Climate warning as Thames Barrier turns 25

The Thames Barrier celebrated its 25th anniversary on Friday amid warnings from the Met Office that the next quarter century could see more extreme weather events and torrential downpours.

The Barrier, which was conceived following the 1953 floods, was built to protect London against North Sea tidal surges and to hold back high tides when the river is swollen by heavy rainfall upstream.

But Met Office experts warned that the capital is still as vulnerable as other areas to flooding from surface water – the cause of most of the flooding seen in the UK in June and July last year.

The Met Office is currently providing advice to the Environment Agency on the possible impact of climate change in the south east as it considers options for flood risk management in the Thames Estuary up to the end of the century.

Its climate scientists have been among the first in the world to develop ten-year climate forecasts, which it will use alongside the 50- or 100-year timeframe projections currently used worldwide.

It is believed that these ten-year forecasts will offer more practical and relevant predictions to organisations needing to adapt to global warming.

Phil Evans, chief advisor to Government at the Met Office, said: “Given a rise in sea level and warmer temperatures in the UK, we can expect more severe weather events in the future.

“Making the most of the climate change expertise we have in the UK provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to plan effectively for the future.

“In the coming years, Met Office decadal forecasts could help planners, emergency responders and local authorities better prepare for the impacts of climate change.”

The 10-year models seek to forecast natural variability such as the El Nino phenomenon and fluctuations in the Gulf Stream as well as man-made climate change, and could highlight risks such as drought, fire and flood.

Kate Martin

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