Scientists make link to climate change as flood-soaked U.K. battered by strong winds
A snow plough works to keep a main road in Durham clear after overnight snow caused traffic problems across north east England, early Wednesday Feb. 12, 2014. Weather forecasters are predicting further snow on high ground with rain causing more flooding in the south of England over the coming days. (Owen Humphreys / PA)
Published Wednesday, February 12, 2014 7:56AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 12, 2014 1:32PM EST
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 warming directly caused the extreme storms.
The latest round of bad weather hit Britain's west coast Wednesday with winds gusting at more than 160 kilometres an hour.
The Met Office 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 due to a warming world.
Met Office chief scientist Julia Slingo told the BBC that "all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change."
The Met office study discusses evidence of increasingly extreme weather events and changes in the jet stream, but it does not say global warming caused the flooding. To do that, scientists take months, sometimes years, to conduct detailed computer simulations -- and the report said such research was needed in this case.
England had its wettest January since records were first kept almost 250 years ago, and the country has been lashed by wind and rain since December.
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 as the river burst its banks this week.
The Met Office issued a highest-level red warning of "exceptionally strong winds" Wednesday for west Wales and northwest England.
It said a gust of 170 kph was recorded at Aberdaron in northwestern Wales.
The Met Office said gusts could cause widespread structural damage and loss of power. Railway operator Network Rail said the main west coast train line would close for about two hours Wednesday evening because of the wind.