(BBC) The UK has experienced its
"weirdest" weather on record in the past few months, scientists say.
The driest spring for over a century gave way to
the wettest recorded April to June in a dramatic turnaround never documented
The scientists said there was no evidence that the
weather changes were a result of Man-made climate change.
But experts from three bodies warned the UK must
plan for periodic swings of drought conditions and flooding.
The warning came from the Environment Agency, Met
Office and Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) at a joint briefing in
Terry Marsh, from the CEH, said there was no close
modern precedent for the extraordinary switch in river flows. The nearest
comparison was 1903 but this year was, he said, truly remarkable.
What was also remarkable - and also fortunate - was
that more people did not suffer from flooding. Indeed, one major message of the
briefing was that society has been steadily increasing its resilience to
Paul Mustow, head of flood management at the
Environment Agency, told BBC News that 4,500 properties had been flooded this
"But if you look back to 2007 when over 55,000
properties were flooded, we were relatively lucky - if lucky is the right word
- for the impacts we saw this summer," he said.
"The rainfall patterns affected different
areas - and also there were periods of respite between the rain which lessened
He said 53,000 properties would have been flooded
this year without flood defences. In total, he said, 190,000 properties had
received flood protection in recent years.
Mr Mustow claimed that flood defences repaid their
investment by a factor of 8-1 but admitted that continuing to invest would be a
"challenge", after government cuts to planned projects.
But he said that new streams of joint funding from
local authorities and private developers had allowed 60 schemes to happen that
otherwise would not have gone ahead. He said:
"We have to get our heads round the
possibility now that we're going to have to move very quickly from drought to
flood - with river levels very high and very low over a short period of time.
"We used to say we had a traditional flood
season in winter - now often it's in summer. This is an integrated problem -
there's no one thing that's going to solve it. The situation is changing all
But scientists present from the Met Office and CEH
said not much could be read into the weird weather. Terry Marsh from CEH said:
"Rainfall charts show no compelling long-term trend - the annual
precipitation table shows lots of variability."
Sarah Jackson from the Met Office confirmed that it
did not discern any pattern that suggested Man-made climate change was at play
in UK rainfall - although if temperatures rise as projected in future, that
would lead to warmer air being able to carry more moisture to fall as rain.
She said that this year's conditions were partly
caused by a move to a negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation which
would be likely to lead to more frequent cold, drier winters - like the 1960s -
and also wetter summers for 10-20 years.
"Longer term we will see a trend to drier
summers but superimposed on that we will always see natural variability,"
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