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Natural Climatic Variability: Northwest Europe
Jones, P.D. and Briffa, K.R. 2006. Unusual climate in northwest Europe during the period 1730 to 1745 based on instrumental and documentary data. Climatic Change 79: 361-379.

Heat waves and cold spells. It makes little difference to climate alarmists, who say all such aberrations are due to CO2-induced global warming, as anything out of the ordinary is fodder for their catastrophe mill: it is bad, and it is a result of human activity. The new study of Jones and Briffa (2006), however, shows just how short-sighted such unfounded claims can be.

What was done
In the words of the authors, "this study focuses on one of the most interesting times of the early instrumental period in northwest Europe (from 1730-1745), attempting to place the extremely cold year of 1740 and the unusual warmth of the 1730s decade in a longer context." It relies primarily on "long (and independent) instrumental records together with extensive documentary evidence," as well as "unpublished subjective circulation charts developed by the late Hubert Lamb" and "others recently developed using more objective modern reconstruction techniques."

What was learned
Still quoting the two researchers from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (who are by no means climate skeptics), "the period 1740-1743 has been shown to be the driest period of the last 280 years [our italics], with the year 1740 the coldest recorded over the British Isles since comparable records began in 1659 [our italics]." What is more, they note that the record cold of the year 1740 "is all the more remarkable [our italics] given the anomalous warmth of the 1730s [our italics]," which was "the warmest [our italics] in three of the long temperatures series (Central England Temperature, De Bilt and Uppsala) until the 1990s occurred [our italics]."

What it means
Jones and Briffa say their study "highlights how estimates of natural climatic variability in this region based on more recent data may not fully encompass the possible known range," stating that "consideration of variability in these records from the early 19th century, therefore, may underestimate the range that is possible." Consequently, as with droughts and floods, the instrumental record is simply not long enough to provide a true picture of natural temperature variability in terms of what is possible in the absence of the influence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

Reviewed 28 March 2007