2012’s weather – the new normal?

 

An article in today’s Guardian newspaper poses the question whether 2012’s extreme weather – drought followed by floods, culminating in deaths, huge damages and a record wet year – is a sign of things to come.

The climate experts believe that a warmer climate will mean that more moisture can be absorbed into the atmosphere resulting in more rain falling. Being stuck on the NW edge of Europe facing the Atlantic Ocean means that the British Isles have always experienced a wide range of weather – I love getting all 4 seasons in one day – but the effect of climate change on the jetstream that feeds low pressure systems over the UK is poorly understood. If it sends them south over the top of us, they’ll dump their load on us. This is beautifully illustrated by the hypnotic video of accumulated daily rainfall prepared by the Environment Agency.

This is likely to bring more frequent and worse flooding – witness the flooding of one of the UK’s top surf towns, Braunton, just before Christmas. Places that haven’t flooded before will be hit as surface water runs off tarmaced roads and land and overwhelms drains. This will inevitably result in more combined sewers flooding our surf breaks as well.

If this is ‘the new normal’ then we’ll no longer be able to count on seasons acting like they used to. This applies to surfing ‘seasons’ as well as weather seasons. The vagaries of the jetstream and the tracking of low pressure systems will affect who gets surf, the quality and size of the surf and when it arrives. The traditional spring and autumn seasons of long range clean swells  may be replaced by short range swells produced by low pressures going over the top of us, rather than being kept out in the Atlantic by blocking high pressure systems. Indeed, on the south coast here we’ve just had a prolonged series of low pressures going producing lots of great surf, albeit accompanied by lots of wind. One of the few upsides of Hurricane Sandy was the amazing surf it left in its wake.

So while the impact of the new normal of extreme weather is undoubtedly going to be negative and we are all going to have to learn to adapt to it, surfers are also going to have to expect a new paradigm of new surf at new spots and less surf at existing spots as sea level rises.

 

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