Intense storms across Southern England, December 2013 Source: BBC news

January 8, 2015, by Blue-Green team

Geographies of UK flooding in 2013/4

A new paper published by Prof Colin Thorne (University of Nottingham) in The Geographical Journal looks at explaining the UK flooding in winter 2013-14 and implications for sustainable management of future flood risks. The paper focuses on the geography of flooding, and in particular, the physical geography (urban and rural), social geography, and political geography.

Colin concludes that “the overarching lesson learned from the events of winter 2013/14 is that left unchecked, flooding will become increasingly socially divisive and that Government needs to work with scientists, engineers and local stakeholders to plan and deliver long-term solutions to flooding problems that are otherwise likely to escalate unacceptably in a ‘business as usual’ future“. The importance of Blue-Green infrastructure is reiterated as one of the best ways to reduce urban flood risk sustainably.

The abstract for the article is given below and the full article can be accessed here.

“Between December 2013 and February 2014, an extreme storm surge, a series of intense storms, and the cumulative effects of heavy and persistent rainfall caused widespread flooding throughout the UK, prompting renewed public and scientific debates on who, or what, might be to blame. The public divided fairly evenly into two diametrically opposed groups, the first blaming the government (who initially responded by trying to shift blame to their expert advisors), attributing the mounting flood losses and prolonged misery to lack of investment in flood defences and river dredging. The second group blamed farmers for over-intensive agriculture in upstream catchments, inappropriate development in floodplains, and poor judgement on the part of the victims in choosing to live, work or farm in areas vulnerable to inundation. The floods resulted from a protracted sequence of deep, Atlantic depressions that followed a more southerly track than usual due to the position and configuration of the planetary jet stream. This prompted a second, no less polarised, scientific debate concerning whether the meteorological characteristics of the floods provided evidence that climate change has started to influence not only the probability of UK flooding, but also its nature, spatial distribution and duration. Both debates are intrinsically geographical, and this commentary sets out how understanding the geographies of flooding can help frame and inform them. This is addressed through consideration of these geographies, characterised as physical, rural, urban, social, economic and political. While an individual event (or even a sequence clustered of floods) cannot alone prove anything, the winter floods reinforce the conclusions of the Government’s Flood Foresight study, which was commissioned in response to the 2000 (Millennium) Floods and updated following nationwide floods in summer 2007″.

In the same issue of The Geographical Journal, McEwen et al., reflect on the recent flooding in the Somerset Levels (access paper here) and research needed to unravel the complex nature of flood risk and its implications for society.

Blog post by Emily Lawson, University of Nottingham.

Posted in Blue-Green Cities research