Greenhouse Gas Emissions Causing Extreme Rainfall

IN 2000 floods wreaked havoc across Britain and a new report states they were made more likely by global warming, the first study to link UK flooding to climate change.

The scientists behind the report point the finger at greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as the cause for extreme rainfall becoming evermore common, leading to increased risk of flooding in the UK and the Northern Hemisphere.

This focuses more attention on to the importance of energy efficiency as a major and cost effective way of tackling climate change.

Two research groups have produced studies and present their findings in the journal Nature, with one group using real-world data and computer models, saying they have proven the link between GHG emissions and the experienced increase in extreme rains across the Northern Hemisphere.

The other group study revealed the UK floods of 2000, which damaged nearly 10,000 homes and cost £1.3 billion ($2.09 billion), were made twice as likely by a warming climate and because warm air holds more moisture, outbreaks of heavy rainfall will be more frequent.

One research team, from Oxford University, ran computer models of the atmosphere as it actually was in 2000, and then ran models as it would have been without the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and that had accumulated from human generated emissions.

The BBC spoke to Pardeep Pall, the Oxford researcher who led the study, who told them "We looked at how greenhouse gas emissions affected the odds of a flood. We found that the emissions substantially increased the odds of a flood occurring in 2000, with about a doubling of the likelihood."

The Independent newspaper spoke to Professor Myles Allen, of the Department of Physics and School of Geography and the Environment, a co-author of the paper, who stated that the study could feed into future climate change scenarios.

“We need these kinds of studies to make sure we come to the right decisions on adaptation and if it comes to it compensation,” he said.
Previous studies have linked the 2003 heat waves in Britain and Europe to climate change but this is the first study to link a flooding event to rising temperatures.

The type of extreme rainfall that the report has focussed on is being experienced in many parts of the globe, leading to devastation of life, livelihoods, businesses and economies. Reducing GHG emissions is vital for our future environmentally and financially.

Energy efficiency, cost effectively, reduces GHG emissions dramatically from any facility, but also lowers energy demand, hence further reducing harmful emissions from power generation, while reducing energy costs allowing budgets to be met and profits retained.

Picture of Shrewsbury Abbey from the west by Bob Bowyer

Thursday 17th February 2011

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