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Is Flooding Linked To Global Warming?

Posted by in Eco News Blog on Jul 23, 2007 . .

The recent flooding in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and the surrounding areas seems to fit into a trend of an increased risk of flooding in the UK due to torrential rainfall. This is trend that we have already been warned about by scientists and it seems that their predictions may be becoming reality.

In recent years we seem to have experienced a number of 'unprecedented' floods in the UK and these often have been the result of torrential rain storms resulting huge amounts of run-off overwhelming drains and smaller water channels.

Five million people in England and Wales are now at risk from flooding every year and two million homes have been built in the natural floodplain of rivers or the coast and are vulnerable to flooding. The total financial cost of all of the property, land and assets in these areas has been put at a value of £214 billion. But, who is going to insure all of this property?

In July 2002 Glasgow in particular was affected by summer floods along with other areas in Scotland, Yorkshire, Leicestershire and the East Midlands. This was caused by heavy rainfall over a short period of time. More recently Sheffield was inundated with flood water and now we have the latest round of flooding in central and western England.

Back in September 2002 the Energy Saving Trust warned that homes and businesses in Britain would be threatened by devastating flooding as global warming takes hold. The study into rising sea levels and increased rainfall concluded that 5million people and most of the country's best farm land would be at risk. 

August 2006 saw experts accuse the Government of ignoring the lessons of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and warning that increased flooding risk in the UK due to storm surges, increasingly high tides and heavy rainfall was a real and likely result of climate change.

It is, of course, possible that the recent flooding has been the result of natural variation in weather patterns, however, a study that is to be published in the journal Nature later this week is reported to finally establish a strong link between the increase in rainfall over the Northern hemisphere and the industrial activities of man that are producing the greenhouse gasses.

One source familiar with the study's conclusions, cited by The Independent, said: "What this does is establish for the first time that there is a distinct 'human fingerprint' in the changes in precipitation patterns ­ the increases in rainfall ­ observed in the northern hemisphere mid-latitudes, which includes Britain.”

"That means, it is not just the climate's natural variability which has caused the increases, but there is a detectable human cause ­ climate change, caused by our greenhouse gas emissions. The 'human fingerprint' has been detected before in temperature rises, but never before in rainfall. So this is very significant.

"Some people would argue that you can't take a single event and pin that on climate change, but what happened in Britain last Friday fits quite easily with these conclusions. It does seem to have a certain resonance with what they're finding in this research."

The recent wet weather experienced in the UK has been largely due to a southerly shift in the normal position of the jetstream, the high-level airflow that brings depressions eastwards across the Atlantic. It is this shift, which itself is likely to have been caused by the effects of global warming, which scientists are blaming for the recent extreme weather conditions.

Ecofreak Comment : 

Having spent 18hours in my car with my wife and two young children trying to travel from North Devon (where we had a great week camping and playing on the beaches by the way) back up to my parent's in law in Tewkesbury, of all places,  I have seen and experienced at first hand the terrible effects of these floods on homes and businesses. 

It really does seem that global warming is having a direct effect on our climate here in the UK. Let's not forget that these floods follow the warmest winter we have experienced in the last 100 years, and areas of Southern and Eastern Europe are experiencing searing temperatures as we speak.

Perhaps real events like this, although extremely unpleasant for those affected, will provide more of a push to tackle the causes of climate change than anything else. Is this the physical evidence that we need to change our ways?

Unfortunately for all of us, whether we believe the cause is global warming or not, I think we have to prepare ourselves for more of the same to come.

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