops over the Great Central Valley of California as air temperatures warm, especially, during the spring and summer months. As that air rises, northwesterly winds flow from the Pacific to equalize the pressure difference between the ocean and the valley.

However, this condition is the least of the changes we are seeing. Record low amounts of ice in the Arctic Ocean, temperature records that fall like bowling pins, prolonged droughts, increasing wildfires and epic storms and floods have convinced me that the planet is warming at an unprecedented rate.

Historically, temperature changes of this magnitude have occurred over hundreds of thousands of years, not over a few decades!  All of these changes are in lockstep with increasing amounts of man-made carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

Over the last four Saturdays, I've attended a climate change workshop taught by Dr. Ray Weymann at the PG&E Energy Education Center in Avila Valley through the Lifelong Learners of the Central Coast. Ray is a retired Director and Chair of the Astronomy Department at the University of Arizona, and Director and Staff Member Emeritus of the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena.

Dr. Weymann debunked the notion that climate change was caused by increasing amounts of energy from the sun and not by human activities. If anything, the solar radiation from our star is slowly diminishing.  He also discredited the idea that there is no scientific consensus on climate change.

Over 95 percent of scientists working in disciplines contributing to studies of climate accept the fact that global warming is caused by human activities.

If you think that these warnings are only embraced by radical environmentalists, you may want to reevaluate your position.

The chief of naval operations, Adm. Gary Roughead, became so concerned with a warmer planet that he established Task Force Climate Change, led by Rear Adm. David Titley, the former oceanographer of the Navy. The goal of the task force is to ensure the U.S. Navy is ready to meet its mission in spite of a warmer ocean and increasing sea levels. Insurance companies along with many corporations, including PG&E, list climate change as one of their main concerns.


Another poll shows that most people no longer consider global warming a serious issue    

Concerns about the environment have reached a two-decade low since the start of the financial crisis, a global survey has revealed.

Fewer people now consider pollution, species loss and fresh water shortages to be 'very serious' problems than at any time since tracking began 20 years ago.

Fears over global warming are far lower than they were between 20003 and 2008, with less than one person in two regarding it as 'very serious'.

Concern about air and water pollution, as well as biodiversity, is significantly below where it was even in the Nineties, found the poll of more than 22,000 people in 22 countries.

Many of the sharpest falls have taken place in the past two years, as increased fears of economic meltdown pushed worries of man-made environmental catastrophe from the public consciousness.

Climate concern dropped first in industrialised countries, but this year's figures show that concern has now fallen in major developing economies such as Brazil and China as well.

The findings are drawn from the GlobeScan Radar annual tracking poll. A total of 22,812 people in 22 countries were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone during the second half of 2012.

Twelve of these countries have been regularly polled on environmental issues since 1992.


Study of Ice Age Bolsters Carbon and Warming Link (?)


Some  interesting admissions below not generally made public by Warmists:  1).  In the proxy record, warming came first, not CO2 rise.  And even in their "revised" findings they could not get it to go the other way around, which is what their theory implies;  2). They have no exact idea what era the gases in ice cores represent (if any.  They could be an amalgam of a long period)  -- so only the broadest inferences can be drawn from them  -- JR

A meticulous new analysis of Antarctic ice suggests that the sharp warming that ended the last ice age occurred in lock step with increases of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the latest of many indications that the gas is a powerful influence on the earth's climate.

Previous research suggested that as the world began to emerge from the depths of the ice age about 20,000 years ago, warming in Antarctica preceded changes in the global carbon dioxide level by something like 800 years.

That relatively long gap led some climate-change contrarians to assert that rising carbon dioxide levels were essentially irrelevant to the earth's temperature - a side effect of planetary warming, perhaps, but not the cause.

Mainstream climate scientists rejected that view and argued that carbon dioxide, while it certainly did not initiate the end of the ice age, played a vital role in the feedback loops that caused a substantial warming. Still, a long gap between initial increases of temperature and of carbon dioxide was somewhat difficult for the scientists to explain.

A wave of new research in the last few years has raised the likelihood that there was actually a small gap, if any.

