Attribution of Autumn/Winter 2000 flood risk in England to anthropogenic climate change: A catchment-based study

TitleAttribution of Autumn/Winter 2000 flood risk in England to anthropogenic climate change: A catchment-based study
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsKay, A, Crooks, S, Pall, P, Stone, D
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Start Page97
ISBN Number00221694
KeywordsAttribution, climate change, Flood frequency, Hydrological impacts, uncertainty

Although no single weather-related event can be directly attributed to climate change, new techniques make it possible to estimate how much the chance of an event has been altered by anthropogenic emissions. This paper looks at the floods that occurred in England in Autumn/Winter 2000, by using large ensembles of 1-year climate model simulations representing April 2000-March 2001. These represent an industrial climate and four estimates of an hypothetical non-industrial climate (without historical greenhouse gas emissions), and are used to drive hydrological models for eight catchments in England. The simulated flows are used to assess the impact of historical emissions on the chance of occurrence of extreme floods in each catchment, through calculation of the fraction of attributable risk (FAR). Combining results for the four non-industrial climates, positive median values of FAR indicate that, for all but one catchment, emissions are likely to have led to an increased chance of flooding in the October-December period. Definitive conclusions are difficult however, as there are wide bands of uncertainty in FAR, with distributions generally spanning no attributable difference in risk (FAR = 0). One catchment shows a decreased flood chance (negative median FAR), due to its high permeability, but an analysis of the effect of antecedent conditions shows that a longer period of climate data than 1. year is probably required to obtain more representative values of FAR for such catchments. The inclusion of snowfall/snowmelt is also shown to be important for floods over the October-March period, as the reduced likelihood of snowmelt-induced floods in the warmer temperatures of the industrial climate moderates the increased flood chance due to other sources of flooding. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.