More Snowfall? Climate Change Impact and Implications for Wilder Weather
The weather in the United Kingdom has always been a topic of conversation, with a predictable tendency towards unpredictability. However, recent weather patterns are raising more than a few eyebrows.
OUTCO explores the increase in rainfall and precipitation across the UK, closely linked to climate change, including the consequences of these changes, with potential for wilder weather and, surprisingly, more snowfall.
A Soaked Nation: Increasing Rainfall
Over the past few decades, the UK has experienced a clear upward trend in rainfall and precipitation. This isn’t just hearsay; data from the UK Met Office and other sources paint a vivid picture of this trend. According to the Met Office, 2020 was the UK’s third-wettest year on record, with 1,337.3mm of rainfall on average across the UK, nearly 10% above the long-term average. In July 2021, the UK experienced the wettest day in decades, with some areas receiving over 150mm of rain, and in February 2023, the UK experienced the wettest February on record, with some areas receiving over 300mm of rain.
The UK Met Office has reported that the amount of rain falling in the UK in the heaviest 5% of rainfall events has increased by around 10% since the 1960s and has projected that the frequency of extreme rainfall events in the UK will increase by up to 50% by the end of the century.
Climate Change Connection
The increase in rainfall is directly attributed to climate change. As global temperatures rise, the atmosphere can hold more moisture, leading to more frequent and intense rainfall events. Warmer air can also cause changes in atmospheric circulation patterns, further contributing to the increased precipitation in the UK.
Climate models consistently predict that the UK will experience wetter winters and more intense rainfall in the future.
Snowfall and Wilder Weather: Consequences of Increased Rainfall
The surge in rainfall doesn’t only mean gray skies and soggy shoes; it also brings about wilder weather conditions. Flooding events, such as those seen in recent years in various parts of the UK, are becoming more common and more severe. Storms such as Ciara, Dennis, and Jorge in early 2020 resulted in widespread flooding, causing considerable damage to homes and infrastructure.
Flooding is already a major problem in the UK, but the increased rainfall is making it worse. In 2020/21, we experienced over 16,000 flood incidents in the UK, causing over £1 billion in damage, and in the same year, more than 1,000 landslides were reported.
Snowfall and the Clash of Warm and Cold Air
It may seem counterintuitive, but the increase in rainfall is also linked to more snowfall in the UK.
The clashing of warm southerly and cold northerly air is one of the main factors that causes snow in the UK. When these two air masses meet, they can create a front, which can lead to cloud formation and precipitation. If the temperature is low enough, the precipitation will fall as snow.
Climate change is making it more likely that warm southerly air will clash with cold northerly air in the UK. This is because the warming of the Arctic is causing the jet stream, which separates the warm and cold air masses, to become more unstable. This instability can lead to more frequent and more intense weather events, including snow storms. There is a further article explaining the effect of the Jet Stream on UK weather here.
This phenomenon is particularly evident during the winter months, when the UK sees a higher chance of experiencing snowfall, even in areas that typically receive very little.
Preparing For The Unexpected
As rainfall patterns become more unpredictable and extreme, it is vital for the UK to adapt and prepare for the consequences. This means investing in better flood defenses, improving urban planning to mitigate flooding, and implementing sensible winter practices to equip the country to deal with increased snow events during winter.
Climate change is clearly influencing the weather in the UK, a trend that has far-reaching consequences, including wilder weather conditions and even more snowfall during the winter months. It is imperative for the UK to adapt to these changing conditions and invest in strategies that will help mitigate the impacts of increased rainfall and snowfall.
By addressing these challenges head-on, the UK can better protect its citizens and safeguard its infrastructure in an era of climate change-induced weather extremes.
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