More wet winters to come, say scientists

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This weekend's storms presage the shape of British winters to come. Scientific evidence shows that as global warming continues, such mild rough weather will become more typical than the freeze that gripped the country over the New Year.

This weekend's storms presage the shape of British winters to come. Scientific evidence shows that as global warming continues, such mild rough weather will become more typical than the freeze that gripped the country over the New Year.

Already the traditional hard winter depicted in thousands of Christmas cards is becoming rare. Nearly all of the past 15 winters have been officially classified as "warm''. Scientists at the University of East Anglia say that there is virtually no chance of a series of snowy Christmases such as Dickens experienced in his childhood, and that the chances of another very cold winter, as in 1963, are "vanishingly small''.

A giant study for the European Commission, published by the Jackson environmental institute 18 months ago, found that cold winters will have disappeared almost entirely by the 2080s. But scientists at Reading University and the Swedish meteorological institute reported last week that very wet winters will become five times more common over the course of the century.

Storms are expected to become more frequent, so the picture is complicated. As the world warms up, increased heat will put more energy into the world's weather system, but this will be offset to some extent by a reduction in the differences in temperature between the poles and the tropics, because the coldest parts of the world are heating up fastest. The meteorological office's best guess is that there will be more storms, but they will not necessarily be more violent.

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