Greenhouse gas emissions are changing the global climate. We are already experiencing some of this change in Scotland but we can expect far more in the future. To meet the challenges posed by our changing climate, we need to understand how climate can and will impact on our lifestyles, our work and our services.
In Glasgow City Region we know about rain! You have probably noticed that it has been raining a lot in recent years, with some very heavy downpours causing flooding and widespread disruption. In fact, it is not just the last few years that have been wet. Over the last few decades we have seen a trend of increasing rainfall, especially in winter. This trend is expected to continue in the future, with autumn and winters likely to become wetter through the 21st century.
As well as an increase in total rainfall, we are also likely to see more intense, heavy downpours which can make it difficult to predict surface water flooding, especially in urban areas.
Flooding has a devastating impact on people, homes and businesses. It causes damage and disrupts the infrastructure and day-to-day services that we rely on.
The projected changes in rainfall patterns are likely to pose an on-going challenge to the Glasgow City Region. It is more important than ever that we take action and build upon the good work already underway across the region to make us more resilient to flooding.
Although increased rainfall is likely to be our biggest challenge, the climate projections also indicate that by the middle of this century an average summer is likely to be drier as new weather patterns are established.
If not carefully managed, this could have implications for our water supply and the needs of residents, key services and businesses, as well as our natural environment and agriculture
Most of us love those rare hot days! The prospect of temperature rise might seem like something to embrace. But it will pose a wide range of challenges to Glasgow City Region and we need to make adjustments to cope. Over the last few decades temperatures in the west of Scotland have been on the rise, increasing by 1°C between 1961 and 2004. This trend will continue in the future. Climate projections show that it is very likely that average temperatures will rise by at least a couple of degrees by the 2050s. This would mean that temperatures in Glasgow City Region are likely to become more similar to those currently experienced in the south of England – and it is possible they could even go beyond these temperatures.
We could benefit from a warming climate that encouraged greater use of the outdoors and a healthy and active lifestyle. Milder winter conditions could also reduce the need for heating and reduce the number of cold-related deaths. However, it will also pose significant challenges. For example, we will still need to use our existing buildings that have been constructed with past climate in mind. If they do not perform well in future climate conditions, they may need costly retrofitting or even have to be replaced.
Urban areas in the region may feel the heat most acutely in the future. This is due to the ‘urban heat island’ effect which leads to higher temperatures in densely populated urban areas where energy use is high, hard surfaces are prevalent, and vegetation is scarce.
Glasgow city centre already has one of the most significant ‘urban heat island’ effects in the UK and this is something we must address to avoid problems as temperatures rise in the future.
The Rising Seas
The River Clyde is the heart of this region and it is Glasgow’s connection to the sea which provides us with our rich and proud maritime and industrial heritage. However, it also poses a risk with potential to cause flooding and increase pressure on drainage systems across the region.
These risks will be exacerbated by sea level rise which has been accelerating in recent decades. Relative sea level is projected to rise by up to 70 cm by the end of this century.
The public sector, businesses and communities across the region need to work together to effectively address the challenges from increasing rainfall, rising temperatures and sea level rise.
More variable weather
As our climate warms the energy in our weather system is increasing, disrupting traditional weather patterns. This means our weather is also becoming more variable on a day to day basis. Whilst there are not clear future climate projections, high winds, as well as the snow storms such as those in 2018 can cause a lot of disruption to buildings and transport infrastructure – as well as health and safety. This also needs to be factored into adaptation planning.