Investigating how climate affects intense rainstorms across Europe, climate experts have shown there will be a significant future increase in the occurrence of slow-moving intense rainstorms.

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Investigating how climate affects intense rainstorms across Europe, climate experts have shown there will be a significant future increase in the occurrence of slow-moving intense rainstorms.

The scientists estimate that these slow-moving storms may be 14 times more frequent across land by the end of the century. It is these slow-moving storms that have the potential for very high precipitation accumulations, with devastating impacts, as we saw in Germany and Belgium.

Led by Dr Abdullah Kahraman, of Newcastle University’s School of Engineering, the researchers used very detailed climate model simulations at the UK Met Office Hadley Centre. They found that slower storm movement acts to increase the amount of rainfall that accumulates locally, increasing the risk of flash floods across Europe beyond what has been expected based on previous studies.

Published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the study results show that storms producing intense rain may move slower with climate change, increasing the duration of exposure to these extremes.

A wake-up call

Dr Abdullah Kahraman, who is also a visiting scientist at Met Office, said: “With recent advances in supercomputer power, we now have pan-European climate simulations resolving the atmosphere in high detail as short-range weather forecasting models do. These models have grid spacing of approximately 2 km, which allows them to simulate storm systems much better, resulting in better representation of extremes.

“Using these state-of-the-art climate simulations, we have developed metrics to extract potential cases for heavy rainfall, and a smaller, almost-stationary subset of these cases with the potential for high rainfall accumulations. These metrics provide a holistic view of the problem, and help us understand which factors of the atmosphere contribute to heavy rainfall changes.

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