Floods in UK driven by climate breakdown

| 29th August 2019
The extent of climate change on the severity of flooding has been previously unclear due to a lack of data.

Our study did in fact find there are consistent patterns of flood change across Europe and these are in line with predicted climate change impacts. 

Floods are becoming more severe in parts of northern Britain due to climate change, a large-scale study has found.

Analysis from data collated at thousands of locations across Europe found flood events are becoming increasingly severe in the north-west - including the UK - but are decreasing in severity in the south and east of the continent.

The extent of climate change on the severity of flooding has been previously unclear due to a lack of data.

Rainfall

But the Vienna University of Technology claim their database is the most complete on European flooding so far, involving research institutions in 24 European countries including the University of Bath and University of Liverpool.

Researchers analysed records from 3,738 river flood measurement stations across Europe over five decades.

Northern England and southern Scotland have seen an increase in flooding of more than 11%, while the study observed a 23 percent decrease in Russia.

The UK has seen a pattern of severe flooding over the past 10 years which the Environment Agency says is linked to an increase in extreme weather events.

The study, published in the journal Nature, suggests that an increase in autumn and winter rainfall caused by climate change has led to increasing floods in the UK and north-western Europe.

Patterns

In southern Europe, flood levels are decreasing due to declining precipitation and water temperatures are causing an increase in evaporation of water in soil, the report claims.

Decreasing snow cover in eastern Europe, also caused by warmer temperatures, have also led to decreasing floods in the area, according to the authors.

They conclude that the data demonstrates the need to consider climate change impacts when designing flood management strategies.

Lead author Professor Gunter Bloschl said: "We already knew that climate change is shifting the timing of floods in a year, but the key question had been does climate change also control the magnitude of flood events?.

"Our study did in fact find there are consistent patterns of flood change across Europe and these are in line with predicted climate change impacts, such as a contrast between increasing severity of flooding in the north and decreases in the south."

Long-term

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: "Climate change means the threat of flooding and rate of coastal change will increase significantly.

"To prepare for this risk, as a nation we need to move from a strategy of protection and building higher flood defences to improving the resilience of our communities and our infrastructure, strengthening our ability to cope with flooding and coastal change when it does happen.

"Our new flood strategy sets out a long-term approach to tackling the effects of the climate emergency, as well as the actions we can take in the short term. This includes a record £2.6 billion investment we are making now to protect 300,000 homes from flooding and coastal erosion."

This Author

Emma Bowden is a reporter with PA.

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