UK Met Office: Increased Chance for “Unprecedented” Rain

July 29, 2017

When a series of unusual storms battered the UK in 2014, I profiled it here.

New research looking at that year’s events suggests it was not a one-off, but part of the new changed-climate normal for the UK.

Above, look for Sara Penrhyn Jones interview footage with her neighbor, Glaciologist Alun Hubbard, who had had his own roof blown off just the night before by a storm.

BBC:

There’s an increased risk of “unprecedented” winter downpours such as those that caused extensive flooding in 2014, the UK Met Office says.

Their study suggests there’s now a one in three chance of monthly rainfall records being broken in England and Wales in winter.

The estimate reflects natural variability plus changes in the UK climate as a result of global warming.

But a supercomputer was needed to understand the scale of increased risk.

Across the winter of 2013-14, a series of storms hit the UK leading to extensive flooding in many parts. The amount of rain that fell in much of southern England and the Midlands was the heaviest in 100 years. Cleaning up from the resulting floods took time and money – the bill for the Thames valley alone was over £1bn.

Met Office researchers say that there was nothing in the observational record to indicate that such an unprecedented amount of rainfall was possible.

However, by using a climate model that takes the current climate period from 1981-2015 as its base, and running it hundreds of times on the Met Office supercomputer, researchers were able to find many modelled months with similar or greater rainfall to January 2014.

2014ukrain

Their analysis also showed a high risk of record-breaking rainfall in England and Wales in the coming decade.

“We found many unprecedented events in the model data and this comes out as a 7% risk of a monthly record extreme in a given winter in the next few years, that’s just over Southeast England,” Dr Vikki Thompson, the study’s lead author told BBC News.

“Looking at all the regions of England and Wales we found a 34% chance of an extreme event happening in at least one of those regions each year.”

Not only is there a greater risk, but the researchers were also able to estimate that these events could break existing records by up to 30%.

“That is an enormous number, to have a monthly value that’s 30% larger, it’s a bit like what we had in 2014, and as much again,” said Prof Adam Scaife from the Met Office.

Key to developing this new understanding of the risk of record rainfall has been adding the power of a supercomputer to create hundreds of realistic UK winter scenarios in addition to the observational record. Other experts believe that the new work will be very important to policy makers.

“Although this year has been particularly dry, generally our winters are getting wetter and the rainfall heavier, so we are seeing more flooding and records broken,” said Prof Piers Forster from the University of Leeds who was not involved with the study.

“We expect the odds to shorten on future rainfall extremes but the first stage to predict this is knowing the current odds – and this is what this new paper gives us.”

One of the key questions though is how much of a role does climate change play in increasing the risk of these large scale downpours?

“There’s a good chance of a record and there’s a good chance that it would be much bigger than the current record,” said Prof Scaife.

“We are not attributing this directly to climate change, what we are saying is that if you take in everything that’s in the climate system today then that is the risk. Climate change is already happening and we’ve already got some and that is folded in here.”

 

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6 Responses to “UK Met Office: Increased Chance for “Unprecedented” Rain”

  1. vierotchka Says:

    For this very reason I have been progressively more and more worried for my niece, nephew, great-nephew and great-great-niece in Bristol and for my nephew in Somerset – the latter luckily lives a bit above the flood-prone area, but the land where he lives became extremely waterlogged during these excessive rainfalls, playing havock on his small garden and general area.

  2. redskylite Says:

    The U.K is certainly at a new normal climate-wise, that is likely to worsen rather than improve. At the opposite side of the world in N.Z parts of the South Island had their 1 in 100 year flood in 2015. Now (in 2017) the same area had the worst floods on record (surpassing the 1 in 100 years event) and declared a state of emergency. As I read much media daily, I still read plenty of op-eds stating that climate science isn’t yet settled, presumable mostly written mostly by people who have read other op-eds and fossil fueled promotional material. I have at least studied online courses at decent University and understand the physics of greenhouse gas heat retention, Svante August Arrhenius did the groundwork in 1896 on greenhouse gas properties, the U.S air-force needed to understand ghg properties in the development of anti aircraft missiles in the mid twentieth century. The only people who still deny the build up of ghg affects are politicians, fossil fuel speculators or very misguided individuals who cannot accept the truth, or do not value life. The “science isn’t settled” brigade cannot understand why they get called “deniers” or get rubbished and debunked. This is why. The climate is changing, it is affecting a lot of people, it will most likely get worse, affecting food supplies, health, homes, you name it. It will kill. Can the deniers not see why their views are disdained. ?

