WEATHER AND CLIMATE

Is Weather Becoming More Extreme?

Is Weather Becoming More Extreme?

Many people are under the impression that the weather in the UK is becoming more severe. Film footage of blizzards, gales and floods is always dramatic, and with 24-hour rolling news broadcasters are under pressure to sensationalise weather events that are actually quite normal.

In the winter of 2010-11, for instance, much of the UK was gripped by cold weather and heavy snowfall. However even thirty years ago heavy snowfall was a regular event and in the 15th to 19th centuries our winters were so cold that ice fairs were regularly held on the River Thames.

What can we do about extreme weather events?

Although it is almost impossible to predict the weather more than a few days ahead, many scientists believe the climate is warming up and that this will mean an increase in extreme weather events, both worldwide and here in the UK. Extreme weather disrupts agriculture, transport and business, so it makes sense to prepare ourselves as much as possible.

However, preparing for severe weather is harder than it sounds. For instance, our airports are widely criticised for closing when it snows, when airports in much colder countries like Finland remain open. However, in Finland there is deep snow every year, so money is made available to purchase snow ploughs; in the UK, it might not snow heavily for many years, so some believe investing in such equipment is a waste of money.

Other measures are more cost effective. Insulated roofs and double glazing, for instance, will last for decades and save a huge amount of money in heating bills, helping to lessen carbon emissions from power stations. Next time it snows, have a look at the roofs where you live. Roofs on which snow settles are usually well-insulated, so heat is unable to escape and melt the snow. In fact, a blanket of snow on the roof helps insulate your home.