NIC0013

Written evidence submitted by The Met Office

 

The Met Office is the UK’s National Meteorological Service, a Public Sector Research Establishment and an Executive Agency of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. We are responsible for monitoring and forecasting the weather and providing the National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS) which warns of the impacts caused by severe weather ranging from disruption to transportation networks to danger to life. 

 

The Met Office works in partnership with agencies around the UK responsible for managing flood risk, to support the delivery of flood forecasts and warnings. For example, the Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC), a partnership between the Environment Agency and the Met Office, combines meteorology and hydrology expertise to deliver a specialised hydrometeorology service for England and Wales. The FFC delivers flood forecast guidance for all natural forms of flooding: river, surface water, coastal and groundwater, providing up to 5-days lead time to support the planning, preparation and response activities of emergency responders. 

 

The Met Office Hadley Centre provides climate science and services to help Government, industries and people understand and prepare for climate change, including the monitoring of global and national climate variability and change. Within this, the Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme (MOHCCP) provides relevant scientific evidence for UK Government to address the societal challenges of climate change, helping to build a more resilient, net-zero future.  

 

The Met Office’s Dr Will Lang, Head of Civil Contingencies, gave evidence at the committee’s first oral evidence session on 13 December 2021.  Our written response will expand on some of the themes Dr Lang spoke to at this session.

 

  1. Key vulnerabilities and levels of preparedness of UK CNI to extreme weather events and other effects of climate change, including:

 

 

 

Wind

Extreme Rainfall

Extreme Heat

Extreme Cold

Low visibility/fog

Energy

Strong winds causing damage to overhead power lines

 

Prolonged periods of light winds resulting in reduced wind power generation

 

Coastal storm surge resulting in flood impacts (as per extreme rainfall)

Flooding of critical sub stations

 

Flooding obstructing network repairs

 

Lightning damage to electrical infrastructure

Reduced power-carrying capacity of network.

 

Possible cooling problems at power stations

 

Increased demand

 

Wildfires resulting in damage to electrical infrastructure

Heavy snow, freezing rain and ice causing damage to overhead power lines

 

Significantly increased demand

 

Heavy snow obstructing network repairs

 

Water

Coastal storm surge resulting in contamination of water supplies

 

Surface water flooding overwhelming drainage/sewerage systems

 

Flooding resulting in contamination of water supplies

 

Landslides resulting in disruption of water supplies

 

Droughts affecting water quality and supply

Significantly increased demand

Freezing causing damage to pipes and reduced supply capacity

 

Transport

Strong winds resulting in disruption to road, rail airport operations and sea crossings.

 

Increased risk to marine users, with implications on search and rescue demands.

 

Coastal storm surge resulting in flood impacts (as per extreme rainfall)

Flooding resulting in disruption to road, rail, airport and seaport operations

 

Landslides resulting in disruption to road and rail operations

 

Severe thunderstorms reducing air traffic and airport operations capacity

Distorted rail lines and overhead power cables

 

Melting roads and runways

 

Extended aircraft take-off runway length required, or reduced aircraft weight (lower load). Warmer means less dense air and therefore reduced lift.

 

Heat stress impacts on road and rail users, particularly in stationary traffic and on underground

 

Wildfires resulting in disruption to rural transport networks

 

Heavy snow, freezing rain and ice resulting in disruption to road, rail, airport and seaport operations

Reduced or impacted capacity at airports.

 

Increased moisture on rails/ adhesion risk.

 

Disruption to UK road infrastructure

Health

Strong winds resulting in injuries and risk to life

 

Coastal storm surge resulting in flood impacts (as per extreme rainfall)

 

Light winds can exacerbate air quality issues

Flooding and landslides resulting in injuries and risk to life

 

Impacts of flooding can result in longer-term mental health issues

Heat stress impacts, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable

 

Drinking water, river and coastal quality impacts

 

Wildfires resulting in injuries, risk to life and localised air quality issues

Increased slips and trips increasing hospital admissions

 

Fuel poverty impacts particularly for the elderly and vulnerable

 

Food

Strong winds resulting in damage to crops and disruption to supply chains

 

Coastal storm surge resulting in flood impacts (as per extreme rainfall)

 

Flooding resulting in damage to crops, loss of livestock and disruption to supply chains

 

Severe thunderstorms resulting in damage to crops

Heat stress and drought impacts on crops and livestock

Disruption to supply chains

Disruption to supply chains

Communications

Strong wind damage

 

Coastal storm surge resulting in flood impacts (as per extreme rainfall)

 

Flooding resulting in loss of power to comms network

 

Flooding obstructing network repairs

 

Lightning damage to comms infrastructure

 

Wildfires resulting in damage to comms infrastructure

 

Heavy snow obstructing network repairs

 

 

 

 

Compound events

 

 

 

Recent ‘near miss’ scenarios

The UK and Europe have experienced a number of ‘near-miss’ events in 2021, including:

 

 

More information on each of these can be provided to the committee if required.

