Saturday 22nd October 2016                 Change text size:

Further floods expected along Thames – but worst weather is behind us

Photo: Peter G Trimming via Flickr

Residents living in flooded areas of the UK have been warned to expect water levels to rise further in the next few days, as more heavy rain falls on saturated ground. Forecasters have added, however, that the worst of the crisis appears to be over for now.

The Environment Agency currently has 16 severe flood warnings in place, 14 along the banks of the Thames in the south-east and two more in Somerset.

The Met Office has also issued a yellow warning for rain in the south-west of England, forecasting rainfall totals of up to 20-25mm in some areas.

Despite this, Katharine Evans, the Environment Agency’s flood risk manager, said there is cause to be optimistic.

“We’ve got further rainfall forecast, but it looks as if some of that is going to fall away from the places where we are having problems at the moment”, she told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.

“We will certainly see rainfall push up river levels, particularly on the Thames and the Severn over the next two or three days, but we are not expecting them to be any worse than the ones we’ve seen previously.”

She did add, however, that high levels of groundwater could cause problems for “weeks, if not months” to come.

David Cameron called the prolonged period of flooding, which has affected some parts of the country since the turn of the new year, “a tragedy”. While visiting flood-hit areas in Worcestershire, the prime minister announced that a £10m fund would be created to assist affected small and medium-sized businesses.

“The government is taking action across the board to deal with the clear-up and help hard-working people affected by the floods”, he said.

However, in an article for the Guardian, the former Lib Dem energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne blamed the government for the crisis because of cuts to flood defence spending in 2010.

“The 2010 cuts were entirely driven by the chancellor’s impatience for deficit reduction, rather than by climate scepticism”, Huhne wrote.

“This was long before Tory wobbles on wind farms and climate science. We tackled yesterday’s crisis at the cost of today’s.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband also warned that Britain was “sleepwalking into a national security crisis”, caused by climate change.

“We have always warned that climate change threatens national security because of the consequences for destabilisation of entire regions of the world, mass migration of millions of people and conflict over water or food supplies”, he said.

“But the events of the last few weeks have shown this is a national security issue in our own country too with people’s homes, businesses and livelihoods coming under attack from extreme weather. And we know this will happen more in the future.” 

Though scientists have stressed that it is currently not possible to attribute individual weather events to climate change, there is growing evidence that global warming will increase the chances of such flooding hitting the UK again.

Further reading:

Lord Stern’s climate change warning: warmer and wetter UK ‘not a coincidence’

The environment surges in importance among British public amid flooding crisis

The floods should impel our essential services to review climate change risks

Met Office: evidence says ‘exceptional’ UK weather is linked to climate change

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