Global warming making wet winters more likely

May 01, 2014 by Alex Peel
Global warming making wet winters more likely

That's the conclusion of new research at the University of Oxford, which used spare capacity on thousands of volunteers' home computers to assess how greenhouse-gas emissions influence our weather.

The extra computer power allowed them to run tens of thousands of simulations of possible weather, both with and without the influence of man-made emissions.

Their findings suggest that what would have been a once in a century rainfall event, can now be considered a 1-in-80-year event. In other words, the risk of extreme rainfall in any given winter has risen by 25 per cent. Researchers say it is a modest, but statistically robust rise.

There was some variation in the models, depending on how the pattern of man-made warming was represented. In some, the likelihood of wet winters showed no change or even went down. But taken as whole, when run with man-made greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, the models favour wetter winters.

The news comes after much of the UK experienced its wettest winter on record in early 2014. As a string of ferocious storms barrelled into Southern England, many rivers across the region swelled to their highest-ever recorded levels. More than 5,000 homes and business were flooded.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron said he 'very much suspected' that the floods were linked to . The comments sparked a fierce national debate over the issue.

'It will never be possible to say that any specific flood was caused by human-induced climate change,' says Dr Friederike Otto, one of the Oxford researchers involved with the project. 'We have shown, however, that the odds of getting an extremely wet winter are changing due to man-made climate change.'

'Past have 'loaded the weather dice' so the probability of the south of England experiencing extremely wet winters again has slightly increased.'

But she cautions against drawing direct conclusions from this about the risk of future flood damage.

'Total winter rainfall, although useful as a benchmark, is not the direct cause of flood damage, so we are working with partners, such as the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, to explore the implications of our results for river flows, flooding and ultimately property damage,' she adds.

Explore further: Britain: Atlantic 'storm factory' brews up more wet winter weather

Provided by PlanetEarth Online search and more info website

3.6 /5 (12 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New approach needed to deal with increased flood risk

Apr 17, 2014

Considering the impacts of climate change on flood risk may not be effective unless current risk is managed better, according to new research from the University of Bristol published today in the Journal ...

Recommended for you

Hopes, fears, doubts surround Cuba's oil future

16 hours ago

One of the most prolific oil and gas basins on the planet sits just off Cuba's northwest coast, and the thaw in relations with the United States is giving rise to hopes that Cuba can now get in on the action.

New challenges for ocean acidification research

Dec 19, 2014

Over the past decade, ocean acidification has received growing recognition not only in the scientific area. Decision-makers, stakeholders, and the general public are becoming increasingly aware of "the other carbon dioxide ...

Compromises lead to climate change deal

Dec 19, 2014

Earlier this month, delegates from the various states that make up the UN met in Lima, Peru, to agree on a framework for the Climate Change Conference that is scheduled to take place in Paris next year. For ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.