How Bad will British Summers Get?
The weather is always a talking point in the UK, and the wet winter of 2013/14 has broken all records. Experts are divided in their opinions about what is causing us to experience more extreme weather, but what does seem certain is that our weather is slowly changing.
If more extreme weather is on the cards for the winter months, does that mean we’re going to experience hot and dry summers? Well, not quite.
In many parts of the UK it’s often said that if you don’t like the weather, wait for 10 minutes and it will change to something else. This is predicted to be the case far more often in the future.
Gone are the days of “quiet” weather when it’s not too hot or too cold, and with only a light breeze. Experts reckon that in the decades to come, British summers are much more likely to lurch between record breaking heat and torrential downpours, often all in the same day.
On a practical level, this will make packing for a British holiday break almost impossible as the weather will be so hard to predict, but could also cause more serious issues such as flash flooding and landslides.
Flash flooding is likely to cause much more of a problem in future summers than at present. This winter’s flooding was caused by weeks of rainy weather, resulting in the ground becoming saturated.
In the summer, the ground surface becomes hard when it has been dry and hot, so when it rains the water just runs along the surface rather than soaking into the earth. This leads to water pouring down streets and causes flooding.
Flash floods are hard to predict, and if we see a lot more flash flooding in the future, this could cause insurance premiums to rise for everyone.
In July in the UK, the average temperature is around 20C. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the UK was 38.5C in August 2003 in Kent, and experts tend to agree that we will see more heat waves in the future.
Experts predict that by the end of the 21st century, temperatures in London and the South East could regularly be hitting 40C or even more throughout July and August, making London as hot as Dubai is currently.
This extreme heat has obvious consequences for the way we go about our everyday lives; not only will we all need to use more sunscreen, but we could see more British homes built with air conditioning as standard and a boom in holidays at home rather than the annual break in Southern Europe.
Heatwave Health Problems
If we expect hotter summers, then this could mean serious problems for the elderly and people with conditions such as asthma. In the last serious heatwave in 2003, there were between 2,000 and 3,000 extra deaths in England alone, and more than 30,000 across Europe.
Rather than thinking of a summer heatwave as a treat and something to be welcomed, in the future we could be dreading the summer and moving away from Southern England to a more pleasant climate. More periods of sustained heat will create backlogs in the NHS, and we could all find ourselves affected by backlogs in A&E and longer waiting times for routine operations.
Sea Level Rises
Looking further ahead, if worst case scenario predictions are to be believed, global warming could see sea levels around the UK rising by as much as 30cm. If this happens, the way we spend our summers in the UK will change completely.
Much of low-lying areas such as Norfolk will be completely underwater, and resorts such as Great Yarmouth or Blackpool could be all but a distant memory.
There is a lot of controversy over just how quickly water levels will rise and how far, but our grandchildren could be experiencing very different British summers than we do at present.