Man-Made Climate Change Caused Floods In South Of England, Study Reveals

First Posted: Feb 01, 2016 02:24 PM EST

A team of climate scientists found that the floods in south of England in the winter of 2013-14 were caused by man-made climate change. This catastrophic flood resulted in some people losing their homes and some even lost their lives. In the study, the researchers found that "anthropogenic" greenhouse gas emissions increased the risk of the once-a-century wet January in 2014 by 43 percent, which resulted in massive amounts of rainfall, subsequently leading to flooding in 2013-14. The researchers found the flooding was driven by two factors of global warming, an increase in the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere and additional January days with westerly air flow.

"We found that extreme rainfall, as seen in January 2014, is more likely to occur in a changing climate," Dr. Nathalie Schaller, lead author of the study, from Oxford University, said in a news release. "This is because not only does the higher water-holding capacity lead to increased rainfall, but climate change makes the atmosphere more favorable to low-pressure systems bringing rain from the Atlantic across southern England."

Thames Valley in the southeast and Somerset in the southwest were among some of the worse-affected areas. The researchers' study is one of the first of its kind to investigate the flooding from start to finish, where rainfall, atmospheric circulation, river flow accumulations and property damages were examined.

A hydrological modeling of the Thames River showed that changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation caused higher peak 30-day river flow and there were increasing flood risks for properties in the Thames area. The team found that rainfall led to an increase in the peak 30-day river flow by 21 percent and an additional 1000 properties were at risk of flooding.

"We find overall that there is a substantial chance of more properties having been placed at flood risk because of past greenhouse gas emissions, leading to potential damages that could be part of the losses incurred in 2013-14," said Rob Lamb, coauthor of the study.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Nature Climate.

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