UK & World News

  • 4 January 2013, 1:28

'Extreme Rain': UK Warned Over Flood Risk

The UK is suffering more "extreme rainfall", which could have a serious impact on flooding problems, the Met Office has warned.

The torrential downpours that have hit the UK this year are of a similar magnitude to those being experienced by China and India, according to the scientists.

They have called for more research to be done to help protect the country from flooding in the future as these "extreme" weather events threaten to become more frequent.

The disclosure has sparked warnings from environmentalists that it is further evidence of climate change in action.

Last year was the second wettest year across the UK in records dating back more than a century to 1910, according to Met Office figures. Some 8,000 homes and businesses were flooded.

The total rainfall for the UK for the year of 1,330.7mm (52.4 inches), just 6.6mm (0.26 inches) short of the figure for 2000.

Professor Julia Slingo, chief scientist at the Met Office, said: "The trend towards more extreme rainfall events is one we are seeing around the world, in countries such as India and China, and now potentially here in the UK.

She added: "It's essential we look at how this may impact our rainfall patterns going forward over the next decade and beyond, so we can advise on the frequency of extreme weather in the future and the potential for more surface and river flooding."

The top five wettest years in the records dating back to 1910 are 2000, 2012, 1954, 2008 and 2002, the figures show.

Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth head of policy, said climate change was already affecting the UK.

"Four of the five wettest years in the UK have occurred since 2000, and experts including the Met Office expect extreme weather events such as intense rainfall to become more common as global warming takes hold."

Scientists say rising global temperatures could be contributing, as a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture and increase the potential for heavy rain.

The flooding misery has continued into 2013 as the water tables remain high. Two people were rescued today after a pedestrian bridge collapsed over the River Seven at High Askew on the North York Moors and they fell into the water. They were taken to hospital for treatment.

But 2012 began with a number of water companies imposing hosepipe bans as swathes of England faced drought following two dry winters, however, this is unlikely to be the case this year.

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) warned despite the wet year, there was a need for a coherent strategy to manage water resources to cope with drought as well as floods, including creating new storage facilities to catch rainfall.

Michael Norton, ICE water expert, said: "Without a strategy, we will continue to swing from flooding to drought and climate change will only exacerbate the situation."

Speaking to Sky News, Floods Minister Owen Paterson said plans were being formulated to avoid water shortages in the future.

He said: "I'm personally very keen on holding more water back in reservoirs and I think that's an issue many people agree on, people are uncomfortable with the amount of abstraction going on, I think there is a case for building more reservoirs."

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