Westcountry weather forecaster Bill Giles rejects claims of 'new type of rain'
Westcountry weatherman Bill Giles has waded into a row over claims that the country is experiencing a "new type of rain".
The veteran Met Office forecaster, who was born in Dittisham, near Dartmouth, has attacked Lord Chris Smith, the chairman of the Environment Agency, after he was reported to have blamed the growing threat of flooding on a new kind of precipitation, known as convective rain.
The comments come after Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, where flooding was severe, said Lord Smith's words were an "insult to the intelligence" of his constituents.
Mr Giles, 73, who was head weather presenter at the BBC between 1983 and 2000, has criticised Lord Smith – a former Culture Secretary under Labour, who disputes the remarks – arguing that far from being new, the phenomenon has been a regular feature of the British weather since the "beginning of time".
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In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph this week, Mr Giles said that the term is merely a way of describing a type of intense rainfall that typically occurs on warm summer days.
He wrote: "There is nothing new about convective rain. Perhaps next time he should get a meteorologist to check his answers so that he doesn't appear so ignorant of simple straightforward facts.
"I agree that we must be prepared for flooding, not because there is a new kind of rain, but because of the warming of the atmosphere which makes the old type of rain more intense."
Mr Giles says that Lord Smith's comments show that he has "no concept or knowledge of meteorology".
He added: "How on earth could we have appointed as chairman of the Environment Agency someone who so obviously doesn't understand basic meteorology [like] Lord Smith?" Lord Smith, a Cambridge English graduate, had been attempting to explain the growing risk of flooding in Britain in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph last week when he is said to have claimed that a new type of rain was rapidly filling up rivers and drains.
"Instead of rain sweeping in a curtain across the country, we are getting convective rain, which sits in one place and just dumps itself in a deluge over a long period of time," he is reported to have told the paper.
Yesterday the Environment Agency said Lord Smith has consistently said that we are seeing "increasing instances" of convective rain, not that it was a new weather pattern.
"Heavier rain from convection naturally causes more flooding, and we may well see this type of rain more frequently," a spokesman added.
"Met office preliminary analysis shows that with an increase in global temperature heavy rainfall is likely to become more frequent, as a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture.
"This is especially true for convective rain which can stay over one area for long periods, as opposed to frontal rain which tends to move across the country without deluging any one area for sustained periods."
Lord Smith's words were said to have been reminiscent of British Rail's infamous "wrong type of snow" excuse.