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Flooding - a sign of things to come?

It's raining, for a change. Fortunately, I live on the side of a hill, and the only water-related issues I have experienced as a result of the unprecedented rainfall has been the extremely muddy walk to work. People in other parts of the country have been less fortunate.

I do sympathise with the people who live and work in the Somerset Levels. However, living below sea level is always likely to be perilous even in good years, and I am annoyed that the Environment Agency is getting the blame for their flooding. No amount of dredging of a tidal river will make it flow when the tide is coming in, and water that is lying on land below sea level is not going to flow into the river on its own. It needs pumping, and if too much rain falls (irrespective of the depth of the river), it can't be pumped quickly enough. Dredging the river might have helped delay the current situation, but it wouldn't have averted it. 

Floods at Upton-upon-SevernPeople are saying things like "it's never flooded this badly in my lifetime". The truth is, it hasn't rained like this in several hundred years, so unless you're very, very old, it's not a big surprise really. The government, always with an eye on the votes, are now blaming the Environment Agency too. Perhaps if they had been less enthusiastic about slashing budgets, in times of increasing extremes of weather, the agency wouldn't have had to make such difficult economic decisions.

The head of the Met Office has finally hinted that the prolonged wet and stormy spell could perhaps be attributed to climate change. This seems fairly obvious to me, and I wish those views had been expressed (or at least, reported) more vociferously. One of the predictions made by climate scientists is that the Jet Stream will tend to have larger oscillations and move more slowly. Larger oscillations means more extreme weather in the UK (because air is pulled up from nearer the equator or down from nearer the pole), and slower oscillations mean the weather is more likely to get stuck in a pattern. We experienced this in the winter of 2012/2013, with a prolonged cold spell for much the same reason as the current prolonged wet spell I believe.

People have to face up to the future. Living on flood plains, or near the coast, is likely to be increasingly hazardous in decades to come, with rising sea levels and more extreme weather. This includes people living in major cities like London. That's why switching to a low-carbon economy (for the whole world) is vital. That does not mean shale gas, or coal, or oil. It means renewables.

 

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