England and Wales now have a one-in-three chance of seeing record rainfall levels in at least one region each winter, according to new research published yesterday by the Met Office that raises fears of widespread flooding risks.
Across the country ‘unprecedented’ levels of rainfall are to become increasingly commonplace even in today’s climate and could worsen as global warming progresses, the Met Office warned.
As the climate has changed historical data on extreme weather events has become less useful to researchers seeking to forecast future risk. So the researchers set out to develop a new prediction model, using the Met Office’s supercomputer to simulate thousands of possible winters in order to calculate the likelihood of future events like heavy downpours across the UK.
They concluded that England and Wales face a 34 per cent chance of seeing record rainfall in at least one region each winter.
“Our computer simulations provided one hundred times more data than is available from observed records,” Dr Vikki Thompson, lead author of the report, said in a statement. “Our analysis showed that these events could happen at any time and it’s likely we will see record monthly rainfall in one of our UK regions in the next few years.”
The new method has been dubbed ‘UNSEEN’, and was used by the government to as part of its recent National Flood Resilience Review.
The Review proposed a new “stress test” for assessing the risk of flooding from rivers in the UK and called for utilities and infrastructure providers to invest in increased flood resilience measures to ensure power, telecom, and water networks are better protected.
However, some experts believe this week’s new findings should prompt further action to prepare the UK for higher flood risk.
“It should be an urgent priority for the Environment Secretary to re-open the National Flood Resilience Review with the aim of improving the UK’s preparedness against surface water flooding caused by heavy rainfall, the risks of which are clearly spelled out in this paper,” Bob Ward, from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, told the BBC.