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Human influence on climate in the 2014 southern England winter floods and their impacts

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  • Nathalie Schaller
  • Alison L. Kay
  • Neil R. Massey
  • Geert Jan Van Oldenborgh
  • Friederike E. L. Otto
  • Sarah N. Sparrow
  • Robert Vautard
  • Pascal Yiou
  • Ian Ashpole
  • Andy Bowery
  • Susan M. Crooks
  • Karsten Haustein
  • Chris Huntingford
  • William J. Ingram
  • Richard G. Jones
  • Tim Legg
  • Jonathan Miller
  • Jessica Skeggs
  • David Wallom
  • Antje Weisheimer
  • Simon Wilson
  • Peter A. Stott
  • Myles R. Allen
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>26/05/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Nature Climate Change
Issue number6
Volume6
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)627-634
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date1/02/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

A succession of storms reaching southern England in the winter of 2013/2014 caused severe floods and £451 million insured losses. In a large ensemble of climate model simulations, we find that, as well as increasing the amount of moisture the atmosphere can hold, anthropogenic warming caused a small but significant increase in the number of January days with westerly flow, both of which increased extreme precipitation. Hydrological modelling indicates this increased extreme 30-day-average Thames river flows, and slightly increased daily peak flows, consistent with the understanding of the catchment’s sensitivity to longer-duration precipitation and changes in the role of snowmelt. Consequently, flood risk mapping shows a small increase in properties in the Thames catchment potentially at risk of riverine flooding, with a substantial range of uncertainty, demonstrating the importance of explicit modelling of impacts and relatively subtle changes in weather-related risks when quantifying present-day e_ects of human influence on climate.