    The changes in climate in the U.K are reflected in the kingdoms surrounding seas. . . . .

    “The UK’s waters are heating by about 0.5C per decade. “That may not sound like a lot to us but it is really significant in terms of the biology and ecology,” said Frost. Part of the reason is that rising temperatures give a higher baseline, making hot spells even more extreme. “

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/28/climate-change-drawing-squid-anchovies-and-tuna-into-uk-waters

  3. Lionel Smith Says:

    In the wake of the 2013 – 2014 winter storms in the UK the Met office produced an informative briefing report which can be accessed via:

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/news/2014/uk-storms-and-floods

    A few months before that the UK Met office issued a superbly informative three part briefing report on the then much touted ‘Recent Pause in Warming’ which contained much useful narrative on many points of interest not least the nature and use of climate models:

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/news/2013/recent-pause-in-warming

    Climate models being so often the targets with malice of those behind denial sites or of those through ignorance who believe the outpourings of such sites.

    I was at one time well acquainted with the propensity of areas of Somerset to flood by serving on a naval air station (when not at sea with the squadrons) and recall swinging my feet out of bed into six inches or so off water with the parquet blocks of the flooring grouped, with my boots and shoes, around the door as the water flowed out. One memorable night in 1968, following an excessively hot and humid period the weather broke with a vengeance. So much so that water streamed off the higher fields into roadways and down into a mayor town whilst further north a main road bridge over a river was swept away.

    During that same summer one of our radar equipped jets returned from a sortie with its GRP honeycomb construction radome mushed by hail. The hail must have been in sizes ranging from golf to tennis balls judging by the dents on the wing leading edges and engine intakes.

    Somerset is historically soggy as described in Outrageous Waves: Global Warming & Coastal Change in Britain Through Two Thousand Years by Basil Cracknell, Chapter 13.

    So in a warming world with an energised hydrological system such occurrences as described above are sure to become more frequent and more extreme.

  4. Lionel Smith Says:

    In the wake of the 2013 – 2014 winter storms in the UK the Met office produced an informative briefing report which can be accessed via:

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/news/2014/uk-storms-and-floods

    A few months before that the UK Met office issued a superbly informative three part briefing report on the then much touted ‘Recent Pause in Warming’ which contained much useful narrative on many points of interest not least the nature and use of climate models:

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/news/2013/recent-pause-in-warming

    Climate models being so often the targets with malice of those behind denial sites or of those through ignorance who believe the outpourings of such sites.

  5. Lionel Smith Says:

    I was at one time well acquainted with the propensity of areas of Somerset to flood by serving on a naval air station (when not at sea with the squadrons) and recall swinging my feet out of bed into six inches or so off water with the parquet blocks of the flooring grouped, with my boots and shoes, around the door as the water flowed out. One memorable night in 1968, following an excessively hot and humid period the weather broke with a vengeance. So much so that water streamed off the higher fields into roadways and down into a mayor town whilst further north a main road bridge over a river was swept away.

    During that same summer one of our radar equipped jets returned from a sortie with its GRP honeycomb construction radome mushed by hail. The hail must have been in sizes ranging from golf to tennis balls judging by the dents on the wing leading edges and engine intakes.

    Somerset is historically soggy as described in <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Outrageous_Waves.html?id=Ls0PAQAAIAAJ&redir_esc=yOutrageous Waves: Global Warming & Coastal Change in Britain Through Two Thousand Years by Basil Cracknell, Chapter 13.

    So in a warming world with an energised hydrological system such occurrences as described above are sure to become more frequent and more extreme.

    So in a warming world with an energised hydrological system such occurrences as described above are sure to become more frequent and more extreme.

  6. Lionel Smith Says:

    Drat:

    Somerset is historically soggy as described in Outrageous Waves: Global Warming & Coastal Change in Britain Through Two Thousand Years by Basil Cracknell, Chapter 13.


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