Extreme flooding is much more likely nowadays due to global warming, scientists have proven once again.
The findings were featured in the journal Nature Climate Change, and stemmed from an analysis led by Dr. Nathalie Schaller, postdoctoral research assistant at the Department of Physics from Oxford University.
Schaller has been focusing on the European Commission’s EUCLEIA project (European Climate and Weather Events: Interpretation and Attribution), and as part of her work she conducted a study concerning the extreme flooding that occurred in January 2014 throughout the southern portions of Wales and England.
The ambitious undertaking wouldn’t have been possible without co-authors such as Dr. Pascal Yiou (affiliated with the Climate and Environment Sciences Laboratory in Paris), Dr. Alison Kay (at UK’s Center for Ecology and Hydrology) and Dr. Friederike Otto (senior researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute).
Instrumental to Schaller’s research were also extensive hydrologic models, and more than 130,000 climate models created by citizen scientists in order to simulate weather changes that could’ve unfolded in January 2014 in various circumstances.
The emphasis was placed especially on creating a comparative analysis between the extreme phenomena that were triggered by anthropogenic climate change, and the ones that would’ve occurred in the absence of such factors.
It was determined that global warming caused by human activities increased the likelihood of overabundant precipitation by up to 75%, heightening the probability that extreme flooding would ensue by approximately 43%,
That was because of two concurrent determinants linked to climate change: a rise in the amount of water that could be stored in the atmosphere (which resulted in heavier rainfall), and low-pressure areas known as thermal lows coming from the Atlantic Ocean, and moving eastward (eventually reaching southern England).
These climate patterns brought about by man-made global warming basically increased the frequency of severe flooding, from once per century, to around once in seven decades, according to estimations made by study authors.
During the winter of 2014, such extreme phenomena were especially detrimental to Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset, while also severely affecting the Thames Valley.
Such communities experienced the most far-reaching devastation, during a period deemed by British meteorologists as the most turbulent and tempestuous from the last two decades.
For instance, the unprecedented level of moisture in the air, coupled with the increased circulation of low atmospheric pressure systems caused the Thames river flow to be elevated by approximately 21%. This in turn caused 1,000 additional homes and other buildings to be vulnerable to inundation and extreme flooding.
As a result, much more extensive material damages resulted following this stormy period, than the ones that would’ve been brought about in the absence of man-made climate change.
Eventually, over 5,000 properties were engulfed by water, and insurance losses amounted to £ 451 million (more than $650 million), after approximately 19,000 claims were filed by residents whose homes and businesses were devastated beyond recovery.
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