SCOTLAND’S climate is becoming progressively wetter, with periods of heavy rain in the east becoming four times more frequent than 30 years ago, according to new research.
The study, carried out by a team from Newcastle University, also shows that the country as a whole will experience a fourfold increase in autumn rainfall, putting some communities at greater risk of floods.
The study compared rainfall in Scotland from the late 1960s to the end of the 1990s.
The findings will be presented tomorrow by senior research fellow Dr Hayley Fowler at a conference in Aberdeen’s Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, the UK’s premier research unit for use of rural land resources.
She will tell academics and landowners that long, wet spells of the type previously seen only once in every 50 years are becoming more common.
A ten-day period of non-stop rain can now be expected once in every eight years in the east of Scotland, once in every 11 years in the south of Scotland, and once in every 25 years in the north.
Dr Fowler said: "It is clear from our research that there have been significant changes to both the timing and occurrence of multi-day intense rainfall events."
She will tell the seminar that there have also been changes in timing, with the heaviest rain now falling mainly in autumn.
"These climatic changes may be explained by persistent atmospheric circulation anomalies and have huge economic and social implications in terms of increased flooding," she added.
The scientist attributes the increasing rainfall and climate change to the "greenhouse effect" and consequent global warming.
Commenting on the findings, Dr David Viner, of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, one of the world’s foremost centres for climate change research, said: "We’ve done a lot of the initial work on rainfall and changes, and we know that the temperature of the planet is rising and that this can be attributed to human activity and rising carbon dioxide levels. As the temperature rises, rain production becomes more frequent."
He said the cumulative effect was already measurable, with the 1990s on record as the warmest decade for the UK, while 2003 saw Europe as a whole experience temperature highs previously unheard of.
"We are also looking at an unheard-of rate of change. In the past, movements and adjustments in weather patterns have taken place over tens of thousands of years.
"Now, it is possible that Scotland’s average temperature could rise between two and five degrees in the next ten years, which is an incredible amount.
"While the east of Scotland can expect to have wetter autumns and winters, it can also expect to have drier and warmer summers."