Was Storm Desmond a result of climate change?

Durham City suffered at the hands of Storm Desmond.
Durham City suffered at the hands of Storm Desmond.
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Extreme weather conditions in the north of England were record-breaking and "extraordinary", according to the Met Office's chief scientist.

Dame Julia Slingo said the weekend weather broke records going back to the 1800s, and added that "all the evidence points to climate change" paying a part in the downpours which have seen a body found in the River Kent in Cumbria and thousands left without power.

Dame Julia said it is too early to determine a definitive cause for Storm Desmond, but added that such rainfall is seven times more likely than it would have been in a world without human-created greenhouses gases.

She told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "Our current assessment is indeed that this was record-breaking if you go back through all the digitised data we hold, way back to the 19th century.

"Over the two-day period this weekend, Thirlmere saw over 400mm of rainfall - that's nearly 16in. There was 300mm over several other locations in the Cumbrian fells. So these are just extraordinary amounts of water.

"Is it to do with climate change? There can't yet be a definitive answer but we know that all the evidence from fundamental physics and what we understand about our weather patterns, that there is potentially a role.

"The latest research we published last month looking back at the 2013/14 floods was that for the same weather pattern, heavy rainfall of the type we have seen this weekend is now seven times more likely than in a world without human emissions of greenhouse gases."

She said the weather raises serious questions over what is being done about the extreme conditions.

"That is not to say we have definitely got an answer to the rainfall from this weekend, but it points to some really urgent work we need to do now to really answer that question: are we going to see more of this, and how often, and what do we do about it?"

Two rainfall records have been broken. The first is the record amount of rain over a 48-hour period - there was 405mm of rain recorded at Thirlmere in the 38 hours to 8am on December 6.

The Met Office currently does not have the full 48-hour data but expects the total could be sightly higher than 405mm.

The previous record was 395.6mm, which was recorded at Seathwaite, Cumbria, on November 18 and 19 2009.

The second record broken was the highest rainfall record for any 24-hour period, which was the 341.4mm recorded at Honister Pass on Saturday, beating the 316.4mm recorded at Seathwaite in 2009.

There have been two rainfall records broken. The first is the record amount of rain over a 48 hour period: there was 405mm of rain recorded at Thirlmere in the 38 hours to 8am on December 6.

The MetOffice currently does not have the full 48-hour data but expects the total could be sightly higher than 405mm.

The previous record was 395.6mm, which was recorded at Seathwaite, Cumbria on November 18 and 19 in 2009.

The second record broken was the highest rainfall record for any 24-hour period, which was the 341.4mm recorded at Honister Pass on Saturday, beating the 316.4mm recorded at Seathwaite in 2009.

Guy Shrubsole, an energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "The misery and chaos of the record rainfall in Cumbria are yet another wake-up call for this Government. Climate change is expected to make flooding more likely and more severe in the UK.

"Unfortunately UK policies are going in the wrong direction with ministers failing to invest adequately in flood defences and repeatedly undermining energy efficiency and clean renewable power.

"World leaders attending the Paris climate summit must do far more to protect us all from the ravages of climate change - and massively ramp up efforts to cut the pollution that's super-charging our weather."