Their promises of a barbecue summer and a mild winter in 2009 could hardly have been more wrong, but the Met Office is now predicting extreme droughts like the one that gripped Britain in the summer of 1976 could become much more common.
The drought of 1976 culminated in a 18-month period of below average rainfall which started in May 1975. The period was marked by daily fires and dry river beds, while agriculture suffered badly, with an estimated £500 million in failed crops.
A study by the meteorologists looked at how frequently droughts could occur in the UK by 2100 in the face of global warming.
The researchers ran a series of simulations of their climate model to see how weather patterns may change in the future, and the majority showed extreme dry spells would become more common.
There was a range of 11 different versions of the model.
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At the lower end of the spectrum 1976-style droughts - where temperatures were 40C above average between June and August across much of southern England - remained as rare as they are today, occurring only once every 50 to 100 years.
However, most of the outcomes showed droughts becoming more frequent. Some simulations suggested they could even occur once every decade. This would make droughts 10 times more common than they currently are.
The researchers, who based their study on the mid-range of projections for how emissions and temperatures might rise, did not assume any outcome of the model was more likely than another.
Future research will be aiming to assess how likely each result is, to give better guidance for people to plan for the consequences of climate change.
Eleanor Burke, climate extremes scientist with the Met Office, said understanding how frequently droughts will occur was important for plans to adapt to global warming.
'Severe droughts such as the one seen in 1976 have a big impact - causing water shortages, health risks, fire hazards, crop failure and subsidence.
'Understanding how the frequency of these events will change is therefore very important to planning for the future.'
The Telegraph - Met Office predicts a return of the summer of 1976
This is the original report from the Met Office:
Met Office - More droughts possible in UK
Study finds the number of droughts in the UK is likely to increase under climate change.
A Met Office study on how climate change could affect the frequency of extreme droughts in the UK has found a range of possibilities — the majority of them showing such droughts will become more common.
The study looked at how frequently extreme droughts could happen in the UK by 2100. To put the droughts in context, conditions seen in 1976 were used as a benchmark — a year which saw one of the worst droughts on record.
The Met Office climate model was used to run a number of simulations and these were then studied to determine how frequently 1976-style droughts could occur.
There were 11 slightly different versions of the model, producing a range of results. At the lower end, extreme droughts would continue to be as rare as they are today — happening every 50 to 100 years.
In the majority of other outcomes from the model, however, 1976-style droughts were more frequent. At the higher end, extreme droughts could happen once every decade — making them about 10 times more frequent than today.
This is an important step in assessing the likelihood of drought in the future, which could be vital for informing climate adaptation policy. At this stage, there is no probability attached to each of the scenarios, so they are all assumed to be equally likely. It is hoped future research will be able to assess how likely each outcome is to give better guidance to decision-makers on how they need to plan and adapt for future impacts of climate change.
Eleanor Burke, Climate Extremes Scientist with the Met Office, said understanding how droughts will affect the UK in the future is vital for plans to adapt to climate change.
She said: “Severe droughts such as the one seen in 1976 have a big impact — causing water shortages; health risks; fire hazards; crop failure, and subsidence. Understanding how the frequency of these events will change is therefore very important to planning for the future.”
You got to give the Met Office some credit, if CO2 was the driver of climate this report would be of some use, you could not make it up!!!!!!
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