The 2014 flooding – The current scale and what the future holds

The beginning of 2014 has seen extensive flooding, predominantly in the south of England, due to a series of storms passing over the UK resulting in some of the largest rainfall totals seen on record: the wettest January since records began, twice the monthly average for January for Southern England with December and January being the wettest two-month period since records began (http://metofficenews.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/uks-exceptional-weather-in-context/).

The cause of the series of storms has been due to an unusually strong North Atlantic jet stream, resulting in a continual supply of moisture from the Atlantic over the UK causing the high rainfall totals. The cause of the strong North Atlantic jet stream is due to exceptionally cold weather in Canada and the USA and Pacific jet stream, caused by enhanced rainfall over Indonesia due to higher than normal ocean temperatures.

The effect of climate change will be for these events, and summer flash flooding, to become more frequent, which means that current methods of dealing with flooding, protecting homes in the event of a flood will not be enough. Fundamental changes into the design of homes, where homes are built and even accepting that current housing locations that are susceptible to flooding may need to be abandoned for more flood-resistant locations (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/11/climate-change-flooding-engineer-somerset).

There have been many arguments about whether dredging the rivers would have prevented the current flooding, and whether it will reduce the probability of flooding in the future. It is important to realise that in the current situation the flooding is due to extreme rainfall, and not all of the flooding has been from rivers, e.g. ground-water flooding and storm-surges. Dredging is very costly and the benefit is unclear, e.g. to locations such as Somerset, and will not be a solution to many areas. Dredging isolated parts of a river will only move the problem further downstream; it is not a miracle cure to the current flooding crisis (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/12/flood-crisis-dredging-climate-change).

There are no quick fixes to the current flooding however the UK should be prepared for flooding to become more frequent. Once the current flood-water has disappeared will be the time when we should be remembering the flooding and looking towards long-term solutions to a problem that is going to become more frequent.

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