Login Register

Flash flooding risks to rise as climate change takes hold, scientists warn

By DaveCDM  |  Posted: June 03, 2014

Flash flooding risks to rise as climate change takes hold, scientists warn
Comments (5)

Flash flooding similar to that which devastated Boscastle a decade ago could become the norm as climate change takes place according to experts.

The new study, conducted by the Met Office and Newcastle University, reveals that the UK could experience a fivefold increase in bouts of intense rainfall if global temperatures continue to rise.

Researchers said this could in turn increase the country’s risks of flash floods, citing the Boscastle flood of 2004 and the flooding in Newcastle in 2012 as examples.

Dr Elizabeth Kendon, lead author of the study, said: “Until now, climate models haven't been able to simulate how extreme hourly rainfall might change in future. The very high resolution model used in this study allows us to examine these changes for the first time.

Related content

“It shows heavier summer downpours in the future, with almost five times more events exceeding 28mm in one hour in the future than in the current climate - changes we might expect theoretically as the world warms.”

The findings, published in the Nature and Climate Change journal, are based on weather simulations run for current climate conditions and the expected climate for 2100.

In Boscastle almost 8 ins (200mm) of rain fell in four hours in August 2004 causing a massive wall of water to sweep through the village and washing cars away.

Climate models have already been used to predict future changes to rainfall in Britain but the new report is the first to use hourly rainfall rates and has achieved greater clarity through smaller grid spacing in its simulations - 1.5km grid spacings instead of the normal 12km.

Researchers have said this “higher resolution” study could be the first step towards building a more complete picture of how UK weather may change as our climate warms.

Dr Kendon said the predicted increase means significantly more events would exceed the high thresholds indicative of serious flash flooding.

“This implies that previous interpretations of future regional climate change scenarios should be revisited, as changes in rain events could have been underestimated,” she said.

The Met Office study only focussed on the southern half of the country because the calculations were so computer intensive. It took the organisations’s supercomputer - one of the most powerful in the world - around nine months to complete the simulations.

Dr Kendon warned of the need to be careful when looking at the result.

“It is only based on one model,” she said. “We need to wait for other centres to run similarly detailed simulations to see whether their results support these findings.”

Professor Hayley Fowler, a co-author on the project from Newcastle University, said the team will be continuing their research over the next five years.

“We need to understand about possible changes to summer and winter rainfall so we can make informed decisions about how to manage these very different flooding risks in the future.”

Read more from West Briton

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters

5 comments

  • TWINSCREW  |  June 03 2014, 12:41PM

    TWINSCREW | Tuesday, June 3 2014, 12:34PM I always worry about computer predictions, as most people know, computers are non thinking things and will only put out what is put in, we have an acronym for this which is ( SISO ) which translates to ordure in ordure out. If this computer took nine months to deliver it's verdict I would say they need some new software, perhaps it kept giving the wrong answer to the scientists and needed to be reprogrammed until it gave the one they wanted. TWINSCREW | Tuesday, June 3 2014, 12:34PM I always worry about computer predictions, as most people know, computers are non thinking things and will only put out what is put in, we have an acronym for this which is ( SISO ) which translates to ordure in ordure out. If this computer took nine months to deliver it's verdict I would say they need some new software, perhaps it kept giving the wrong answer to the scientists and needed to be reprogrammed until it gave the one they wanted.

    Rate 0
    Report
  • Boxheater  |  June 03 2014, 11:33AM

    There is a very high level of uncertainty associated with these predictions. However one thing is certain and that is that the warmer air becomes, the more water vapour it can carry, so it is indeed likely, that rainfall will increase in the future. The vulnerable areas will no doubt remain the same. Remember Lynmouth 1952, the Allen Valley 1967, Boscastle 2004, although hopefully flood prevention engineering may help reduce the risk.

    Rate   1
    Report
  • Dantwo  |  June 03 2014, 10:20AM

    As #Dipstick says, we cannot be absolutely certain. There are those that gain from scaring people about 'climate change' - the wind turbine advocates who benefit financially with taxes on our electricity costs. #rickoon is also spot on. IT IS the height of madness to be covering our farmland with concrete when anyone with any sense would adopt the precautionary approach. If you must build then let it be high rise and in our cities. We need the flexibility and the strategically vital need to be able to feed ourselves should things turn out for the worst. As it is, the ConDems with their National Planning Policy Framework, have now decided we are not concreting over farmland fast enough and, even as we speak, are investigating ways to speed the process of destruction up. Too many people: the most overcrowded nation in Europe and the possibility of significant climate change/freak weather events. And the ConDems response: BUILD MORE! Only one party offers a way out and that is UKIP. Getting out of Europe would be the first step in addressing climate change problems.

    Rate   11
    Report
  • rickoon  |  June 03 2014, 9:19AM

    Until we face the real problem and the real cause of flooding it will get worse, yes climate change plays a significant part but the real culprit is people, and the displacement of rain water, with every mile of new road and block paved drive plus new houses going up here and there, the rain water cannot soak naturally into the ground, subsequently it is rushed to the lowest point and on to the sea much faster. Those running this country "The European Commission" only today came up with this news, what chance do we have?............ "The European Commission has called on the UK to raise taxes on higher value properties, build more houses and adjust the Help to Buy scheme." http://tinyurl.com/mmgnxal

    Rate   5
    Report
  • DipStick  |  June 03 2014, 9:16AM

    But in 2009 they were saying .... "... The UK Climate Projections show what the major changes to the UK's climate would most likely be in the absence of such action to cut global emissions. Broadly speaking, we can characterise these as warmer and wetter winters,hotter and drier summers… ". So, as per usual, their "models" react to events rather thasn predict them. I mean, I can find out all the FA Cup winners for the last 50 years in a few seconds. Can I predict next years winnners? I wish ..... DS

    Rate   6
    Report

      YOUR COMMENTS AWAITING MODERATION

       
       

      MORE NEWS HEADLINES