Summer downpours are set to become more frequent across large parts of the UK because of climate change, with a new study suggesting this could lead to five times the current number of flash floods in the worst-case scenario.
New research by the Met Office and Newcastle University, published in Nature Climate Change, used a high-resolution model to predict the effects that climate change would have on UK’s summer floods.
For the first time, scientists found evidence that hourly summer rainfall rates could become five times more frequent by the end of the century – increasing the chance of so-called ‘flash floods’.
Dr Lizzie Kendon, lead author of the study from the Met Office, said, “Until now, climate models haven’t been able to simulate how extreme hourly rainfall might change in future. The very high-resolution model used in this study allows us to examine these changes for the first time.
“It shows heavier summer downpours in the future, with almost five times more events exceeding 28mm in one hour in the future than in the current climate – changes we might expect theoretically as the world warms.
“However, we need to be careful as the result is only based on one model – so we need to wait for other centres to run similarly detailed simulations to see whether their results support these findings.”
Summer floods, like those that occurred in 2012, are usually quick but intense and much harder to predict than their winter equivalents. They can have disastrous effects on agriculture and tourism.
Prof Hayley Fowler from Newcastle University added, “We need to understand about possible changes to summer and winter rainfall so we can make informed decisions about how to manage these very different flooding risks in the future.
“The changes we have found are consistent with increases we would expect in extreme rainfall with increasing temperatures and will mean more flash floods”.
A study presented in Vienna earlier this month suggested that climate change has increased the risk of extreme rainfall in southern England and Wales by 20-25%.
Photo: Lee Jordan via Flickr