Prophets of gloom confounded

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"The South-east of England will face a very difficult summer if we do not get at least 75 per cent of normal winter rainfall," - Dr Geoff Mance, water management chief of the Government's Environment Agency, November 1997. It did.

"There's no way we can say the drought is over," - Mike Walker, head of policy for the Water Companies Association, July 1997. He was speaking after the wettest June in more than 100 years.

''We would expect less rain to fall here as the climate changes

world-wide, but not this much - it's already greater than we'd anticipate,'' - Dr Geoffrey Jenkins of the Meteorological Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction, May 1997.

''Our climate is inherently capricious, but lately it does seem to have been moving towards the extremes of its range,'' - Terry Marsh, of the Institute of Hydrology, April 1997.