TORONTO — As rescue workers race to save people from devastating floods in Germany and Belgium, climate experts are sounding the alarm over predictions that intense, slow-moving storms will increase significantly across Europe by the end of the century.
According to a new study by scientists at Newcastle University in the U.K. and the country’s national weather service, the slow-moving pace of some storms can increase the amount of rainfall that accumulates in one particular region, which then raises the risk of flash floods.
Scientists suggest the cause of this severe weather is linked to climate changeand their findings were recently published in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters.
“This study shows that in addition to the intensification of rainfall with global warming, we can also expect a big increase in slow-moving storms which have the potential for high rainfall accumulations,” Lizzie Kendon, science fellow at the Met Office and professor at Bristol University, said in a statement. “This is very relevant to the recent flooding seen in Germany and Belgium, which highlights the devastating impacts of slow-moving storms.”
She added, “Our finding that slow-moving intense rainstorms could be 14 times more frequent by the end of the century under the high emissions RCP8.5 scenario shows the serious impacts that we may expect across Europe if we do not curb our emissions of greenhouse gases.”
This week, thousands of people in Germany and Belgium had their homes destroyed by days of heavy rainfall and flooding. As of Friday, rescue teams searched for hundreds of missing people and the death toll from the disaster stood at more than 160 people killed.
“Governments across the world have been too slow in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming continues apace,” Hayley Fowler, professor at Newcastle University’s School of Engineering, said in a statement. “This study suggests that changes to extreme storms will be significant and cause an increase in the frequency of devastating flooding across Europe.”
She added, “This, alongside the current floods in Europe, is the wake-up call we need to produce improved emergency warning and management systems, as well as implementing climate change safety factors into our infrastructure designs to make them more robust to these severe weather events.”
With files from the Associated Press.