Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Unprecedented UK Flooding and Climate Change

The UK is suffering from 'unprecedented' flooding and the weather forecasts indicate that the situation will worsen. The combination of rain, snow and high winds are battering the island nation. One commentator described the landscape across southern England and the South West as an "inland sea". The situation has forced the evacuation of thousands of homes and the closure of a number of schools. In addition to precipitation, many areas including Lundy, Fastnet and Irish Sea are experiencing hurricane force winds of up to 107 mph.

Rail service has been interrupted, roads are impassible, thousands of homes have been inundated and in some places electricity has been cut. A months worth of rain have fallen in just a few days and a new snow warning is in place for northern and western parts of the UK until mid-morning on Wednesday February 12.

All across the UK towns and villages are under water including Wraysbury, Chertsey and Datchet. A large number of rivers and waterways are effected including the Thames, Wye, and Severn along with other rivers in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. At present there are fourteen severe flood warnings in place in Berkshire and Surrey and two in Somerset. Groundwater flooding has already occurred or is expected in Hampshire, Kent and parts of London. There have been 16 severe flood warnings issued by the Environment Agency and about 350 less serious flood warnings and alerts, mostly in southern England and the Midlands.

The dire situation prompted UK Prime Minister David Cameron to pledge troops and to say that money was "no object" to address relief efforts associated with the floods. He went on to say that "things could get worse before they get better." The PM said he will chair a new cabinet committee on Thursday (February 13) to deal with the recovery. 

Groundwater levels are so high in some parts of the country that flooding was likely to persist for weeks or even months. The winter of 2013-14 will almost certainly be the wettest on record. 

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that in the next five years £38bn would be spent on improving the rail network with resilience in mind so that they will be able to endure future storms.

According to the UK's own climate change advisers, the cost of flood damage in the UK is likely to increase from £1bn to £3bn as the world warms. They say that excluding the current round of flooding another £0.5bn must be spent over the next four years, they have indicated that every £1 spent on flood defenses gives £8 of benefit.

The IPCC report has made it abundantly clear that man-made activities (primarily fossil fuels) over the past century has led to unprecedented warming on land and sea. In part due to melting Arctic sea ice, which has global weather impacts, sea levels are rising and this means that it takes less of a storm surge to induce flooding.

The birthplace of the industrial revolution, has been ravaged by rain and waves of exceptional intensity. This is caused by warm, moist air from the tropics coming up unusually close to the very cold polar air which the jet stream churns into violent weather systems.

While individual weather events are hard to attribute to climate change, there is a marked trend towards more heavy rains in the last few decades. This is consistent with climate models that show how warmer air leads to more violent precipitation. The floods of 2013-2014 in combination with the historic floods of 2007 and 2012 point to an emerging weather pattern that may very well be attributed to climate change. At the very least it is safe to say that global warming is "loading the dice."

© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.  

Related Articles
UK Flooding and the Science of Climate Change
Attribution Science and UK Storms and Flooding
Video - UK Storms and Flooding in February 2014
Video - UK Storms and Flooding in January 2014
Massive Flooding in the UK is Driving People to Accept the Veracity of Climate Change
Devastating UK Flooding Continues
The Costs of Climate Change Related Flooding
Graphs - Global Cost of Flooding
The Costs of Flood Damage will Rise Along with Sea Levels
Balken Flooding and the Costs of Climate Change
Heavy Rains Link Climate Change and Landslides
Heavy Rains in Egypt Followed by Sandstorms
Infographic - Sea Level Rise
Antarctic Glaciers Pass the Point of No Return
Melting Arctic Ice and Flooding
Visualizing Sea Level Rises from Climate Change
Graphics - East Coast Flooding: Miami and New York City

No comments: