Vast stretches of southwest England are flooded. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is blaming climate change, and it looks like he's on pretty solid scientific footing. While it's still not possible to link any specific weather event to climate change, it's now been shown that we're changing global precipitation patterns.
From the Times:
While it has long been suspected that climate change is contributing to increased precipitation over midlatitude countries such as Britain, research has now conclusively linked greenhouse gases to heavier downpours.
I've posted a feature about it on our website. For the view from soggy London, check out this update from Greenpeace UK.
Meanwhile, in sunny Greece, and other parts of Southern Europe, they're finding things dangerously warm. This BBC story has some good maps showing how the UK's misfortune is linked to Greece's, um, misfortune. And it's all likely tied up with human induced global warming.
The big news in all of this is a study in the latest Nature titled, "Detection of human influence on twentieth-century precipitation trends". Abstract can be found here and the editor's summary here. You've got to pay to read the whole thing.
My summary (from that Greenpeace feature) is this:
In this study, researchers compared what 14 different climate models predicted would happen with actual documented changes in snowfall and rainfall. What they found was a remarkably close match. The conclusion - human caused global warming is changing precipitation patterns.
I'm taking two things away two main things from the study.
1. The study adds further real world proof that the climate models are reliable. No big surprise there.
2. Weather patterns are probably going to keep changing if we keep pumping out ridiculously large amounts of CO2.
But where does Britain fit in all of this. Well, the University of Reading's web site has a remarkably easy to read discussion of the situation:
Predictions of future climate change suggest that during winter we could experience more frequent heavy rainfall and so an increased risk of flooding over central and northern Europe (including the UK). During summer, while most models suggest average rainfall could decrease, there could still be more intense rainfall events. The fact that warmer air can hold a lot more moisture than cooler air means that if in weather systems that bring moisture over the UK, there is the potential for higher peak rainfall rates in warmer world.
Many climate models also suggest that the average tracks of storms that bring rainfall to the UK and Europe could move northward, pushing wet conditions over northern Europe.
I'm guessing the fact that one of the people involved in the study works at the University of Reading is not a coincidence. However, the two lead authors were Canadian. In fact, my favorite headline was in the (Toronto) Globe and Mail:
"Canadians prove humans are causing climate change"
Well, than goodness for those Canadians. Ok. Actually, the study is pretty ground breaking. The Financial Times explains why:
The changes to rainfall patterns resulting from emissions were not detected in previous scientific studies because these tended to rely on global averages for rainfall. But increases in rainfall in some regions over the past century have been balanced out by less rainfall in others, so the averages have not told the whole story. This week's study looked in detail at regional precipitation patterns.
The study's findings were in line with those envisaged in the computer models that scientists use to predict climate change.
And if you think you're safe outside of Europe, check out the news from China:
Earlier this year, the government warned that climate change would make weather conditions in China this year tougher than for the last decade.
Some 200,000 houses have been wholly or partially destroyed in the floods, and some two million hectares of grain crops have been completely destroyed, an official is quoted as saying by state news agency Xinhua.
Global warming, global problem. Yep, that's what I always say.