Does the climate crisis mean that severe storms are here to stay?

A 100-year-old tree which blew down during Storm Eunice in Hitchin, Hertfordshire

One of hundreds of trees which fell down during Storm Eunice on Friday, February 18 - Credit: Chris Wilson

Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin have ravaged parts of southern England over the weekend.

The strong winds on Friday, February 18 claimed the lives of three people - in London, Hampshire and Merseyside.

A record-breaking 122mph gust of wind was recorded on the Isle of Wight, with wind speeds reaching 76mph in East Anglia.

Storm Gladys is hot on Eunice and Franklin's heels and could bring strong winds to the region on Thursday.

Could climate change be behind these more frequent severe, sometimes deadly weather events?

The 68-year-old clone of Newton's Apple Tree in Cambridge toppled over after Storm Eunice

The 68-year-old clone of Newton's Apple Tree at Cambridge Botanical Gardens, which was already dead, fell victim to Storm Eunice - Credit: Cambridge Botanical Gardens

"Climate change can both increase an decrease the severity of storms," Dr Rosie Robinson from the Global Sustainability Institute in Cambridge explained.

"We know that rising sea temperatures can increase the intensity of tropical storms.

"Although we don't know whether climate change will increase the number of storms, it is strongly linked to the overall increases in other events globally like flooding, drought and wildfires."

In 2021, the region experienced "chaotic" and unusual weather events.

Hailstones "the size of golf balls" in Thaxted in July 2021

Giant hailstones battered homes and farmland in Thaxted in July 2021 - Credit: Neil Brooks/Twitter

In Thaxted, 19 miles from Cambridge, golf ball-sized hailstones battered homes and farmland in July 2021.

In Hertfordshire, Primal Scream and Sophie Ellis-Bextor were forced to abandon their headline sets at Standon Calling festival, which was called off due to flash flooding after days of hot sunshine.

A mudslide at Standon Calling festival, near Bishop's Stortford, in July 2021

Standon Calling, Hertfordshire in July 2021 was called off due to flash flooding and a lightning risk - Credit: Scott Randall/Twitter

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The Met Office said that winter storms which the UK experienced in the mid-2010s were made 40 per cent more likely because of climate change.

Farmers in the East of England are negatively impacted by storms, which can cause crops to fail.

Brian Finnerty, of the National Farmers Union, said: "Our farmers are on the front line of climate change, with parts of Cambridgeshire and Essex particularly vulnerable to both river and coastal flooding.

"The East of England is also the driest region in the UK."

Brian said that two thirds of NFU members say they have noticed an increase in extreme weather, and the union has set a "net-zero" goal to reduce the industry's carbon emissions by 2040.

"Farmers want to be part of the solution, not the problem," he said.

It's not all bad news, though.

Carbon dioxide emissions - which contribute to rising sea levels - fell by some 30 per cent in the East of England between 2005 and 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund say that there is an appetite in government and on-the-ground to respond to climate issues.

What is the weather forecast this week?

The Met Office forecasts an end to strong winds and rain today (Monday, February 21).

Bands of rain will move from the north towards south-east England on Tuesday.

By Friday, the weather should be fine with some sunshine and light winds.