The latest paper was led by Fr‚d‚ric Parrenin of the University of Grenoble, in France, and is scheduled for publication on Friday in the journal Science. Using relatively new, high-precision chemical techniques, his group sought to reconstruct the exact timing of the events that ended the ice age.

Scientists have long known that ice ages are caused by variations in the earth's orbit around the sun. When an intensification of sunlight initiates the end of an ice age, they believe, carbon dioxide is somehow flushed out of the ocean, causing a big amplification of the initial warming.

Since the 1980s, scientists have been collecting a climate record by extracting long cylinders of ice from the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, and from glaciers atop high mountains.

Air bubbles trapped in the ice give direct evidence of the past composition of the atmosphere. And subtle chemical variations in the ice itself give an indication of the local temperature at the time it was formed.

The trouble is that air does not get sealed in the ice until hundreds or even thousands of years after the snow has fallen, as it slowly gets buried and compressed.

That means the ice and the air bubbles trapped in it are not the same age, so it becomes tricky for scientists to put reconstructed atmospheric composition and reconstructed temperature onto a common time scale.

With its improved techniques, Dr. Parrenin's group sought to clarify the dating of previously recovered ice cores from Antarctica. Instead of the 800-year lag between temperature and carbon dioxide increases found in some previous research, their work suggests that the lag as the ice age started to end was less than 200 years, and possibly there was no lag at all.

"Before, because of these wrong results of CO2 lagging temperature, people were interpreting it as a weak role for CO2 in the climate variation of the past," Dr. Parrenin said.

Indeed, though most climate scientists have never seen the supposed gap as a major conceptual problem, it has been invoked repeatedly by American politicians who want to delay action on global warming.

More HERE.  The journal article is "Synchronous Change of Atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic Temperature During the Last Deglacial Warming"

Martin Hertzberg replies to Gillis (above)

Note Gillis' failure to ask the most obvious question about the data discussed in the article. Whether atmospheric CO2 increases lag temperature increases by 800 or 200 years during the several Interglacial Warmings of the last half-million years, the obvious question is where did all those increases come from at a time when human emission was essentially zero?

Gilles disparaging reference to "carbon dioxide ... somehow (being) flushed out of the ocean" shows that he doesn't have a clue and doesn't seem to care. But, of course, it is the same CO2 that bubbles out of your soda water as it is poured into a warm glass. The ocean contains 50 times more dissolved CO2 than is present in the atmosphere, and the ocean is indeed the source of both current and past changes in atmospheric CO2. As oceans warm, they emit CO2 and as they cool, they absorb it.

    Furthermore, the CO2 amplification theory fails miserably to account for the onset of the Glacial Cooling cycle that follows the Glacial Warming. How can the cooling begin when the the CO2 is at its maximum at the peak of the warming? With CO2 at its maximum, the warming should continue to be amplified indefinitely according to their theory. That theory has no mechanism for cooling to start.  But we have to forgive Gillis, Gore, Shakun and their friends: after all, they are in global warming business, glacial cooling is someone else's job!

    Instead of Gillis' "cherry-picked" factoids, a responsible newspaper would publish the conclusions of some 130 of the world's most distinguished scientists who have analyzed the totality of the data, and who state: "the incidence and severity of extreme weather events has not increased....the hypothesis that our emission of CO2 have caused or will cause global warming is not supported by the evidence". The identity of those scientists and their detailed conclusions are available here.

Received via email

Cooking Books for Hot Summers

The lack of good history at the BoM makes their pronouncements of "hottest" etc. of dubious worth. It should be remembered that Watkin Tench recorded Sydney temperatures very similar to the recent Sydney maximum in 1790. BoM records are a long way short of 1790 (Yes. 1790. Not 1970) -- JR

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has "confirmed" that it is been the hottest summer on record in Australia. But I'm sceptical.

The "record breaking hot summer" is apparently a statistical fact derived from simply averaging across 104 or 112 localities - depending on whom at the Bureau is providing the information.  No mention is made of how the temperatures for all of these localities have been "corrected" over recent years through the ACORN program [2]. In general the "corrections" are such that temperature records for specific localities pre-1970 are adjusted down, while records for specific localities post-1970 are adjusted up.

