Floods Show Global Warming, Says Conservative British Paper

Echoing the liberal Prime Minister, the conservative British broadsheet the Daily Telegraph runs a long story arguing that "the worst floods to hit England in 200 years" show that global warming has arrived.

Here’s the heart of the piece, by environmental editor Charles Clover:

I have covered the subject of climate change, in what I hope has been a relatively neutral way, since around the time Margaret Thatcher asked if we had begun a giant experiment with the planet in 1988. I would suggest no year has been more joltingly significant in
    our coming to terms with the reality of what is now happening than the past 12 months.

It began with Sir Nicholas Stern’s report on climate change last autumn. There followed an extraordinary scientific reaffirmation of the predictions made in the late 1980s and early
    1990s by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).

And all the while there have been numerous tangible signs visible to everyone in our own latitudes that our climate is changing in ways that politicians in Europe now realise can only be explained by human activity.

Many were already sure we were talking about the effects of climate change after 4.1in (103.1mm) of rain was measured in 24 hours at Fylingdales in Yorkshire last month, a one-in-80-year event that inundated Doncaster, Hull and surrounding areas.

Hull has the largest number of homes on the flood plain of any city other than London. The run-off from the rivers met high groundwater levels caused by run-off from the permeable chalk on the Yorkshire Wolds.

The city’s 19th-century sewerage system overflowed with rainwater and sewage. The foul water had nowhere to go, other than into the 6,500 homes now estimated to have been damaged by the resulting flood.

The Met Office says sea-surface temperatures over a large part of the North Atlantic have been above average this year, a likely consequence of the exceptionally warm weather conditions over north-west Europe in the winter and spring.

The air is warmer in summer and can hold more water vapour. The warm summer combined with the stronger jet stream may be the reason for the heavy rain we have experienced.

By an extraordinary coincidence, the unprecedented summer floods that struck Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire this week overlapped with the publication in the scientific journal Nature of a study that compared rainfall levels predicted by climate models involving only natural trends and those taking into account
    human activity.

While studies have previously found that human activities have altered air temperatures, sea levels and ocean temperatures, this one, by the Met Office’s Hadley Centre and authors including the American chairman of the scientific working group of the IPCC, Susan Solomon, was the first to show clear evidence of an overall increase in precipitation in the models that included human activity.

The overall trend for Britain identified by the computer models as a result of global warming was wetter winters and drier summers. However, Dr Peter Stott, a climate scientist at the University of Reading and another of the paper’s authors, said more intense rain storms in wetter years would also fit into the pattern.

"Generally speaking, the models are tending to show a drier trend in summer in the UK," he said. "Nevertheless, when it rains it can rain harder, because the atmosphere can contain more moisture in a warmer world."

The story opens with a helicopter shot of London landmarks standing in water almost worthy of a disaster movie. I’m not allowed to copy that, but here’s a nice photo from a fellow Flickr subscriber Lazlo Woodbine as compensation.

River_amber_in_flood_june_2007

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