A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Scots beat English in careful science reporting.....

A sound piece of reporting from Scotland on Sunday (the Sunday issue of The Scotsman): 'We could face flooding of our own making' (Scotland on Sunday, August 22):

"Mounds of mud are still slowly being shifted in Boscastle as the recovery of the flood-hit Cornish village slowly continues. The torrential river that tore out trees and pushed cars like playthings through the village last Monday has now receded, but the long process of repairing the damage, expected to cost millions of pounds, has just begun.

Initial estimates found three homes and shops were destroyed, eight remained in a 'very dangerous state' and 50 vehicles had been written off. The cost to the village in the long term, heavily dependant on tourists, has not been calculated.

Amateur video, later screened worldwide, caught the drama as the torrent of water came after two rivers burst their banks when 75mm, the average August rainfall, fell in just two hours. More than 150 people were airlifted to safety from stranded cars, rooftops and trees where they had climbed to escape the flood.

But experts point out that such events, though extraordinary, are not 'freaks'. In the wider perspective, such events occur over a regular period.

Dr Keith Weston, senior lecturer in Atmospheric and Environmental Science at the University of Edinburgh and vice president of the Royal Meteorological Society, said: 'It is certainly unusual but not a freak as such. If you go back over 10 years there will be occasions where there has been equally unusual weather. We have had floods before in different areas - it just requires some combination of events in one particular area.'

Floods on such a dramatic scale have always been part of nature. The Boscastle floods came 52 years to the day after the 1952 flood at Lynmouth in Devon, where 34 people were killed. Landslides had dammed tributary streams on Exmoor and unleashed a 12-foot wall of water when the blockages were washed away.....'(read on)

It is interesting that, in my experience, from 'global warming' to GM, The Scotsman has consistently presented a more thoughtful level of science reporting than that exhibited by most London-based newspapers. Perhaps, thank goodness, it is less under the influence of Islingtonian metropolitan muppet chic! Well done The Scotsman, whatever the reason.

Philip, sadly far too early for a strong peaty, seaweedy, single malt. Coffee must suffice.....

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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