Britain Is In The Middle Of A Drought – So How Come There's Flooding?

Britain Is In The Middle Of A Drought – So How Come There's Flooding? A commuter train passes the swollen River Taff, near Cardiff. Ceri Breeze/Shutterstock

Parts of the UK had more than a month’s rain in one day on Monday June 10. More rain on the following Tuesday, particularly in the north of England and Midlands, created localised flooding. Sinkholes appearing on the M25 – one of Europe’s busiest motorways – and closed train lines have created expensive travel chaos. The flooding of hospitals and other essential services has even put lives at risk.

In the middle of all this, groundwater levels across the country are much lower than normal. There’s been little rain between 2018 and 2019 – the winter was drier than normal and it wasn’t so long ago that Britain was basking in one of the warmest Easter weekends on record. Still yellowing lawns suggest that hardly any rain has fallen since.

This isn’t an usual pattern of weather and it isn’t specifically linked to climate change. Slow-moving, intense bands of rainfall can emerge in the summer, though wetter Junes can possibly be linked to climate change as the jet stream – which is responsible for steering much of the weather systems we get over Britain – changes due to a warming atmosphere.

You might expect the dry ground to soak up all the water, but it hasn’t for several reasons.

Dry earth meets torrential rain

The rainfall has been so intense that the ground can’t soak it up fast enough. So many of the surfaces in urban areas of the UK are paved over and don’t allow water to soak through naturally, causing huge amounts of run-off.

Smaller rivers respond very quickly to heavy rainfall, which is why we have seen many smaller rivers and tributaries bursting their banks and causing localised flooding. Many of the flood warnings in place in the north of England and Midlands are for tributaries and smaller rivers with names that many people have never heard of before, but these often flow through urban areas and close to homes and businesses. Whatever the river is called, it’s not much fun when it’s flowing through your kitchen.

The bigger rivers on the other hand, such as the Thames and Severn take much longer to respond to heavy rain and will only flood when water tables are much higher than they are at present. Lower groundwater levels mean that larger rivers are able to swallow up extra water without too much trouble. If rain keeps up for another month or two, we could be in trouble. This is what happened during the winter of 2013-14, when months of rain meant the Thames flooded towns like Oxford, Staines and Wraysbury, and low-lying parts of Somerset resembled a lake.

What does this mean? It’s a reminder that floods are pretty simple – lots of rain very often equals flooding, no matter what has happened with the weather in previous weeks and months. It also shows that floods are made worse by the way people have changed the landscape – paving over areas so that water runs off the ground too quickly, creating floods that are essentially human-made.

Climate change is here

Floods are only a problem when people are in the way of them. Britain needs to build more homes, but where and how many will affect the risk of more floods in future. There are still plans to build homes on floodplains, which we should avoid. The construction of sustainable drainage systems – ditches and ponds that hold back water where it falls and prevent heavy rain from rushing into rivers too quickly – hasn’t gone far enough.

Dealing with flooding is a team effort – it requires collaboration between flood authorities, landowners, homeowners, community groups, and local and national government. Only by working together can effective action be taken. People very often have good local knowledge about flooding. They know when and where it will flood, and can sometimes be perplexed when “experts” tell them otherwise. Much of the political fallout during the 2013-14 flooding was not due to the damage itself, but anger from communities who felt abandoned or ignored.

As the UK commits to limit future climate change by setting emissions targets, people must consider the costs of the climate change people are already experiencing. This means changing how we live our lives, not just to prevent future floods but to deal with floods when they next occur. We must prepare better for floods, not just for the next decade, but for those next week.

About The Author

Hannah Cloke, Professor of Hydrology, University of Reading

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity

by James Hansen
1608195023Dr. James Hansen, the world's leading climatologist, shows that exactly contrary to the impression the public has received, the science of climate change has become even clearer and sharper since the hardcover was released. In Storms of My Grandchildren, Hansen speaks out for the first time with the full truth about global warming: The planet is hurtling even more rapidly than previously acknowledged to a climatic point of no return. In explaining the science of climate change, Hansen paints a devastating but all-too-realistic picture of what will happen in our children's and grandchildren's lifetimes if we follow the course we're on. But he is also an optimist, showing that there is still time to take the urgent, strong action that is needed- just barely.  Available On Amazon

Extreme Weather and Climate

by C. Donald Ahrens, Perry J. Samson
0495118575
Extreme Weather & Climate is a unique textbook solution for the fast-growing market of non-majors science courses focused on extreme weather. With strong foundational coverage of the science of meteorology, Extreme Weather & Climate introduces the causes and impacts of extreme weather events and conditions. Students learn the science of meteorology in context of important and often familiar weather events such as Hurricane Katrina and they'll explore how forecast changes in climate may influence frequency and/or intensity of future extreme weather events. An exciting array of photos and illustrations brings the intensity of weather and its sometimes devastating impact to every chapter. Written by a respected and unique author team, this book blends coverage found in Don Ahrens market-leading texts with insights and technology support contributed by co-author Perry Samson. Professor Samson has developed an Extreme Weather course at the University of Michigan that is the fastest-growing science course at the university. Available On Amazon

