Europe's summer 2017: Just extreme weather or climate change?

It is end of July 2017, and it has been pouring down all day. In fact, it had been raining all week, and with an intensity that is unusual - even for a British summer's standards.

Since last weekend, the whole of Northern Europe saw heavy rainfall with thunderstorms. In some counties of Germany, over 100 litres hit every square metre, which was too much for some areas. Many roads had to be shut and people were forced to leave their flooded homes. 

Ironically at the same time, Rome is facing an extreme heatwave and water shortage. The lack of rainfall is so severe that the Vatican eventually decided to switch off all water fountains. 

Croatia is also fighting the heat as strong winds have sparked many forest fires, particularly in the area surrounding its capital Split. A very similar scene can be observed on the French mediterranean island of Corsica. Due to several out-of-control forest fires many houses had to be evacuated.

Even Saint Petersburg saw extraordinary weather: Last weekend, it hailed.

Are these the signs of climate change?

According to the German TV station ZDF's recent Twitter posting, no, but yes. Their meteorologist Katja Horneffer explains that we should not immediately connect isolated weather events to climate change. However, the rising number of extreme weather events are exactly corresponding to what climate scientists predict for the coming years.

Her statement is supported by British meteorologists. The Met Office published a study in mid 2011, in collaboration with Newcastle University, in which it already outlined the effects of climate change on our seasonal weather. 

The Met Office's study used a state-of-the-art climate model providing the first evidence that hourly summer rainfall rates could increase. According to their findings, summers are expected to become drier overall by 2100. However, at the same time, intense rainfall and consequently serious flash flooding could become several times more frequent.

The results from the study are the first step towards building a more complete picture of how rainfall in the UK may change as our climate warms.

Dr Lizzie Kendon, lead author of the research at the Met Office, said: "Until now, climate models haven't been able to simulate how extreme hourly rainfall might change in future. The very high resolution model used in this study allows us to examine these changes for the first time.

"It shows heavier summer downpours in the future, with almost five times more events exceeding 28mm in one hour in the future than in the current climate - changes we might expect theoretically as the world warms. However, we need to be careful as the result is only based on one model - so we need to wait for other centres to run similarly detailed simulations to see whether their results support these findings."

The full article can be found here: