Recent North West floods ‘unprecedented’ in modern history

A study of the floods that hit the North of England in 2009 and 2015 has revealed they were the largest to hit the region in 600 years, which researchers say points to the impact of climate change on extreme weather events.

In a paper published in the journal `Earth Surface Processes and Landforms’, a team of researchers led by the Universities of Liverpool and Southampton, studied the lake sediment records from the extreme floods of 2009 and 2015, and compared them with a 558-year record from the bottom of Bassenthwaite Lake, Cumbria.

They looked at the layer of coarse sediment that is left in the lake sediment record which provided them with a way of recording each flooding event. Sediment layers with the largest grain sizes reflect flooding that was higher energy and more extreme in magnitude.

Richard Chiverrell, Professor of Physical Geography with the University of Liverpool’s School of Environmental Sciences and lead author of the study, said ‘The unprecedented nature of the recent phase of extreme floods accords with statements from the Environment Agency that climate changes and associated impacts on the frequency and magnitude of extreme events are one of the greatest challenges facing our society.’

‘By establishing long term flood frequency models that use both sediment records and river flow data we hope to be able to improve our ability to quantify flood risk and better support flood risk management in the UK and more widely,’ he added.

Earlier this month the Environment Agency issued a stark warning that flooding may become so bad that some of the worst-hit towns may have to be abandoned for good.

The warning came as Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd launched its 50-year flood risk plan on Friday May 10 at Brunel University London and said the UK has to get to grips with climate change soon or communities will face devastating consequences.

They added that two-thirds of properties in England are served by transport or energy infrastructure that is at risk of flooding and called for all infrastructure to be flood resilient by 2050.

Photo credit – Gavin Lynn – Flickr.

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

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