So, how bad a summer is it?


Sir, – In the years while I learned to read, in the 1950s, there was a book around our house titled How to Lie with Statistics. It was humorous, I believe, and though I never read it, the title’s proposition stuck in my mind.

Dick Ahlstrom’s article (Science Today, August 23rd) suggesting that this summer will statistically fall within the “normal” proves that the deceptive science is alive and thriving.

I have been farming and gardening in Ireland for 40 years, with a two-year break in Scotland in the 1970s, and there is no doubt in my mind that this is the worst summer season I have seen. I am in the south east of the Midlands, where rainfall appears to have been heavier, but this generalisation of statistics is seriously misleading.

Our fields that are generally dry but subject to flooding were entirely covered with water for three extended periods. There were no three days together to save hay until the third week in July, and then a delay of a few hours destroyed the opportunity. Much silage was contaminated by soil in sodden fields and corn yields are decimated in fields that couldn’t be sprayed.

The weather is always a struggle but to call this “normal”, and to suggest that our impression of a bad summer is due to delusional expectations, seriously undermines the credibility of modern meteorology.

New concepts are needed – I am sure statistics can tell the truth, too. – Yours, etc,


Callan, Co Kilkenny.