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Climate of opinion


The general impression from your article Climate change blamed as landslip incidents treble (NCE last week) is that, having seen the much greater number of landslips during the recent very wet winter, we should expect as many or even more if such winters continue.

That would be the opposite of the teaching of the late Professor Peter Lumb, who spent most of his working life in Hong Kong between the 1950s and 1980s, studying the soils and climate there together with landslips past and current.

I am not suggesting that the soils or the climate there are similar to those in Britain or that Hong Kong has recently suffered a change of climate.

But Hong Kong has a climate which can include some wide variations on the norm of hot wet summers, warm dry autumns, cool dry winters. It has damp misty weather in the spring, while typhoons, usually in the third quarter of the year, are on record for every month of the year.

Normally reservoirs were sufficient; but the driest summers necessitated restricting water supplies to as little as four hours out of 24. On the other hand, June 1972 brought a maximum recorded rainfall of 1m in four days and with it many landslips, two of which each caused some 70 deaths.

That was when Professor Lumb would expect the rain to reap the harvest of many slopes which had been deteriorating through the years after much higher than average rainfall.

And even if the succeeding year was equally wet, records would show the number of landslips to be back much nearer to average. Then, after five or 10 average years, a really wet year would again have a sizeable crop to harvest.

JH Dodwell 40 Stirling Road, Stamford, Lincs PE9 2XF

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