This week will see a fortnight’s rainfall in just 24-36 hours in portions of the UK. Such an amount of rain can trigger flooding, drinking water contamination, overloading sewage systems, and more, is it related to global climate change? What are the major factors influencing UK weather? Even more critical, what about the Gulf Stream? Is it slowing? If it stopped would the UK and Europe be plunged into another ice age?

Weather myths

Every so often, especially in the UK, some reporter again discovers that the Gulf Stream protects the UK and Europe from the next ice age.

Usually, this is in conjunction with some science news about changing weather patterns in the North Atlantic and combined this brings about another of the periodic panics about how climate change will result in the end of the Gulf Stream and burial of the UK in glaciers.

The only problem is that this is just another urban myth with no proof. the ocean moderates the climate but It isn’t true that the UK’s weather is heavily dependent on the Gulf Stream bringing warm water from the Caribbean. According to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, the myth started around the time of the US Civil War when, entirely without evidence of any kind, an American soldier, Matthew Fontaine Maury, began the story.

Published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society in 2002, a detailed analysis showed:

> Almost half the winter temperature difference across the North Atlantic is caused by the eastward atmospheric transport of heat released by the ocean that was absorbed and stored in the summer.

> Another 50% or so is caused by the stationary waves of the atmospheric flow.

> Ocean heat transport contributes a small warming across the basin.

The report said, “observations and climate models …[showed], at the latitudes of Europe, the atmospheric heat transport exceeds that of the ocean by several fold.” Winters it can be 10X more. The conclusion was, “The atmosphere, not the ocean, that does the lion's share of the work ameliorating winter climates in the extratropics.

We also found that the seasonal absorption and release of heat by the ocean has a much larger impact on regional climates than does the movement of heat by ocean currents.”

Amazingly, the study showed that the Rocky Mountains, not the Gulf Stream, is most responsible for North Atlantic climate due to conservation of angular momentum! The mountain range forces air to flow south, then, as a reaction, turn north further east. “The mountains force cold air south into eastern North America and warm air north into western Europe.

This island earth.

No man is an island, but the UK is. Obviously, the UK is made up of islands and that is a major mitigating factor in its weather - being surrounded by a gigantic body of water moderates temperatures and provides a massive moisture reservoir.

And, let’s face it, look at a map, every country is on an island, some are just big and called continents.

In many regions of the world, especially the developed world, the weather is not very different today than it was 100 years ago, but because of the move from farms to cities and the amount of building on the sea coasts, normal weather is much more damaging and is more often life-threatening simply because people have changed. Remember that before the flapper age of the 1920’s when thin-was-in and having a pale skin was no longer a sign of being a member of the upper class, people went to great lengths to not look as if they were tan because they were forced to work outdoors.

By the time of the atomic tests in the Pacific, tans had become so sexy that the French designer who popularised the small two-piece swimsuit for women named them Bikini, after Bikini Atoll was destroyed by a nuclear bomb explosion. That, along with the demise of Victorian “bathing machines” and head-to-toe bathing suits caused once devalued ocean front properties to become popular with anyone who could afford them.