In their media release [1] attention is drawn to the town of Moomba in South Australia which apparently had the highest temperature recorded at 49.6 degrees C. Interestingly the station of Moomba only opened in 1972 - this of course is not reported in the same media release.

I've been trying to get a good long temperature series for some rainfall hindcasting that I've been doing for southeast Queensland, and have found that none of the Brisbane temperature recording stations have had any permanence. While once the main temperature recording station for Brisbane was in a bay-side suburb, in recent years the temperature recording station has been moved to the middle of East Brisbane just south of the city's CBD - where coincidently it tends to be hotter.

The Bureau's media release goes on to claim this summer follows a pattern of extremely hot summers in various parts of the world over the last few years.

The phenomena whereby government climate scientists correct the historical temperature record to support their theory of anthropogenic global warming is not unique to Australia. In fact the Australian Bureau of Meteorology may be simply following instructions from The Team. The Team are, of course, that notorious in-group who run policy at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC. In the leaked Climategate emails there is discussion involving The Team focused on the need to reduce global sea surface temperatures, SST, during the early part of the 20th Century by about 0.15 degree C.. By reducing, the blip in SST temperatures for example between 1940 and 1945, it is suggested that the rate and magnitude of global warming for the period 1910 to 1945 can be made to not exceed the rate and magnitude of warming for the 35 year to 2009.

Interestingly recent "corrections down" to historical global temperatures by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, GISS, have been concentrated in this period, Figure 1. The net effect of the adjustments has been to generate a more smoothly increasing global temperature since 1880, and reduce a warming blip that occurred in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

The US National Climatic Data Center has also been making "corrections" to the historical global temperature record, Figure 2.  Indeed through administrative means January 1915 can be made to appear significantly cooler than January 2013, Figure 2.

This used to be known as cooking the books, however, of course, our esteemed climate scientists have detailed justifications for all the changes they have been busily making to all the global historical temperature databases


So much for global warming! Four out of the last five British winters have been COLDER than average

Cold weather usually requires some degree of hibernation.

But if you feel like the urge to curl up in your duvet and never leave the house has been getting stronger over the past few winters, well - you're right.

Because four out of five of them have been chillier than average, according to the Met Office.

There is hope on the horizon, however. Today marks the beginning of spring - albeit in the meteorological calendar.

Met Office figures showed that the average temperature for this winter was 3.3C (38F), 0.4C below the 30-year seasonal average of 3.7C (39F).

With the exception of 2011/12, which was milder at 4.6C (40F), every winter since 2007/08 has been colder than the average. The winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 were particularly chilly, with average temperatures of 1.6C (35F) and 2.4C (36F) respectively.

But forecasters say the recent crop of cold winters is part of normal weather patterns.

Both 2006/07 and 2007/08 were very mild winters, with mean temperatures of 5.6C (42F) and 4.9C (41F).

Forecaster Helen Chivers said a cyclical phenomenon known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) could be contributing to the colder winters.

This describes the pattern of high and low pressure above Iceland and the Azores. In years when air pressure is high above Iceland, Britain tends to get colder winds blown from the north. When it is higher over the Azores, Britain basks in warmer air.

She said: `This is the classic example of the variability that we can see in the British weather. If you look back past the last five years, then three out of the last seven winters were milder than average, while 2006/07 was the second warmest on record. The recent trend does suggest there are natural cycles that influence our weather, with a negative NAO also occurring in the 1960s and 1980s and resulting in colder winters.'

She explained that this winter was a season of `two halves', with more rain falling in December than in January and February combined. She added: `This winter being slightly colder than average does not tell the whole story.

`The first half of winter, the temperatures were normal but it was a mixture of sunshine and heavy rain, which led to flooding. But after mid-January, we have had cold and snowy weather.

`The chilly spell continued, which has pushed the average temperatures down, but February was dry.'

But the weather should soon be improving. She said: `Temperatures are returning to normal after the weekend, up to 12C (54F) with the very cold weather now coming to an end. March is looking mixed, with colder weather perhaps returning in a couple of weeks' time.'




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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