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The UK’s chief government scientist Sir John Beddington announced that world leaders need to urgently tackle climate change, especially because of increasing trends towards more extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and storms over the next 25 years. The more extreme and erratic forms of weather that the UK has experienced in recent years may become more common due to a changing climate.
Prof Sarah Curtis who is the Executive Director of the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience was interviewed by both television and radio media recently about what can be expected for the future. Prof Curtis mentioned the importance of planning with local authorities and national planning being taken by government to adapt to a changing climate, and that focused preparation and planning are needed to cope with variable climate and extreme weather events. Read more
On Thursday morning, there was a knock on my office door – “The BBC wants to talk to someone about snowmen” – “okay…” I reply, not quite sure where this is going. Five minutes later I am on the phone to a reporter.
It had been in the newspaper that morning about reducing flood risk by building snowmen. The Environment Agency was concerned about a rapid warming in the weather melting the snow and this released water creating a flood risk. The proposed solution from the Environment Agency was based on the fact that snow in large piles, either stacked up or as a snowman, takes longer to melt and hence would slow the delivery of the water to the rivers (see BBC News article). My first thought on this was that we would need to build a huge number of snowmen to capture enough water to have an effect. Having travelled from Durham to London and back this week, it was clear how much of the country was covered in snow. I was about to calculate the number of snowmen required to capture a significant fraction of the water (Prof. Kevin Hiscock at UEA has done this for the River Wensum catchment and estimated 6 million snowmen in that area alone) before I started to think about the problem from another perspective.
The heavy rains that hit the North East of England recently caused some major floods in the last few days. Regions of the A1 motorway were shutdown for two days between Disforth (North Yorkshire) and Bradbury (near Durham). People’s homes and businesses were also flooded in Morpeth and other cities, towns and villages in the North East due to heavy rain fall. According to BBC News, among the areas worst hit by flooding were Morpeth, Durham, Rothbury, Chester-le-Street and Stockton-on-Tees.
Some of the water levels (hydrographs) recorded by the Environment Agency show the level above previous records, while in other parts it seems to have returned to previous levels. This morning the River Swale in Yorkshire a major tributary of the River Ure which becomes the River Ouse (which caused major flooding in Yorkshire) was measured at 5.28 metres at Crakehill close to the record of 5.45. Read more
Dr David Milledge and Prof Stuart Lane present the results of a recent study they authored on flood prevention in the Yorkshire Dales located in Northern England that investigates the role of controlling surface drains (grips) to manage flood risk.
The moorlands of large swathes of Upland Britain are covered by hundreds of kilometres of surface drains or ‘grips’. These grips were originally dug between the 1950s and the 1970s to dry out the peat soil with the expectation that this would improve the vegetation for grazing and game. Grips have dried out the peat, but ‘gripping’ has since been associated with a range of negative impacts both in the moors and in the rivers that flow from them. Drying the peat both changes the ecosystem that it sustains and makes it more susceptible to erosion. This eroded peat is then transported downstream and needs to be removed from the water before we can drink it. Read more
Despite aid efforts in the past, many victims of the 2010 floods are still homeless over a year after the catastrophe occurred. According to a report released by the People’s Accountability Commission on Floods, 1.5 million people are still without shelter in districts of the Sindh province that were extremely damaged by the floods. There are also problems with providing enough resources, such as milk, exposing infants to malnutrition and starvation. The government of Pakistan ended relief activities on 31 December and are no longer providing food, tents or temporary shelter.
Here are two images of southern Pakistan taken by NASA’s MODIS. The first image was taken 24 January 2010 and the second on 23 January of this year.