Floods in a Changing Climate: Extreme Precipitation

by Ramesh S. V. Teegavarapu

9781108446747Measurement, analysis and modeling of extreme precipitation events linked to floods is vital in understanding changing climate impacts and variability. This book provides methods for assessment of the trends in these events and their impacts. It also provides a basis to develop procedures and guidelines for climate-adaptive hydrologic engineering. Academic researchers in the fields of hydrology, climate change, meteorology, environmental policy and risk assessment, and professionals and policy-makers working in hazard mitigation, water resources engineering and climate adaptation will find this an invaluable resource. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfrdehiiditjakomsfaptruesswsvthtrurvi

LATEST VIDEOS

Climate Change Is Affecting Crop Yields And Reducing Global Food Supplies
Climate Change Is Affecting Crop Yields And Reducing Global Food Supplies
by Deepak Ray
Farmers are used to dealing with weather, but climate change is making it harder by altering temperature and rainfall…
The Arctic Paradox
by Tobias Thorleifsson
Explore Ellesmere Island with Tobias in this talk, as he urges us to protect this arctic environment from the hands of…
Increased Drought Amid Climate Change & Warming
by Kate Marvel, Radio Ecoshock
Columbia/NASA scientist Kate Marvel explains “hyroclimate” as rains and droughts go extreme. When it comes to your…
7 Surprising Results From The Reduction Of Arctic Sea Ice Cover
by David Barber
It is now well known that sea ice in the Arctic has changed in both extent and thickness over the past several decades.
Half-Submerged Trump Head, Says Artist, Designed to Silence Destructive Words and Deeds of US President
Half-Submerged Trump Head, Says Artist, Designed to Silence Destructive Words and Deeds of US President
by Eoin Higgins
"The idea was to gag Trump, to silence him, but he continues to speak."
'The Climate Crisis Doesn't Go on Summer Holiday, And Neither Will We,' Says Greta Thunberg as #FridaysForFuture Returns to the Streets
The Climate Crisis Doesn't Go on Summer Holiday, And Neither Will We, Says Greta Thunberg as #FridaysForFuture Returns to the Streets
by Jessica Corbett
A campaigner in Nigeria adds, "It doesn't matter the course you study nor your age, we need you to join climate…
Anchorage Hits 90 Degrees for First Time in Recorded History
Anchorage Hits 90 Degrees for First Time in Recorded History
by Jake Johnson
"This is unprecedented. I tease people that Anchorage is the coolest city in the country—and climatically that is…
Amazon Deforestation
by BBC News
Brazilian officials have told the BBC that there's been an aggressive increase in deforestation since the election of…

LATEST ARTICLES

'Sadness, Disgust, Anger': Fear For The Great Barrier Reef Made Climate Change Feel Urgent
by Matt Curnock and Scott Heron
Media coverage of mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef may have been a major tipping point for public…
Why States And Cities Should Stop Handing Out Billions In Economic Incentives To Companies
Why States And Cities Should Stop Handing Out Billions In Economic Incentives To Companies
by Nathan Jensen
U.S. states and cities hand out tens of billions in taxpayer dollars every year to companies as economic incentives.
How Students Grow Their Community Roots And Critical Consciousness
How Students Grow Their Community Roots And Critical Consciousness
by Jennifer D. Adams and Pieranna Pieroni
Iris, a high school student in New York City, took a course aimed at preparing public school students for college.
Why South Africa Can't Make A Massive Shift To Renewables
Why South Africa Can't Make A Massive Shift To Renewables
by Hartmut Winkler
There’s a lively debate raging in South Africa about the extent to which renewables should replace coal, particularly…
Hidden Antarctic Instability Will Likely Raise Sea Level Faster
Hidden Antarctic Instability Will Likely Raise Sea Level Faster
by Ben Brumfield
Instability hidden within Antarctic ice is likely to accelerate its flow into the ocean and push sea level up at a more…
China's Fight Against Desertification Should Not Be Done At The Cost Of Water Security
by Kai Schwärzel
For the first time, China has hosted a major global event on desertification and land degradation, the Cop-13, United…
Are Forests Our Best Weapon Against Climate Change?
Are Forests Our Best Weapon Against Climate Change?
by ETH Zurich
Around 0.9 billion hectares—roughly 3.5 million square miles—of land worldwide would be suitable for forest…
7,000+ Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency and Unveil Three-Point Plan to Combat It
7,000+ Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency and Unveil Three-Point Plan to Combat It
by Jessica Corbett
We all need to work together to nurture a habitable planet for future generations and to play our part in building a…