As California sees the future impacts of climate change playing out in the form of epic drought on one side of the globe, across the map in the U.K. residents are seeing an opposite but related climate effect: Severe and unprecedented flooding.
According to the world’s longest-running weather station, the Radcliffe Meteorological Station at Oxford University, more rain fell there in January than during any winter month since daily recording started in 1767. Total rainfall last month was around 5.8 inches, more than three times the average.
It doesn’t look like February will bring much respite from the deluge. “There will be more wet and windy weather from the Atlantic this week,” Met Office forecaster Callum MacColl told the Guardian. “And the 15-day outlook sees the unsettled theme very much continuing.”
The “unsettled theme” applies to the impacts the wet weather is having on communities as well as the conditions that give rise to it. Last week U.K. Environment Minister Owen Paterson ordered for a plan that creates a long-term solution to deal with the flooding, as efforts to keep the damages at bay tested the limits of the country’s Environment Agency’s resources.
The Environment Agency has issued nine severe flood warnings — the highest level of alert — in parts of Southern England and Wales where up to 1.2 inches of rain is scheduled to fall over the weekend. The Agency considers lives to be in danger and is discussing the option of deploying military amphibious vehicles with the Ministry of Defense to help those in need.
Flooding is expected to be the greatest threat of a changing climate posed to the country, according to a 2012 report published by the U.K.’s environment department.
Models show Britain will see an average increase of between four and 12 percent rainfall in the next 20 years.
“We are seeing more extreme temperatures and more intense rainfall events around the world,” Dr. Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the Met Office Hadley Centre, told The Telegraph. “The expectation in a warming world is for an increased frequency of heatwaves and greater moisture in a warmer atmosphere is expected to lead extreme precipitation events, more intense and more frequent.”