LONDON: Britain’s weather service says it sees the tentacles of climate change in a spate of storms and floods battering the country, but has stopped short of saying that global warming directly caused the extreme conditions.
The latest round of bad weather slammed into Britain’s west coast on Wednesday with torrential rain and winds gusting up to 106 mph. Trucks were toppled, trees were felled and a major chunk of the railway was closed.
The website of rail operator Virgin Trains greeted visitors with the words: “Do Not Travel.”
England, which has been lashed by wind and rain since December, had its wettest January since records began in 1766.
The resulting floods have drenched the southwestern coast of England, the low-lying Somerset Levels and the Thames Valley west of London, where hundreds of properties have been swamped after the Thames burst its banks.
Britain’s Met Office, the nation’s weather agency, said in a paper published this week that “there is no definitive answer” on the role played by climate change in the recent weather and floods. But it said there is “an increasing body of evidence that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense,” probably because of a warming world.
Met Office chief scientist Julia Slingo told the BBC that “all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change.”
London itself was expected to be safe from the flooding because it is protected by the Thames Barrier, a series of 66-foot high metal gates across the entire river. The massive gates can be closed to stop the tide from coming up the Thames, which gives more space for the river to handle excess water from upstream.