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Warwickshire’s changing climate

More extreme weather, increased rainfall and higher temperatures are all happening in Warwickshire according to a new report.

Warwickshire’s Local Climate Impact Profile (LCLIP), the first of its kind looking at the impacts of climate change in the county, aims to increase understanding of the relationship between the weather in Warwickshire and the county’s vulnerability to climate impacts.

It looks at everything from the extreme weather events of the last five years, through to projections of how climate change may hit the county in future years.
Master’s student Lili Fu from the University of Warwick Business School, working with Warwickshire County Council, has pulled the report together.

The pioneering 12-week project assessed the impacts of a changing climate and extreme weather events (these include heavy rain, strong winds, heat waves and snow and ice) on the delivery of public services.

The report revealed that weather has a major impact on many of Warwickshire County Council’s services.

There have been 30 significant weather events in the last five years requiring action from Warwickshire’s public service organisations. Nearly half of these are related to heavy rainfall. Eight were related to high wind speeds and two each for lightning, heat wave and heavy snow/hailstorms/dramatic cold.

The degree of impact of each of these significant weather events depends on the cost of equipment and man-hours required to respond to them:

* Storm (high winds) damage has resulted in more than £133,000 damage to county council property (21 schools and 4 other council properties) in the last five years.
* WCC insurance claims due to storm damage went up 50% each year from 2003 to 2006.
* More than 1,000 homes in Coventry & Warwickshire were blacked out when high winds brought down power and phones lines in the last two storms.
* High winds closed Nuneaton market at a cost of £4,000 to the local council, estimated losses of the cancellation for market traders was put at up to £15,000 with potential huge losses for loss of trade to local businesses.

Summer Floods 2007:
*60% of services interviewed said the summer floods of 2007 affected their long-term goals.
* The total cost to council services of responding to the summer floods of 2007 was more than £1.7 million.
* The potential economic cost to the whole of Warwickshire of the summer floods 2007 is estimated at up to £90 million.
* May to July 2007 saw rain in three consecutive months of greater than 100mm, this resulted in the 1 in 200 year floods that happened in Warwickshire. There is also more risk of flooding if there is over 45mm of rain in one day.
* The Emergency Planning Unit received and responded to 1,300 phone calls within 48 hours in July 2007.
* The financial impact on the services delivered by Adult Health and Community Services was at least £350,000. A care home had to be closed for four nights and the residents transferred to another residential centre.
* The closure of Kingsbury Water Park over the worst affected weekend and the cost in the subsequent five weeks cost £37,000 not including the cost of labour.
* Damage to bridges was estimated at £300,000. Construction contracts had to be halted with two to three weeks worth of man hours lost.
* Damage to the highways was £500,000. This included over 60 road closures where repairs were completed within 48 hours after responding to 700 phone calls. * It cost £60,000 on preparing to close these roads, £120,000 in staff time, £130,000 on clearing blocked drains.
* Insurance claims for damage to schools and other WCC properties was £500,000 (nearly 30 times more than the previous annual average). Some of these claims still remain unpaid.

In the 2007 floods, according to the Environment Agency, 100 properties were flooded in Henley-in-Arden (River Alne), over 110 properties were affected in Alcester (River Arrow), 50 properties flooded in Broom (River Arrow), 60 properties flooded in Bidford-on-Avon (River Avon), 100 properties flooded in Shipston-on-Stour (River Stour), 10 properties flooded in Southam (River Stowe) and 70 properties flooded in Wellesbourne (River Dene).

The research also revealed that:

* High temperatures have resulted in £1million worth of damage to road surfaces.
* Anti-social behaviour and crime increases in hot weather.
* Nuisance complaints about health issues increase in hot weather.
* The amount of garden waste collected reduces in hot weather.
* There is no routine recording, reporting or central collection of data on the impacts of the weather on service delivery.
* Extreme weather events, which cause disruptions to planned activities, are becoming more frequent.
* There is a lack of consistent policies in place across organisations for responding to extreme weather events.
* The drainage systems across Warwickshire, belonging to different bodies and individual property owners, are not fully mapped.
* The greatest potential losses because of extreme weather events is to the tourism industry.
* Old houses are more vulnerable to flooding as they only have one drainage system (it is not split into sewage and surface water drainage).
* There is no formal record about the number of trees felled by high winds. Fallen trees have the potential to damage road, power lines, drivers and pedestrians.
* The threat to biodiversity is long-term. Some species habitats may be lost. There may be local extinction of species as they migrate away to more suitable habitats. * Some wetlands may disappear.
* There is no information available on school closures due to overheating, so it is difficult to assess the impact of hot weather.

Cllr Martin Heatley, Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for the Environment said: “This is a fascinating and extremely useful report. Until now, except for a few exceptions, we have not routinely required information about weather patterns for service and resource planning. Nor has past weather been recorded and analysed as a matter of course. The weather has largely been a backdrop to our services and activities.

“As weather events become more intrusive, their effects need to be understood and prepared for in order that we can continue to deliver high quality services in Warwickshire. This report is a crucial first step in achieving this.”

The project has built a clear picture of the general weather trends over three thirty year periods and the extreme weather events that have happened in the county in the last five years. The project has also begun to identify the associated impacts and vulnerabilities (including costs). The information has been used to form the basis of a Local Climate Impact Profile (LCLIP) for Warwickshire.

The LCLIP will help inform risk management and short to medium-term emergency planning. It will also prove useful in the development of a climate change adaptation strategy and action plan for Warwickshire.

Initial predictions suggest that climate changes will mean the county will experience:
* Wetter warmer winters
* Drier hotter summers
* More extreme weather events

However, there are some distinctive changes we are already seeing:
* Temperature increases in spring and winter are greater than in summer and autumn.
* Temperature has increased at least 0.5 degrees in the last 30 years during the winter time.
* Average autumn rainfall is increasing, especially in October.
* Average rainfall is decreasing in March and August.
* There has been a 13.6% increase in average temperature in the winter, 5% in summer and 6.6% in autumn.

Other interesting findings include:
* According to wind speed data from 1987 to 2007, January is the most windy month. The day that has the record wind speeds is the 8th January. The most windy day is 10th January as this date has had gales (wind over 32 mph) on nine out the last 20 years.
* If the wind speed rises over 45mph there is a risk of trees falling and power cuts.

Warwickshire County Council officers are now considering how best to develop a longer-term approach to recording and monitoring local weather conditions and impacts in order that:
* Services are monitored to identify activities which result from weather events.
* There is more accurate costing of responding to the impact of weather events.