Although there is no definitive answer to what has driven the UK’s flooding emergency, all the evidence suggests that changes in global climate patterns have been a major contributor, according to the Met Office.
In a new report, called A Global Perspective on the Recent Storms and Floods in the UK, the organisation investigates the link between the extreme weather that has hit Britain recently – causing widespread disruption and flooding – and climate change.
The Met Office’s chief scientist Dame Julia Slingo said that although it was hard to give clear answers and that more research was needed, there is clear evidence that a warmer world will lead to increasing rainfall.
“There is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly rain events”, she said.
“We have records going back to 1766 and we have nothing like this. We have seen some exceptional weather. We can’t say it is unprecedented but it is exceptional.”
The report draws links between the UK storm and the polar vortex in the US, as two different consequences of changes to the jet stream – the Earth’s air current. These were caused by strong rainfall associated with higher ocean temperatures.
It says that despite there being “no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding”, there is consistent evidence suggesting that “daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense, and that the rate of increase is consistent with what is expected from the fundamental physics of a warming world”.
Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole said, “With thousands of households still stricken by flooding, this fresh assessment of Britain’s changing climate is a warning siren that cannot be ignored.
“The Met Office is emphatic that a warming world will lead to more intense downpours, that storminess has increased and that rising sea levels will climb still further in the years ahead.”
The Met Office said in January that it was not 100% certain that UK storm was caused by climate change. This followed comments made by David Cameron, who said he “very much [suspected]” that there was a link between the two.