Two new papers, published by Nature, should make us sit up, as they suggest for the first time a clear link between global warming and extreme precipitation (precipitation means water falling out of the sky in any form: rain, hail or snow). One paper, by Seung-Ki Min and others, shows that rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have caused an intensification of heavy rainfall events over some two-thirds of the weather stations on land in the northern hemisphere. The climate models appear to have underestimated the contribution of global warming on extreme rainfall: it’s worse than we thought it would be…
The other paper, by Pardeep Pall and others, shows that man-made global warming is very likely to have increased the probability of severe flooding in England and Wales, and could well have been behind the extreme events in 2000. The researchers ran thousands of simulations of the weather in autumn 2000 (using idle time on computers made available by a network of volunteers) with and without the temperature rises caused by man-made global warming. They found that, in nine out of 10 cases, man-made greenhouse gases increased the risks of flooding. This is probably as solid a signal as simulations can produce, and it gives us a clear warning that more global heating is likely to cause more floods here.
And here’s another article with respect to British flooding:
Global warming made the floods that devastated England and Wales in the autumn of 2000, costing £3.5bn, between two and three times more likely to happen, new research has found. This is the first time scientists have quantified the role of human-induced climate change in increasing the risk of a serious flood and represents a major development in climate science.
“It shows climate change is acting here and now to load the dice towards more extreme weather,” said Myles Allen of Oxford University, who led the work, which he started after his own home was nearly flooded in 2000. It will also have wider consequences, say experts, by making lawsuits for compensation against energy companies more likely to succeed.
This is staggeringly important research. It brings home the effects of climate change, rather than it being something that goes on in other parts of the world (I wouldn’t expect most people to make the connection between a warming climate and, for example, higher domestic food prices).
So whenever you find yourself in the company of the armchair, Daily Mail-reading scientist (or one of a few slightly loopy right-wing SF authors) who, after first denying climate change exists, then goes on to claim that climate change is okay because it won’t harm us – you now have some more ammunition against them (not that they’ll be interested in, you know, science). Climate change is harming us, will do so in the future, and the warmer the planet becomes, the worse these effects will be.