Lightning

Adapting to climate variability and change

10 December 2011

The Met Office is increasingly focused on how to help society prepare and adapt to climate variability and change. The Climate Adaptation team in the Met Office Hadley Centre is right at the heart of this, working closely with Government, companies and whole industry sectors.

Organisations often want to better understand how climate variability and change may affect their current and future operations. The Climate Adaptation team has developed innovative techniques to apply observational and modelling climate information to aid decision-making for a range of customers.

Two important projects investigating critical infrastructure resilience include climate change risk assessments for the UK energy and rail industries (as mentioned in the Science profile on Hazel Thornton).

For the energy industry, weather impacts many activities; from demand planning to infrastructure failures. For example, overhead line infrastructure is severely affected by high winds and lightning strikes. The Climate Adaptation team derived statistical relationships between fault data and weather records and used climate projections to calculate future failure risk.

The analysis enabled the energy industry to better prepare for future weather risk, risk uncertainty and its implications. As a result, the industry is now planning greater use of lightning arresters to minimise the impact of projected increasing lightning risk. The Met Office is also helping the nuclear power industry to plan for future climate extremes to ensure safety of building design.

Extreme weather causes the most damage, so the team works with different organisations to determine how climate change could alter the frequency, severity and location of extreme events. This awareness of risk is crucial for the insurance industry which is why AXA, a global insurance company, is funding the Met Office as part of an international team to research the changing future European risk and characteristics of hail and wind storms.

Working with Government, the team analyses the implications of climate variability and change for policy developments. For the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the team contributed to the first nationwide climate change risk assessment, looking across many different sectors. We are also helping the Department of Energy and Cimate Change (DECC) analyse the impacts of climate variability and change on renewable energy production. In addition we offer support to foreign governments, for example, we are working with the Egyptian government to understand how the River Nile may change in the future.

Much of the Climate Adaptation team's work involves interacting with industry specialists to ensure common understanding and usefulness of the risk information. Appreciating how customers use climate records and projections means we can enhance the targeting of our underpinning climate research to be of most benefit to society.

The Climate Adaptation team at the Met Office:

  • Systematically assesses an organisation's vulnerability to current weather and climate.
  • Gathers together known impacts information, such as weather-asset relationships or key vulnerability thresholds.
  • Investigates where relationships or thresholds aren't known.
  • Identifies useful risk metrics, combining both hazard and vulnerability information.
  • Calculates current and future risk using climate observations and projections.
  • Explores how different adaptation options may reduce future risks.

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