A number of new studies have attributed increasingly intense storms to climate change.
Scientists studying storms in the United Kingdom have confirmed what they’ve long feared. According to a report from the Independent, the storms which caused widespread flooding in Somerset Levels in 2014 were made much more likely, and probably more intense, because of climate change.
Scientists have warned that global warming will lead to more intense storms with bigger and more devastating flooding events for years, and the evidence for their case is beginning to mount. The recent study showed that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased the likelihood of extreme flooding events by as much as 43 percent, largely due to the atmosphere’s increased capacity to retain moisture with higher temperatures.
According to Dr. Friederike Otto, from Oxford University, “What was once a 1 in 100-year event in a world without climate change is now a 1 in 70-year event.” Dr. Otto and his co-authors published the first research paper that has implicated climate change in a specific flooding event.
2013 and 2014 were wet years for Britain. During the winter, heavy rainfalls led to massive floods in Somerset, Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, and the Thames Valley. More than 5,000 homes and storefronts were inundated by the rains, and losses totaled more than 450 million pounds.
Logic dictates that no single storm can be attributed to climate change; a storm is a function of the weather, whereas climate refers to trends in the weather over time. The study did, however, provide evidence that a warming global climate made these flooding events more likely. If temperatures had stayed the same over pre-industrial levels, storms of this magnitude may not have happened at all.
“We can definitely say with climate change that the issue of flooding isn’t going to go away. As a society we need to think hard about the question of our vulnerability and exposure to flooding,” said Dr. Otto.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, used complex computer models to arrive at its conclusions. A press release from the University of Oxford describing the details of the study can be found here.