Freak weather 'will become the norm'

PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:15 06 July 2010

Flash floods and freak hailstorms like those seen this week will become 'the norm' in the years ahead, a Norfolk expert warned last night as a bleak report predicted future climate change will affect “every aspect of our daily lives”.

Flash floods and freak hailstorms like those seen this week will become “the norm” in the years ahead, a Norfolk expert warned last night as a bleak report predicted future climate change will affect “every aspect of our daily lives”.

Parts of the county were hit on Tuesday by ferocious summer storms that left town centre streets under water and saw tonnes of hailstones fall from the sky.

Now the most comprehensive research yet into the UK's climate has forecast many more outbreaks of freak weather, with temperatures set to soar by up to 6C by the 2080s.

The UK Climate Projections 09 study, by Met Office scientists, warned that summer rain could decrease by more than one-fifth in the South-East and Yorkshire and Humber, increasing the already significant risk of drought.

It said a drop in summer rainfall in East Anglia could reduce yields of agricultural crops and lead to drought and subsidence.

Winter rain could increase by 16pc in the North-West, London's sea levels could rise by 36cm, while the capital could experience summer temperatures regularly above 40C (104F).

Meanwhile, more rain is likely to fall on the wettest days, leading to a higher risk of the sort of flooding that hit Watton and other parts of Norfolk.

The findings were supported by Marcus Armes, from the University of East Anglia-based climate action programme CRed, who said we were “running out of time” to dodge the worst effects of climate change.

He said: “This week we have seen photographs in the local press of the impacts of flash floods and freak hailstorms on our community, and this very robust and detailed analysis suggests that these kinds of distressing events will become the norm in the years ahead.”

He said it was incumbent on the government and other agencies to minimise disruption, and added: “It will be costly and we must be prepared for the financial as well as environmental consequences of rapid climate change.

“However, we can all play our part in ensuring that we don't reap the worst consequences of climate change by using energy efficiently and moving from fossil fuel use to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.”

The chief executive of Anglian Water, Jonson Cox, who stood alongside environment secretary Hilary Benn as the report was unveiled, called on all businesses to respond to the findings.

He said: “The new climate projections take us all another major step forward in our ability to plan, adapt, and take positive action. Our hope is that as a result of what we see today, every business from sole trader to major plc that does not already utilise the projections, should do so as a matter of good and responsible business practice.”

The study looked at what is likely to happen to the country up to the end of the century, under three different levels of global greenhouse gas emissions - high, medium and low.

The medium emissions scenario, which the world is currently closest to, would lead to various parts of the UK facing temperature rises of between 2C and 6C, significant falls and rises in rainfall and sea level rises. Temperatures could be even higher under the high emissions scenario.

Mr Benn said the world must avoid a high emissions future, but warned that even if leaders managed to agree a new global deal on cutting greenhouse gases in Copenhagen in December, people would still have to live with “some level of change”.

Because emissions stayed in the system for many years, the next three decades of climate change were already set, he said.

“Climate change is going to transform the way we live. These projections show us both the future we need to avoid and the future we need to plan for.”

He said there was a need to invest in measures which would protect people against the impacts of climate change, such as flood defences, as well as taking steps to cut emissions.

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