Scotland likely to see extreme rainfall changes, says climate report

Scotland and northern England are likely to see wetter winters and much drier summers in coming decades if climate change goes unchecked, research shows.

The country is likely to wetter winters and drier summers in the coming decades. Picture: Toby Williams.

And rainfall is likely to become more extreme in both summer and winter, with heavy storms projected to become more frequent by the end of the 21st century, the study found.

The Met Office used high resolution modelling of rainfall over 1.5km squares - the same scale as is used for weather forecasts - to examine the changes in rainfall in Scotland and northern England to the end of the century.

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The research looked at what could happen if the world continued to pump out rising levels of high greenhouse gases.

It found that daily average winter rainfall was likely to increase by 10 per cent-35 per cent in parts of the Scottish Central Lowlands, western Scottish Highlands and the Lake District, but fall 10 per cent-25 per cent around Aberdeen.

In the summer, daily average rainfall is projected to fall across Scotland and northern England, with many areas including the central belt of Scotland experiencing reductions of 25 per cent to 50 per cent.

Using the 1.5km resolution also enabled researchers to model the likelihood of localised storms which could cause problems such as flash-flooding.

High-intensity rainstorms that see 10mm (0.4in) or more of rain an hour are likely to become more frequent, the study found, while less intense rainy weather is set to become less common.

Steven Chan, a visiting scientist with the Met Office Hadley Centre, said: “Developing an improved understanding of rainfall patterns until the end of the century is vital as it allows governments to plan for potential impacts of drought or flooding events.”

The study, published in the journal Climate Dynamics, only uses one model so is not able to assess how likely the results might be, but does provide an initial look at the types of changes to rainfall patterns northern Britain could see with high greenhouse gas emissions, the Met Office said.

The research comes after an earlier Met Office study which looked at southern Britain.

Later in the year, work on UK climate projections will build on the approach used in the study while looking at a spread of potential outcomes and how likely they are to occur.