Climate Change – Are Longer Wet Spells a Certainty?

Posted on May 27, 2024

Will Climate Change Cause Prolonged Wet Spells in the UK?

Climate change and its effects are hot topics these days, and as a weather tragic, one question that’s been on my mind is whether it will really (as recently suggested) lead to prolonged wet spells in the UK. Living here, we’re used to unpredictable weather – it’s almost a national pastime to complain about it – but could climate change make things even wetter? I’m not an expert, but I’ve been doing some reading, and here’s what I’ve found out. Coincidentally like the British weather, there are varying views.

Prolonged Wet Spells: Are They Really a Certainty?

Those ‘glass half full’ types who think climate change will cause longer wet periods in the UK seem to have some worrying valid points. For starters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, which can lead to more intense and extended rain (as seen this winter). This isn’t just theory; it’s happening globally, and the UK is seeing signs of it too. This winter has been a dog walkers tale of trench foot and skating on mud.

Let’s take a look at the North Atlantic jet stream, which has always significantly influenced our weather. Climate change is making the Arctic warmer, and this is playing games with the jet stream’s usual path (making it wobble around). When it gets disrupted, we can end up with the same type of weather sticking around longer than usual – including, miserable wet spells. Also, warmer sea temperatures around the UK mean more evaporation, which can result in more rainfall (the heat sucks the water up and dumps it on us). So perhaps it’s time to bring out the brollies, get a canoe and give up cricket.

We don’t even have to rely on computer models alone; our weather records show what’s going down. For many parts of the UK, this winter has been the wettest on record, with heavy rain and floods everywhere. This surpassed 2014, so extreme wet periods are becoming more common, suggesting a depressing trend. We don’t ask for Mediterranean summers, just a few weeks of good weather generally perks us up. We’re good like that.

Prolonged Dry Spells?

Now the more positive bit. On the flip side, some argue that climate change doesn’t necessarily mean the UK will get stuck in prolonged wet spells. Weather systems are incredibly complex, and local variations can lead to different outcomes. So don’t chuck away the ambre solaire and patio furniture just yet.

I don’t want you to get too excited, but some studies suggest that climate change might actually bring drier summers to the UK (2022 was the hottest summer on record). Higher temperatures can increase evaporation, drying things out, and shifts in atmospheric patterns could steer rain away from us (sounds too good to be true). This is happening in parts of southern Europe, so it could happen here too, leading to dry spells interrupted by intense but short-lived storms rather than long wet periods. Don’t splash out on a swimming pool and a mid-life crisis soft top though, it’s just a theory.

Whilst climate models are getting better, they’re still not perfect, far from it. Predicting exactly how climate change will impact specific regions like the UK is still tricky, and there’s a lot of uncertainty. So, saying for sure that we’ll see prolonged wet spells might be jumping the gun. Keep the long raincoat handy, but maybe don’t live in it just yet. Unless of course, you are some kind of deviant.


So, will climate change cause prolonged wet spells in the UK? The answer is complicated, and I’m still trying to figure it out without any real success. There’s good evidence that we might see more extended rain periods due to more moisture in the atmosphere and a wobbly jet stream. But we could also face drier conditions because of increased evaporation and changing weather patterns. It’s a bit of a meteorological mystery tour.

One thing’s clear: It appears the UK needs to be ready for more extreme and unpredictable weather in future. Whether it’s prolonged wet spells or sudden dry spells, governments should be investing in infrastructure (they won’t have course) and planning to handle whatever climate change throws our way. After all, if there’s one thing we Brits know how to do, it’s weathering the storm – or perhaps the sun.

And if nothing else, we’ll have something new to discuss when walking the dog. I’m not sure I want the computer models to get too sophisticated anyway. Imagine knowing now that the weather is going to be shit until a brief late September heatwave.

it probably will be but at least by not knowing, we can hope.

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