MURAL - Maynooth University Research Archive Library

    Multi-century trends to wetter winters and drier summers in the England and Wales precipitation series explained by observational and sampling bias in early records

    Murphy, Conor and Wilby, Robert L. and Matthews, Tom K.R. and Thorne, Peter and Broderick, Ciaran and Fealy, Rowan and Hall, Julia and Harrigan, Shaun and Jones, Phil D. and McCarthy, Gerard and MacDonald, Neil and Noone, Simon and Ryan, Ciara (2019) Multi-century trends to wetter winters and drier summers in the England and Wales precipitation series explained by observational and sampling bias in early records. International Journal of Climatology, 40. pp. 610-619. ISSN 0899-8418

    Download (2MB) | Preview

    Share your research

    Twitter Facebook LinkedIn GooglePlus Email more...

    Add this article to your Mendeley library


    Globally, few precipitation records extend to the 18th century. The England Wales Precipitation (EWP) series is a notable exception with continuous monthly records from 1766. EWP has found widespread use across diverse fields of research including trend detection, evaluation of climate model simulations, as a proxy for mid-latitude atmospheric circulation, a predictor in long-term European gridded precipitation data sets, the assessment of drought and extremes, tree-ring reconstructions and as a benchmark for other regional series. A key finding from EWP has been the multi-centennial trends towards wetter winters and drier summers. We statistically reconstruct seasonal EWP using independent, quality-assured temperature, pressure and circulation indices. Using a sleet and snow series for the UK derived by Profs. Gordon Manley and Elizabeth Shaw to examine winter reconstructions, we show that precipitation totals for pre-1870 winters are likely biased low due to gauge under-catch of snowfall and a higher incidence of snowfall during this period. When these factors are accounted for in our reconstructions, the observed trend to wetter winters in EWP is no longer evident. For summer, we find that pre-1820 precipitation totals are too high, likely due to decreasing network density and less certain data at key stations. A significant trend to drier summers is not robustly present in our reconstructions of the EWP series. While our findings are more certain for winter than summer, we highlight (a) that extreme caution should be exercised when using EWP to make inferences about multi-centennial trends, and; (b) that assessments of 18th and 19th Century winter precipitation should be aware of potential snow biases in early records. Our findings underline the importance of continual re-appraisal of established long-term climate data sets as new evidence becomes available. It is also likely that the identified biases in winter EWP have distorted many other long-term European precipitation series.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: data quality; drier summers; England Wales Precipitation; Gordon Manley; historical climate; sleet and snow; wetter winters;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Geography
    Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Institutes > Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units, ICARUS
    Item ID: 10972
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Rowan Fealy
    Date Deposited: 26 Aug 2019 14:29
    Journal or Publication Title: International Journal of Climatology
    Publisher: Wiley
    Refereed: Yes
    Funders: Science Foundation Ireland
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

    Repository Staff Only(login required)

    View Item Item control page


    Downloads per month over past year

    Origin of downloads