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Chances Of Extreme Flooding Up By 43 Percent Because Of Global Warming, Warn Scientists

2 February 2016, 10:38 am EST By Alyssa Navarro Tech Times
Global warming may unleash devastating and extensive flooding, scientists warn. As levels of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions increase, the chances of extreme flooding also goes dangerously high.  ( NASA )

Because of spiking levels of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, global warming will possibly unleash devastating and extreme flooding in the coming years. Scientists say it will be similar to the severe storms that targeted a coastal plain in England in 2014.

In a new report, a team of experts explained that climate change had "amplified" the violent storms that flooded Somerset Levels during late 2013 and early 2014.

Now, man-made greenhouse gas emissions have upped the chances of extreme flooding by 43 percent, scientists said, as increasingly warmer temperatures hold larger amounts of moisture that lead to heavier downpour.

"What was once a 1 in 100-year event in a world without climate change is now a 1 in 70-year event," said Oxford University's Friederike Otto, co-author of the report. Their paper is the first research to look into the likely role of climate change in the winter flooding of Somerset Levels.

Examining The Somerset Levels Incident

During December 2013 and January 2014, heavy rainfall poured down the coastal plain and wetland area of central Somerset in South West England, affecting Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and the Thames valley.

The downpour led to extensive flooding, where more than 5,000 houses and establishments, as well as 17,000 acres of agricultural land, were submerged. Losses amounted to more than £450 million ($647 million).

The truth is, no single extreme weather occurrence can be linked to climate change, but Otto says it is more possible to estimate how much more likely an event is shaped by global warming.

Aside from the Somerset Levels, Otto also calculated the severe flooding that occurred in Cumbria by Storm Desmond in December.

Otto found that it was made 40 percent more possible by climate change, and that the record rainfall in the UK over the whole of that month was 50 to 75 percent more likely because of global warming.

"We can definitely say with climate change that the issue of flooding isn't going to go away," said Otto. "As a society we need to think hard about the question of our vulnerability and exposure to flooding."

Flooding Problems Across Europe

The study also applied contributions from citizen scientists all over the world who had all used spare processing time on their computers to calculate more than 130,000 simulations of what the weather would have been like with and without human interference in the climate.

According to Dr. Pascal Yiou of the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat e l'Environnement (LSCE), the increase in amount of rainfall had been due to a rise in moisture.

"The more extreme the weather, the stronger the effect of climate change over the UK," said Yiou.

Meanwhile, Beate Werner, one of the authors of the report, said the recent flooding in the UK are adding to evidence of worsening flood problems across Europe, which has occurred also because of draining, barricading and building on the flood plains around major rivers.

The Somerset Levels study, which is featured in the journal Nature Climate Change, was conducted by experts from LSCE and the Center for Ecology and Hydrology.

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