Seasonal storminess, should we be concerned?

Scientists give long-term perspective for unsettled British summers

Scientists studying regional climate have discovered that wet and stormy British summers are the norm rather than the exception. The study, published in the International Journal of Climatology, and led by Liverpool John Moores University’s Dr Tom Matthews has provided context for the British-Irish Isles’ recent wash-out summers.  

The experts have assessed 142-year record of storms for the British-Irish Isles and found that in fact we are returning to more typical conditions that we should expect of British summers.  They found no evidence that climate change is causing a wetter summer season. Compared to earlier decades (around the 1960s-1980s), the researchers discovered that summers in the UK and Ireland have become much wetter as a result of more frequent storms (cyclones) from the North Atlantic which many put down to climate changes.

However, they found that this increase in storminess actually represents a re-establishment of conditions typical of the earlier half of the 20th Century, rather than being unusual in the long term context.  

But there are still questions over the summer of 2012 - the stormiest since at least 1871 -  in the 142-year cyclone reconstruction.

Dr Tom Matthews, who is a Geography Lecturer at LJMU, said:

"Given concern over increased British-Irish Isles storminess as the climate warms, there is a need to understand the extent to which these changes may already be underway. By providing a 142-year regional cyclone climatology across the British-Irish Isles, this study allows recent extreme seasonal storminess such as the summer of 2012 to be placed in context. Such a long term perspective is needed to explore low-frequency variability in the regional storm climate, and to diagnose and understand emerging changes."

The long-term record of British-Irish Isles cyclones provided by the study will help researchers to better understand year-to-year variability in storminess.

The paper A cyclone climatology of the British-Irish Isles 1871–2012

 Read the coverage in The Irish Times



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