Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Britain's Unpredictable Summers

This could be the wettest summer England has ever had. Last summer was one of the driest.

There are still 350,000 citizens without clean drinking water today, the flood crest has not reached many cities yet, and there's more rain on the way.

Among the hardest hit areas was Tewkesbury, north of Gloucester, where rising water entered the 900-year-old abbey church for the first time since 1760.

Authorities deployed some 900 tanker trucks in the Gloucestershire region with emergency water rations, but said it could take a week before water was restored to an estimated 350,000 people.

Gloucestershire County Council's chief executive, Peter Bungard, said flood levels at Tewkesbury would have to fall nearly 36 inches before drinking water supplies could be restored.

"The very, very best forecast is seven days," Bungard told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "I'm really, really worried — 350,000 people is hard to imagine, and amongst those are very vulnerable people."

Estimates of damage so far have reached more than $6 billion.

On the Web site of the United Kingdom's Environment Agency, hightened flood risk due to climate change is acknowledged, and risk management recommendations are being made.
Over 2 million properties in England and Wales are at risk from flooding. Changes in our climate, such as more severe storms and wetter winters, will increase that risk.

Through flood risk management, we can reduce the probability of flooding from rivers and the sea through the management of land, river systems, and flood and coastal defences. We also work to reduce the damage floods can do through effective land use planning, flood warning and emergency responses.
And this:

Changes to UK weather patterns are happening now. We are recording more periods of heavy rainfall and intense storms. Both can lead to flooding through increases in peak river flows, sea levels and tidal surges.

Extreme conditions like this are most likely in autumn and winter when weather tends to be wetter and soil more saturated. However, there is no ‘flood season’, and heavy rain in spring and summer can also cause severe flood incidents.

Most scientists agree that climate change will worsen during this century. Sir David King, the country’s Chief Scientific Adviser, was asked by the Environment Agency and Government to evaluate a range of possible scenarios for climate change in the UK over the next hundred years. His conclusions, published in the Foresight future flooding report, estimate that the risk of flooding from rivers and the sea will at least double by the 2080s, and could increase by up to 20 times. The number of people at a high risk of flooding could also rise from 1.5 million to between 2.3 and 3.5 million over the same period, with the cost of flooding rising from the current £1 billion a year to between £1.5 billion and £21 billion.

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