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Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 18:30 GMT
UK will get wetter, experts warn
Vehicles in flood water
A sight destined to become more common in the UK
Weather experts are warning that the UK should brace itself as this week's severe flooding will become more frequent.

The heavy rainfall causing chaos and flooding homes in the south-east may be linked to global climate change.

As a result, the UK is likely to be lashed by similarly intense downpours more often in future, the Meteorological Office says.

"The number of days of very heavy rain could increase substantially so the risk of flooding is likely to increase," said Alan Thorpe, director of the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Change Research.

Wetter winters

The most recent scientific studies suggest Britain will have wetter winters and, in northern areas, slightly wetter summers.

Environment Agency spokesman Archie Robertson told the BBC that flooding events were now being reported twice as often as 100 years ago.

"Looking forward we can see that the sorts of serious flooding we have seen yesterday and today could be happening up to ten times more often than it has been in the past.

"That means a completely different approach to protecting ourselves from flood risk."


Satellite image
Global warming could mean wetter winters for Britain
Some experts believe 'strategic flooding', where farmland is allowed to flood while resources are concentrated on protecting housing and industry, is one way forward.

Dr Mike Hulme, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research at the University of East Anglia, insists the current floods cannot be directly linked to global warming.

But they are more evidence that the world's climate has changed, as a result of a 0.6C global temperature rise over the last century.

"We have a high level of confidence that human pollution in the atmosphere has a significant role to play in that warming, and we know that these sorts of changes in global climate have a number of regional manifestations," he said.

Increased rainfall

"Here in Britain these manifestations will be increased rainfall, especially from October to April.

"And there's some good evidence that more of that rainfall will come in more intense rain events."

But the week's events have been directly blamed on global warming - and human development on flood plains - by extreme weather expert David Tuffnell.

He says normal low pressure systems and storm systems have become more potent than previously.

"It's a definite indication of global warming," he said.

"Six inches of rain in so few hours shows that a low pressure system has locked itself along the south coast, and there would have to be a fairly unusual combination of weather phenomena for that to happen."

Ground 'saturated'

East Sussex and north-west Kent had 180mm (six inches) of rain in three days, including 130mm in just 24 hours.

Forecasters are predicting further heavy rainfall in the region.

The Environment Agency says the situation is exacerbated by rain continuing to fall on completely saturated ground and already overflowing rivers.

The south has been hit particularly badly this year, with other flooding incidents at Christmas and in June.

Across the UK there are five severe flood warnings in force, 47 flood warnings and 92 less serious flood watches.

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See also:

12 Oct 00 | UK
South hit by severe floods
06 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Global warming 'a reality'
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