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"Never-Ending" Rain Made 10 Times More Likely by Global Heating

A recent study by the World Weather Attribution group has revealed that the relentless rain that battered the UK and Ireland last autumn and winter was made ten times more likely and 20% wetter by human-caused global heating.


Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

The region was hit by over a dozen storms in quick succession between October and March, resulting in the second-wettest period in nearly two centuries. The deluge caused devastating floods, claiming at least 20 lives, severely damaging homes and infrastructure, triggering power outages, disrupting travel, and causing significant losses of crops and livestock.


Researchers warn that without urgent action to curb fossil fuel emissions, such extreme weather events will become increasingly frequent. The level of rainfall experienced would have been a once-in-50-years occurrence without climate change, but is now expected every five years. If global temperatures rise to 2C, such severe wet weather would occur on average every three years.


Experts are calling for increased efforts to protect communities, highlighting that vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected. Some flood victims, for example, were unable to use dehumidifiers due to high energy costs, while others couldn't afford to replace frozen food lost during power cuts.


Dr Mark McCarthy, a climate scientist at the UK Met Office and part of the WWA team, said: "The seemingly never-ending rainfall this autumn and winter across the UK and Ireland had notable impacts. In the future we can expect further increases – that’s why it is so important for us to adapt to our changing climate and become more resilient.”


Dr Sarah Kew, a researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and also part of the WWA team, added: “The UK and Ireland face a wetter, damper and mouldier future due to climate change. Until the world reduces emissions to net zero, the climate will continue to warm, and rainfall in the UK and Ireland will continue to get heavier.”


The study focused on storms Babet, Ciarán, Henk, and Isha, which were among the most damaging. A separate analysis estimated that arable crop losses in the UK alone due to the heavy rain would cost farmers around £1.2bn.


Dr Ellie Murtagh, the UK climate adaptation lead at the British Red Cross, said: “We know flooding has a devastating impact on people’s lives. Its effects can be felt for months and years afterwards.” She noted that weather-related home insurance claims in the UK had risen by over a third, reaching a record-breaking £573m, with many unable to afford insurance.


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