Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Flood warnings

The stream running through our garden flooded for the first time in 10 years. With over 250 flood warnings out in the UK I suspect we’re not alone in worrying about the rising waters. Fortunately our house is situated, sensibly, as old houses tend to be, above the flood plain on the higher ground of the river terrace. Many modern developments are much nearer major rivers, with or without levees, on land that was once supposed to flood. This cheaper flat land seemed a good place to build until recently. The folly of this disregard for nature is clear to see all over the country in TV pictures of homes now under water.

This recent downpour comes after the wettest summer I can remember; following a pretty wet summer last year and the year before. The problem is that the atmosphere has so much more energy to hold moisture meaning that more rain is inevitable. Sometimes the sun breaks through – remember the fear of a drought earlier in the year and the hosepipe bans of spring 2012?

The climate system’s need to disperse more energy also changes wind and pressure patterns so that these can become exaggerated and create more violent events – high winds, blizzards and hurricanes. We have seen some of these in the US recently and forecasters promise cold weather in a few weeks over here. That will bring a new round of meteorological headlines.

I can understand why some have a vested interest in denying climate change or those who want to maintain an air of scientific impartiality until the cause and effect links are proven, or not, beyond doubt. But it does seem likely that something is going on in our skies. Whether man’s activities are the major drivers of instability or this is a cyclical set of events doesn’t matter in principle (although it does limit the actions we take), the facts suggest that we need to be prepared to deal with more extreme climatic conditions. The repeated surprise of the media and the unpreparedness of local authorities will not wash.

It would be ‘nice’ to get away from the ‘climate change doubt’ and get on with joined up, long term strategies rather than piecemeal responses and knee-jerk technologies as we may well have seen in the craze for unsightly onshore wind farms. When I sit and watch the rain stream down the windows, as now, I wonder, may be the climate will be our most eloquent advocate for wholesale change?

David Jackman

No comments:

Post a Comment