THE North East is expected to suffer the most extreme change in weather in Scotland as a result of the warming planet.

Scientists predict that while more floods are likely in different parts of the country, the North East will see some of the most drastic changes to the frequency of events.

Last weekend, flooding in Angus claimed the lives of three people and wrecked hundreds of homes.

“For a while now we have known climate change is going to change the frequency and the magnitude of floods and, according to our research, the North East is more likely to see the more extreme changes in Scotland,” said Professor Lindsay Beevers, of Edinburgh University’s School of Engineering.

“It is not that the west will be drier – it is that the change, as a result of global warming, will be more extreme in the North East.”

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However, not only is more flooding expected – so are more droughts.

“In five of the last six years, Scotland has had water scarcity warnings during the summer and with this comes the increased risk of wildfire,” said Professor Beevers.

“The climate is changing and we need to be able to adapt to how natural hazards are changing.”

In Brechin, a new £16.3 million flood defence scheme was unable to prevent the flooding because of the unprecedented volume of rain.

“You can build bigger walls but that is only part of the story and is unlikely to solve the problem on its own,” said Professor Beevers.

“This should focus our minds towards climate mitigation while not losing sight of the fact that we have to adapt. We have to recognise this is a real climate emergency and we need to be strong about our commitment to climate mitigation ambitions at the same time as being strong about adapting to the new normal.

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“We can adapt to change but we have to recognise the climate emergency is real and mitigation and adaptation have to go hand in hand. We are not helpless in this situation. There are solutions but they are not always going to be easy.”

Measures to slow runoff and reduce soil loss from fields through tree-planting and river and floodplain restoration is a large part of the work at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee.

Professor Marc Stutter, senior environmental and biochemical scientist, pointed out that traditionally flood prevention projects involved “hard engineering” such as walls and embankments.

“However, as recent events have shown, these can be vulnerable,” he said.

“‘Soft engineering’ helps to create a more biodiverse landscape and can supplement those hard engineering options so we don’t have to keep building higher walls.

“These approaches do mean looking at whole river systems – not just the river but the tributaries and the land around them, so it can mean asking if we can manage the land differently.

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“The core of what we have learned is that you can’t hold back a natural force like a river. You have got to give it space, and all the development that infringes on that space, even some of the hard engineering solutions, are just part of failing to give rivers space to do what they do naturally.

“We should think more holistically when thinking about making solutions for a location and not rush into planning more concrete. We need to think about the whole catchment and upstream area rather than just the management at one location – otherwise I think you will quickly run out of options.”

Edinburgh University climatologist Professor Simon Tett said the effect of climate change is making the breaching of flood defences more likely.

“In general, all of humanity needs to stop making the problem worse and we need to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible,” he said.

“How much warming happens depends on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted. The more emitted, the more warming there is.”