Brace yourself for 'monsoon Britain' warns scientist

Last summer's deluge could be just the tip of the iceberg as we could be entering a 'flood-rich period' according to a Durham scientist.

Prof Stuart Lane has been studying rainfall and river flow patterns over the last 250 years and says that a relatively dry period which started in half a century ago may have given us a false impression of what should be considered normal British weather.
He said: "We entered a generally flood-poor period in the 1960s, earlier in some parts of the country, later in others.

"This does not mean there was no flooding, just that there was much less than before the 1960s and what we are seeing now. This has lowered our own awareness of flood risk in the UK.

"This has made it easier to go on building on floodplains. It has also helped us to believe that we can manage flooding without too much cost, simply because there was not that much flooding to manage."

"We have also not been good at recognising just how flood-prone we can be. More than three-quarters of our flood records start in the flood-poor period that begins in the 1960s.

"This matters because we set our flood protection in terms of return periods - the average number of years between floods of a given size. We have probably under-estimated the frequency of flooding, which is now happening, as it did before the 1960s, much more often that we are used to.

"The problem is that many of our decisions over what development to allow and what defences to build rely upon a good estimate of these return periods.

" The government estimates that 2.1 million properties and 5 million people are at risk of flooding. In his review of the summer floods Sir Michael Pitt was wise to say that flooding should be given the same priority as terrorism."

"We are now having to learn to live with levels of flooding that are beyond most people's living memory, something that most of us have forgotten how to do."

Prof Lane has published a paper on the subject in the current edition of peer-reviewed journal Geography .

Sam Bond


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