Earlier this week the journal Nature published a paper in how emissions of greenhouse gases increased the odds of the Autumn 2000 floods. This paper used the detailed computer climate model developed at the Met Office Hadley Centre. Using this the project team simulated the weather in Autumn 2000, both as it was, and as it might have been had there been no greenhouse gas emissions since the beginning of the 20th century. This was then repeated thousands of times using a global volunteer network of personal computers participating in the climateprediction.net project in order to pin down the impact of emissions on extreme weather. The team then fed the output from these weather simulations into a flood model, and found that 20th century greenhouse gas emissions very likely increased the chances of floods occurring in autumn 2000 by more than 20%; and likely by 90% (close to doubling the odds) or more.
Lord Henley, Environment Minister, said: “I welcome this research which is the first to attribute how rising greenhouse gas concentrations may increase the chance of a particular flood. This work reinforces the scientific evidence on the need for the UK to tackle climate change, and to increase our resilience to the challenges climate change will bring from extreme weather events.”
Dr Peter Stott, of the Met Office, and a co-author of the report, said: “This study is the first step toward near real-time attribution of extreme weather, untangling natural variability from man-made climate change. This research establishes a methodology that can answer the question about how the odds of particular weather events may be altering. It will also allow us to say, shortly after it has occurred, if a specific weather event has been made more likely by climate change, and equally importantly if it has not.”
Developing the science
The Met Office Hadley Centre has been commissioned by DECC, Defra and DfID to work with international partners as part of the Attribution of Climate-related Events Group. The group is developing the science of attribution of extreme weather that will be needed to provide regular and scientifically robust assessments of how the odds of these phenomena are changing.
- Floods caused by climate change (telegraph.co.uk)
- British floods ‘were the result of climate change’ (independent.co.uk)
- Scientists identify human connection to precipitation extremes. (climatecentral.org)
- Climate change ‘doubled flood risk’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Blame human emissions for British floods (newscientist.com)
- ‘Human Influence’ On Devastating UK Floods (news.sky.com)
Ocean Forecasting Success
Met Office scientists have been awarded the Denny Medal for the best research paper of 2010 by the Journal of Operational Oceanography. The paper describes how the Met Office operational Forecasting Ocean Assimilation Model (FOAM) and the new Nucleus for European Modelling of the Ocean (NEMO) work and presents verification of their performance.
FOAM data of the three dimensional density structure of the ocean were primarily used by the Royal Navy in their sonar propagation models for use in anti-submarine warfare. From this original use, the model has been developed to provide both our government and commercial customers with forecasts that include:
- Ocean currents
- Ocean surface temperatures
- Sea-ice extent
Such forecasts are critical to sensitive offshore operations such as oil and gas drilling and undersea cable repair and demonstrates how the Met Office supports both our government, defence and commercial customers.