Humans are increasing the risk of dangerous flooding events by allowing greenhouse gas concentrations to continue to rise in the atmosphere, according to a groundbreaking new study.
Analysing the floods in England and Wales in 2000, climate scientists found a 2-in-3 chance the odds of the flooding happening were at least doubled. Although admitting the floods would have been likely to have occurred anyway, the study is the first to quantify a link between rising greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere and extreme weather events.
The floods of the Autumn of 2000 were the wettest on record in the UK with damage to more than 10,000 homes and businesses and an insurance pay-out of £1.3 billion.
Co-study author Dr Peter Stott, of the Met Office, said scientists were now beginning to unravel the links between natural variability and man-made climate change.
'This research establishes a methodology that can answer the question about how the odds of particular weather events may be altering. It will also allow us to say, shortly after it has occurred, if a specific weather event has been made more likely by climate change, and equally importantly if it has not,’ he said.
The researchers simulated the weather in Autumn 2000, both as it was, and as it might have been had there been no greenhouse gas emissions since the beginning of the 20th Century. They repeated this process thousands of times using a global volunteer network of personal computers participating in the climateprediction.net project estimate the impact of the emissions on extreme weather.
Environmental campaigners highlighted the recent droughts in Russia and China and widespread flooding in Australia and Pakistan as extreme weather that may also be linked to climate change.
'It is not possible to categorically state that any one specific weather event is a direct result of climate change, but it is clear that the increase in greenhouse gases is loading the dice and increasing the risk of extreme weather events in future,' said WWF head of climate change Keith Allott.
'We need to get on with reducing carbon emissions as a matter of urgency - and in the UK the best ways of doing that are an ambitious Green Deal to improve the energy efficiency of our homes, and a strong commitment to provide all our energy from clean renewable sources.'
The study, 'Anthropogenic greenhouse gas contribution to flood risk in England and Wales in autumn 2000' is published in the journal nature.
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