Britain is bracing for four heatwaves a year, according to the most detailed long-term projections made by the Met Office yet. According to the weather agency, Britain could also see a surge of twice as many flash floods 50 years from now. The Met Office used a supercomputer to make extreme predictions and had climate scientists analyse the data.
At the moment heatwaves occur about once every four years.
The weather agency describes the weather conditions as an “extended period of hot weather relative to the expected conditions of the area at that time of year, which may be accompanied by high humidity.”
Temperatures above 30C (86F) will have to last for more than two days to be considered a heatwave in the UK.
In 50 years, by 2070, the number heatwaves could increase from once every four years to four a year.
However, this is only under a high-emission scenario, the agency said.
The hyper-local climate projections have allowed the Met Office and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to predict challenges posed by climate change in “unprecedented detail”.
In addition, assuming that carbon emissions have not been severely reduced, flash floods are likely to double from once every 10 years today to almost once every five years in the 2070s.
These types of high-resolutions analysis was previously only available for short-term forecasts.
The supercomputer used by the Met Office has “allowed forecasts to be made over an area of just 2.2km squared”, the Daily Telegraph writes.
Previously they could only be made over 12 to 20km squared so the new data means heatwaves, flood and storm risks can be pinpointed to an extremely local level.
The Government has confirmed these predictions will be used to prepare for the future – including for flood defences and to help farmers with drier summers.
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “These projections show in unprecedented detail the extent of the challenge we face.
“We must adapt to the changes in our climate.”
Met Office rainfall specialist Lizzie Kendon said using the model is like having “a digital picture of a person’s face.”
She added: “At a lower resolution you might be able to recognise the person, but at the higher resolution you see detail, including tiny blemishes on the skin.”