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Climate change and water in the UK - past changes and future prospects

Watts, G., Battarbee, R. W., Bloomfield, J. P., Crossman, J., Daccache, A., Durance, Isabelle ORCID:, Elliott, J. A., Garner, G., Hannaford, J., Hannah, D. M., Hess, T., Jackson, C. R., Kay, A. L., Kernan, M., Knox, J., Mackay, J., Monteith, D. T., Ormerod, Stephen James ORCID:, Rance, J., Stuart, M. E., Wade, A. J., Wade, S. D., Weatherhead, K., Whitehead, P. G. and Wilby, R. L. 2015. Climate change and water in the UK - past changes and future prospects. Progress in Physical Geography 39 (1) , pp. 6-28. 10.1177/0309133314542957

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Climate change is expected to modify rainfall, temperature and catchment hydrological responses across the world, and adapting to these water-related changes is a pressing challenge. This paper reviews the impact of anthropogenic climate change on water in the UK and looks at projections of future change. The natural variability of the UK climate makes change hard to detect; only historical increases in air temperature can be attributed to anthropogenic climate forcing, but over the last 50 years more winter rainfall has been falling in intense events. Future changes in rainfall and evapotranspiration could lead to changed flow regimes and impacts on water quality, aquatic ecosystems and water availability. Summer flows may decrease on average, but floods may become larger and more frequent. River and lake water quality may decline as a result of higher water temperatures, lower river flows and increased algal blooms in summer, and because of higher flows in the winter. In communicating this important work, researchers should pay particular attention to explaining confidence and uncertainty clearly. Much of the relevant research is either global or highly localized: decision-makers would benefit from more studies that address water and climate change at a spatial and temporal scale appropriate for the decisions they make.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 0309-1333
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 02 May 2023 14:49

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