A recent run of wet summers in the UK could be caused by substantial warming of the North Atlantic Ocean, according to a new scientific study.
A shift in European climate in the 1990s to mild, wet summers in the north and hot, dry summers in the south is linked to the warm phase in a pattern of rising and falling sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean, research published online in Nature Geoscience has shown.
Researchers compared three periods in this cycle – a warm period between 1931 and 1960, a cool period from 1961 to 1990 and the most recent warm state starting in the 1990s.
The patterns of European climate change in the 1990s were similar to earlier changes attributed to the influence of the North Atlantic Ocean, the study found.
The last warm phase between 1931 and 1960 brought a string of wet summers including floods in the Devon village of Lynmouth in August 1952 which destroyed homes, washed away cars and killed 34 people.
Authors Rowan Sutton and Buwen Dong, of the UK National Centre for Atmospheric Science, at the University of Reading, said the current pattern of wet summers may be expected to continue as long as the present warm phase persists.
But they added that it was uncertain how long this period of time would be.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Mr Sutton said the switch could happen as rapidly as in two to three years time.
The research has been published after England and Wales endured the wettest summer for 100 years.
Data released by MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, at the end of August, showed that 14.25in (362mm) of rain has fallen in June, July and August, making it the wettest summer since 1912.