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That's according to new analysis from an international team of climate scientists led by researchers at Oxford University.
They found that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions increased the risk of the once-a-century wet January in 2014 by 43% (uncertainty range: 0–160%). The increase in extreme rainfall that led to the flooding in 2013/14 was the result of two factors associated with global warming: an increase in the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere (a thermodynamic factor) and more January days with westerly air flow (a dynamic factor). The authors identified that approximately 2/3 of the increased risk could be attributed to thermodynamic changes in the atmosphere, and 1/3 to dynamic changes.
Among the worst-affected areas were Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall in the south west, and the Thames Valley in the south east. This first-of-its-kind, end-to-end study looked at the event from start to finish, taking in atmospheric circulation, rainfall, river flow, inundation, and properties at risk. The research is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Lead author Dr Nathalie Schaller of Oxford University's Department of Physics said: 'We found that extreme rainfall, as seen in January 2014, is more likely to occur in a changing climate. This is because not only does the higher water-holding capacity lead to increased rainfall, but climate change makes the atmosphere more favourable to low-pressure systems bringing rain from the Atlantic across southern England.'