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The Growing Impacts of Climate Change and Flooding

Climate change has been making headlines for decades but even more so in the last few years, with global action being taken to increase awareness of the impact that it is having on our environment, affecting everything from food to flooding. With a rise in the average global temperature we are likely to experience more frequent extreme weather events – but how could this affect us in the UK, and is there hope for the future?

Here in the UK, we have experienced many periods of extreme weather in the past few years alone. 2018 saw the “Beast from the East” hit the UK with heavy snow and strong winds in spring, followed by the driest start to a summer since records began leading to flash flooding and moorland fires. You can read more about last year’s extreme weather here.

So far in 2019 we have experienced:

  • Snow which caused airport runways to close in January.
  • A heat wave in July which saw the UK’s highest ever recorded temperature in Cambridge.
  • Flash flooding in Poynton (Cheshire) and North Yorkshire in July.
  • Flooding in the midlands in October and November.
  • Flooding in Yorkshire and the Humber in November.
  • The first storm of the year, Storm Atiyah, in December.

The month of July alone shows how changeable the weather can be in such a short time frame, as it saw both the highest temperature recorded in Cambridgeshire, and flash flooding in Cheshire in the same week! The extent of flooding up to November was also worrying, especially considering that there had been no official storms yet up to that point. There are now talks of another Beast from the East arriving in January and February 2020 which could bring the coldest winter in 30 years!

 

Flooding and coastal effects

Flooding in urban areas is on the rise as we take away the natural water cycle by paving over green space, and will also be intensified as extreme rainfall events become more common. Coastal erosion and flooding isn’t a new thing, but may speed up in some locations due to higher sea levels and more frequent storms. These impacts from climate change may be the ones we notice most in the immediate future as they can affect our day to day lives at any time. There are already plans being made to protect residents from the future effects of climate change and coastal flooding, or to adapt these coastal areas where protection is not a viable option.

  • One community in Fairbourne, Wales, could end up being Britain’s first climate refugees as Gwynedd council has decided it can no longer fully defend the area from rising sea levels. They plan to start moving residents in 2045 and then dismantle the whole village including sewers and electric works.
  • Another town in Wales, Old Colwyn, is also facing a constant battle with sea level rise, and is hoping to secure funding for another coastal defence scheme to help protect infrastructure in the area for longer.
  • Happisburgh, a village in Norfolk, has experienced coastal erosion which has caused 35 homes to be lost in the last 20 years, but the area may no longer be defended as authorities declare it unrealistic to manage more intense flooding and sea level rise with high walls and barriers.

Coastal beach nourishment

 

 

Heat effects

As the concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere, the temperature also increases and can cause heat waves as we experienced in summer 2018 and 2019. These heat waves can be related to various issues including wildfires in 2018, and a rise in deaths in 2019. Whilst greenhouse gas levels continue to rise, heat waves and other extreme weather events are expected to increase in frequency.

As longer periods of warmer weather continue, this also causes land including floodplains to dry out and become unable to cope with intense periods of rainfall. As the land in unable to soak up rain, it will enter rivers and run off land more quickly and increase the risk of flooding to nearby communities.

 

 

Climate change will impact everything we depend on to exist, from the far reaching effects on our ecosystems, to where we live and work, to how our economies fare as we move away from fossil fuel dependency in many industries. Although we hear lots about how climate change is damaging the environment, there is still hope for the future! 32 years ago the world came together to try and rectify the hole found in the ozone layer. An agreement was put in place to regulate the production and use of ozone-depleting compounds, the concentrations of which have now been in decline since 2000.

With the topic of climate change becoming even more prominent in the last few years, 1,260 jurisdictions in 25 countries have declared a climate emergency (as of December 2019). This includes the UK, with the government stating it will take action to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Maybe things are starting to look up for the future impacts of climate change!

 

Click here to download the resource below from The Flood Hub.

 

Sources: IPCC, NERC, BBC, iNews

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