With Climate Change, Winter Storms Delivered 20 Percent More Rainfall to British Isles

Great Britain and Ireland.

Great Britain and Ireland. NASA

A new analysis finds that climate change fueled excessive rainfall in the U.K. and Ireland this fall and winter.

A particularly strong jet stream ushered Atlantic storms toward Europe, and warming ramped up the volume of rainfall they produced, according to an analysis from World Weather Attribution. The period from October to March was among the wettest ever recorded on the British Isles, scientists say.

Warmer air holds more water, leading to heavier downpours. The heavy rain seen during storms over the last several months was made 10 times more likely by climate change, according to the analysis. Stormy days yielded 20 percent more rainfall than they would have without warming.

Flooding along the River Severn in England, January 3, 2024.

Flooding along the River Severn in England, January 3, 2024. NASA

Heavy rains grounded flights, sparked power outages, ruined crops, and reportedly killed at least 13 people in the U.K. and Ireland. Repeated downpours saturated soil, which worsened flooding during successive rainstorms.

A prior analysis from World Weather Attribution found that climate change made the heavy October rainfall that flooded County Cork, Ireland, twice as likely.

“The U.K. and Ireland face a wetter, damper, and moldier future due to climate change,” said Sarah Kew, a researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, lead author of the new analysis. “Until the world reduces emissions to net zero, the climate will continue to warm, and rainfall in the U.K. and Ireland will continue to get heavier.”


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