Climate change likely to turn UK's weather more extreme

Warmer, wetter winters and more
extreme rainfall are what the UK can
expect from climate change,
meteorological experts warned on
Friday.
Although the report from the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) does not go into detail
on individual countries, the regional
and global trends identified in the
assessment can be extrapolated to
reflect some of the likely impacts on
Britain.
Dr Peter Stott, of the Met Office, said
more extreme rainfall was likely to
be the most noticeable impact. "There
is an increased risk of extremes. As
the atmosphere warms, it can hold
more moisture, so there is more to
fall when there are conditions that
produce rain."
Those extremes would be reflected in
temperature rises too, he said: "The
warmest days will become hotter than
they would have been."
However, scientists cautioned that
natural variability will continue to
play a big role in determining the
UK's weather, so there will continue
to be exceptional cold snaps and cool
summers. New research not yet
included in the IPCC also suggests
there may be a link between the
melting of the Arctic and duller,
wetter summers in the UK, said Stott,
but this is still in its early stages.
And a further factor could complicate
the picture in Britain. The IPCC
report identified a potential
weakening of a major system of
ocean currents called the Atlantic
Meridional Overturning Circulation
(AMOC). That weakening could
slightly dampen the effects of
warming on Europe. But Matt Collins
of Exeter University said it was
unlikely to cause an absolute cooling:
"It could offset some of the warming,
but really the greenhouse gas signal
wins over the AMOC.
It may be slightly less warm than it
otherwise would have been."
Our seas are growing more acidic,
too, and if this continues it could
start to have an impact on marine
life around the UK. A recent study
found molluscs were likely to be
particularly at risk.
Oceans play a huge and as yet
insufficiently well-understood role in
absorbing the heat increases
generated by greenhouse gas
emissions – the IPCC authors suggested
they had taken in at least 90% of the
warming so far. If that is the case,
could we forget about cutting
emissions and leave the oceans to
suck up the excess heat? No, said the
IPCC – temperatures would continue
to rise, as they have done in the last
century.