 

  1. What might constitute an ‘acceptable’ level of resilience to climate change within UK CNI, both to near-term risks and longer-term uncertainties or ‘tipping points’, and the obstacles to achieving it

 

Present and Future Trends

 

Thresholds and Tipping Points

 

 

  1. The effectiveness of Government policy, legislation and implementation frameworks for managing national security risks arising from climate change, including those emerging within the private sector

 

Climate Services: Standards and Frameworks

The Met Office is currently consulting with various Government Departments to explore the requirement for enhanced standards and a new national framework for climate services.  Whilst climate information is available that can be used to inform the climate plans for critical infrastructure the best information is not always used.  Both enhanced standards and a national framework for climate services would improve access to good quality climate services to help ensure critical (and other) national infrastructure is protected against present day extreme weather and future climate. 

 

Whilst ISO standards 14090 and 14091 provide an excellent basis for considering adaptation, further consideration could be given to a specific standard for climate information, and the provision and use of climate services. The Strategic Priorities Fund UK Climate Resilience (SPF UKCR) programme, which UKRI and the Met Office deliver, has commissioned work with community involvement that could form the basis of such a standard for quality assurance of UK climate services, as well as assessing the UK’s climate information needs in the coming years.  This work will be used to further inform future plans and we would be happy to share more information on this programme, and our findings once they are available.  

 

Many nations have developed national frameworks for climate services, following guidance from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on the Global Framework for Climate Services. Recent work as part of the SPF UKCR programme (led by the Met Office) has investigated and established the potential advantages of such a framework for the UK including:

 

(i)       bridging gaps which currently make dealing with intersectoral and compound risk difficult through coordination of climate services and community activity and knowledge exchange;

(ii)     integration of transdisciplinary approaches to building resilience (e.g., consideration of societal, health, environment, and other factors when examining adaptation options, allowing for benefits to be realised in the near-term as well as longer-term resilience).

 

Adaptation

Much research from the climate science community has focused on informing the CCRA, and so quantifying risksThere is an opportunity to build upon this scientific evidence to plan and optimise adaptation, focussing on the provision of evidence to inform adaptation, including the pull-through to practical applications.  For example, a new programme could focus on adaptation research and the operational delivery of ongoing adaptation information and tools and guidance in applying it on a UK scale.

 

Transition to Net Zero and associated risks

It is vital that infrastructure risk is considered in the context of the transition to net zero. This means that we need to understand the physical weather risks now and in the future when investing in, and implementing, low carbon technologies so we achieve a resilient net zero.

 

Risk owners must also consider the physical climate risks alongside other risks and benefits. This might include transition risks, for instance associated with mitigation costs, energy prices and food prices associated with the decarbonisation pathway (see Gambhir et al., 2021). It also should consider risks and benefits to health (e.g. through air quality improvements) and energy security that comes from the transition. These are inter and transdisciplinary challenges that require appropriate expertise, including from organisations such as the Met Office, to come together to provide advice on the solutions.

  1. Allocation of roles and responsibilities at the national, devolved and local level, and the connections between them

 

 

 

 

  1. The role of the Government’s forthcoming National Resilience Strategy, particularly in addressing opportunities for (and obstacles to) improved resilience among CNI providers

 

We are working with Cabinet Office on NSRA review and National Resilience Strategy, providing expertise on the hazard component for both.  There is now an argument for many weather-related risks to be considered on longer timescales to factor in climate change, and we understand that the Cabinet Office are looking at the best way to use the appropriate timescales for assessing risks in the NSRA.

 

  1. The extent and effectiveness of UK-wide monitoring and early warning systems

 

As the UK’s official weather service, The Met Office is responsible for issuing weather warningsThe National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS) has defined best-practice for weather warning services worldwide, using a colour-coded and risk-based approach to consider the impacts of severe weather on the public and the resilience community. Performance standards for warnings in significant events are defined and assured by the independent Public Weather Service Customer Group.

 

More specialised advice on Flood Risk is provided to emergency responders through the Flood Guidance Statements issued by the Met Office, the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and SEPA and created by the joint Flood Forecasting Centre and the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service. This advice is consistent with that provided to the public and responders through the NSWWS. Flood Warnings are issued by the flood agencies of the UK to indicate the likelihood of flooding in specific flood-prone areas in any given event.

 

On timescales beyond those considered for weather forecasts, the Met Office supplies season to decadal forecasts which can provide early warning further in advance for some hazards and risks. Met Office research on high-impact-low-likelihood events could be used to provide early warning for potential climate thresholds or tipping points. The most appropriate scientific approach should be selected when looking at reasonable worse case situations, for instance using approaches such as UNSEEN to look at present day possible conditions beyond those in the observational record.

 

  1. The opportunities presented by technological solutions (such as AI and digital twins) for anticipating and managing the implications of climate change for CNI

 

The use of digital twins to anticipate and manage the risks and impacts of climate change on the UK’s CNI could represent a new approach that combine the best modelling, observations with a user-focused approach to manage risk. Digital twins could enable us to link the environmental change with a range of potentially impacted systems, including infrastructure, allowing a clearer understanding of compound events, risk propagation and the testing of interventions.  

 

31 January 2022


[1] https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2021/2021-european-summer-temperature-impossible-without-climate-change