The winter of 2013/14 saw some of the most widespread flooding the UK has ever experienced. Storms started in Scotland on 5 December and were just the first of a number of extreme weather fronts to batter each region of the UK until early January. A higher than usual number of winter storms combined with strong winds, spring tides and large amounts of rainfall resulted in 1700 properties flooded in England alone; very few areas though were unaffected.
With climate change being very much on the agenda for so many now and in the wake of the damage caused by the flooding of the six weeks that Christmas and New Year, many are now looking to predict when they could occur again – and what flood defences to put in place in readiness now.
Geography and environmental changes
With Britain being an island location it is always set to be faced with continuous flood threats around the coast and along rivers. Our location on the globe though makes where we live even more vulnerable as we are located between the Atlantic and the continental area of Europe. Consequently, we live in the middle of the mild air of the east hitting the icy blasts from the west and the result is one of the most unpredictable weather patterns possible.
Examination of the reducing ice of the Arctic and the warming of the Pacific Ocean mean that experts are analysing climate change data to try to predict when we will next be testing our flood defences to the maximum. Other estimates include looking at rainfall variables, temperature changes and soil saturation.
Extensive partnership working by departments such as the Environment Agency and local and regional government authorities mean that more flood prevention schemes are being formalised and implemented. A number of organisations such as the Flood Forecasting Centre, the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service and the UK Coastal Monitoring and Forecasting Service provide advice on the impact of any threat of flooding and in turn help to provide timescales for the arrival of the danger as well as where is most likely to be affected.
The Flood Map is now in place for the purposes of planning permission as well as information on where there are floodplains which could cause issues with housing developments, live reports on the heights of rivers and the location of many of the flood defences already in place.
Predictions for the future
Using events of the past can help with planning for the future but even with the best data available and the most knowledgeable of experts looking at every angle of our world, it’s impossible to accurately predict when the UK will next be hit with major floods.
Records show that major floods are happening at an increased rate as the years go by. This issue will only be exasperated with environmental changes such as the use of floodplains for housing and the increase in concreting over previously green urban areas meaning there are less areas for water to soak away to.
What we do know though is that there is more of a chance that buildings can be protected and valuable assets saved if everyone takes responsibility for their own property by having flood protection ready to put in place when a warning is issued.
The world we live in is unpredictable and so it’s about doing what we can to futureproof our lives. Be prepared with a flood barrier, have an evacuation plan and be ready to take on whatever the weather can throw at us the next time we are at threat. Whilst we can’t forecast what will happen on the planet around us, we can do a great deal to keep ourselves and our families safe and secure.