“Climate change and the UK floods”



There is no shortage of debate over whether the recent storms and floods can be blamed on climate change. In reality any answer will involve probabilities rather than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. So what do we know, what are the uncertainties, and can we say whether or not there is a clear link?

Despite the current lack of a precise answer, the recent heavy rainfall and coastal inundation is consistent with some basic physics of a warming world:

  • Firstly, sea levels are rising. During the last century the sea level in the English Channel has risen by around 12 cm and is continuing to rise at a rate of 1.3cm per decade. This is because land-based snow and ice is melting into the sea and because seawater expands as it warms. Higher seas mean a greater chance of storm surges breaching coastal defences.

  • Secondly, warmer air can hold more moisture. So, in a warmer world, a given storm has the capacity to drop more rain. While rainfall in the UK varies a lot from year to year there is some evidence to suggest that extreme rainfall is becoming more common – what was a 1-in-125 day event seems to be occurring on average every 85 days now.



About isabellew9873

My name is Isabelle Whitehead. I was a member of the Bolton School group on the Operation Wallacea 2015 expedition to Peru.

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