The risk of extreme winter rainstorms in southern England, such as those that caused widespread flooding in January 2014, has increased as a result of climate warming.

Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA/Corbis

Harnessing spare processing time on volunteers' personal computers, Nathalie Schaller and Neil Massey at the University of Oxford, UK, and their colleagues produced more than 134,000 simulations of possible winter weather in southern England and Wales under past and present climate conditions. In the model runs that were based on current conditions, the likelihood of extremely wet winters was about 43% higher than in simulations with pre-industrial concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Climate warming increased moisture and shifted circulation patterns in the atmosphere, boosting the risk of heavy precipitation.

Nature Clim. Change (2016)