Summer floods ‘not linked to climate change’

A report suggesting that last summer's extreme flooding in the UK was a freak event that cannot be directly linked to climate change has caused a media storm.

The summer 2007 floods in England and Wales − a hydrological appraisal, produced by researchers at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said June and July’s floods were a “very singular event” that did not fit in with historical weather patterns.

It led to a number of reports in the media suggesting the authors had denied any link between climate change and the floods.

Jamie Hannaford, one of the two lead authors, told edie the report agreed that climate change could cause more extreme weather events, but a study of rainfall and flooding records in the UK suggested summer floods were not part of this trend.

“There have been increases in winter rainfall and winter flooding over the last 30 or 40 years, but not really anything of the sort we have seen last summer,” he said.

“The message taken by the media was a bit extreme where they said we were denying the link with climate change.

“What we said is we cannot find any event to link them with a trend.”

He added: “We summarised the same thing that a lot of other work has said, which is that you can’t really attribute any single event to climate change.”

The report highlights that other studies and climate models suggested the UK is likely to see wetter winters, bringing an increase in flood risk, but summers are expected to become warmer and drier.

Some research has also suggested that climate change could reduce flooding because warmer summers will shorten the traditional flood season and reduce groundwater levels, allowing soil to absorb heavy winter rainfall more easily.

The report added that extreme flooding in the UK is still rare, but vulnerability to flooding has vastly increased as a consequence of floodplain development.

Kate Martin

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