Normal weather is now a “thing of the past”, a leading climate change scientist has said, after storms and heavy rain caused devastating floods in parts of Britain.
December was record-breaking in both warmth and rainfall, according to the Met Office, with temperatures closer to those expected in April and May. For some parts of the UK, it was also the wettest December since records began in 1910.
Professor Myles Allen, leader of the Climate Research Programme at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute said: “Normal weather is actually a bit of a thing of the past.
“Here in Oxford we maintain the world’s longest daily weather record, we just beat the previous record by a whopping two and a half degrees and that record was set back in 1852.
“You’re not meant to beat weather records by that kind of margin and just like in athletics if you start doing so, it’s a sign that something’s actually changed.”
Provisional statistics released by the Met Office at the end of December showed that the average temperature in the UK last month was 8C, 4.1 degrees above the average and beating the previous record of 6.9C set in 1934. Last month was also the wettest calendar month ever in Met Office records since 1910.
Speaking on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, Prof Allen said compared the change in weather patterns to an athlete doping: “What we’re doing is loading the dice if you like, or like an athlete popping pills, we’re changing the odds. And we’re seeing the odds on these extreme warm, extreme wet winters increasing. And we’re going to need to plan for it.
“You asked is this the new normal, well as I stressed, normal weather, unchanged over generations, is now a thing of the past. And if we’re building buildings and building infrastructure, we’re going to have to use climate simulations to work out what the weather will be like that that infrastructure will have to tolerate in 50 years’ time.”
Prof Allen said wetter and warmer winters had been predicted more than 25 years ago.
Photo: Glenn Kilpatrick/Dobson Agency
“The intergovernmental panel in 1990, predicted that we would see a greater prevalence of these intense, short duration precipitation events that have caused all this flooding misery in northern England, so we have for a very long known that this was likely to be one of the earliest symptoms of climate change. Now we’re seeing it, it’s not actually all that surprising.”
We should expect the weather of the 2040s to be as different from today as today’s weather is from conditions in the 1970s, the professor added.
Whitby became the latest town to suffer flash flooding on Monday with the seaside town virtually cut off by heavy rainfall.