UK & World News
Weather: Climate Change 'To Blame' For Storms
Climate change is almost certainly to blame for the severe weather that has caused chaos across Britain in recent weeks, the Met Office's chief scientist has said.
Dame Julia Slingo said there was not yet "definitive proof" but that "all the evidence" pointed to a role for the phenomenon.
The Met Office's latest analysis finds that persistent rainfall over Indonesia and the tropical West Pacific triggered the weather system that has sent wave after wave of storms across the Atlantic to the UK.
It says: "The severe weather in the UK coincided with exceptionally cold weather in Canada and the USA.
"These extreme weather events on both sides of the Atlantic were linked to a persistent pattern of perturbations to the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean and North America.
"There is a strong association with the stormy weather experienced in the UK during December and January and the up-stream perturbations to the jet stream over North America and the North Pacific.
Dame Julia told journalists the "clustering and persistence" of individual storms was extremely unusual.
She said: "We have seen exceptional weather. We cannot say it's unprecedented, but it is certainly exceptional."
"Is it consistent with what we might expect from climate change?
"Of course, as yet there can be no definitive answer on the particular events that we have seen this winter, but if we look at the broader base of evidence then we see things that support the premise that climate change has been making a contribution."
Dame Julia said the southerly track of the storms had been something of surprise.
She said: "They have been slamming into the southern part of Britain. We also know that the subtropical, tropical Atlantic is now quite a lot warmer than it was 50 years ago.
"The air that enters this storm system comes from that part of the Atlantic where it is obviously going to be warmer and carrying more moisture.
"This is just basic physics.
"We also now have strong evidence that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense.
"That is emerging in the UK records, and it is seen very definitely around the world in other countries like India and China.
"There is indeed as far as I can see no evidence to counter the premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly heavy rain events."
Dame Julia warned that Britons should be prepared to face more regular extreme weather in the future.
She said sea levels were expected to rise by a foot over time, causing more problems for those trying to deal with flooding.
She said: "That might not sound a lot, but when you are looking at storm surges, when you are looking at moving water from the Somerset Levels out to sea, it does matter.
"In a nutshell, while there is no definitive answer for the current weather patterns that we have seen, all the evidence suggests that climate change has a role to play in it."
Dame Julia said that detecting when and how such storms developed would become increasingly important.
The Met Office is also working on modelling to establish the likelihood of the current weather patterns occurring without any impact from climate change.
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