Man-made climate change caused Somerset floods say scientists

Greenhouse gas emissions increased the risk of the once-a-century wet January in 2014 by 43%. Credit: ITV West Country

Human-induced climate change increased the risk of severe storms like those that hit the south west in the winter of 2013/14, causing devastating flooding and costing several people their lives.

That's according to new research from an international team of climate scientists at Oxford University.

The increase in extreme rainfall that led to the flooding was the result of two factors associated with global warming: an increase in the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere and more January days with westerly air flow.

Among the worst-affected areas were Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall in the south west.

The increase in extreme rainfall was due to a rise in moisture, researchers say it was one of the overarching causes:

Each of these steps reflects different sources of uncertainty, but 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.

Professor Rob Lamb, Lancaster University

The paper 'Human influence on climate in the 2014 Southern England winter floods and their impacts' was published online today (1 February).