The UK has experienced its wettest winter in 250 years and severe flooding has occurred across much of the southern England. Weather observers at the School of Geography and the Environment confirmed the record thanks to the longest running historical rainfall data series gathered from the Radcliffe Meteorological Station - a job held today by SoGE's Dr Ian Ashpole. Talking of the records on BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House programme, Professor Richard Washington noted that January was found to have received nearly 3 times the average rainfall with 146.9mm recorded, beating the previous 1852 record of 138.7mm.
The historical archive suggests that weather records are being broken in recent years and evidence suggests that climate change will make extreme weather events such as these more likely. Using the help of the weather@home distributed computing project Dr Nathalie Schaller is investigating whether these 2014 floods are likely to be a result of climate change. Using outputs from simulations run by members of the public, a picture will emerge later this month of the likelihood that climate change has caused the floods.
Meanwhile, Professor Jim Hall, who sits on the committee that advises the UK Government in relation to climate change, appeared throughout the media talking about the measures needed to manage future flood risk. He highlighted the major steps taken since previous flooding occurred in Britain in 2007 and described the UK's adaptation to flooding events as a work-in-progress. Jim warned of the implications of not taking seriously the risks to infrastructure from severe flooding and future climate change, and said that we are still in a state of discovery by disaster.
Using our best knowledge of the science in order to respond to the floods is critical and involves many parties, but engaging the public - particularly those affected by flooding - in the science of risk management is not always easy. Professor Sarah Whatmore recently led a project to address public controversies generated by risk management strategies and engage the public with the decision making process around flooding.