Storm surge risk to increase

Met Office climate scientists have predicted that storm surges similar to the one that threatened the east coast of the UK on Friday could become higher and more frequent this century.

The East Anglian coast bore the brunt of the flooding and thousands of people spent the night in emergency accommodation fearing the outcome of one of the biggest tidal surges in more than 50 years.

The Thames Barrier was also closed twice during Thursday night and Friday morning to protect London from a combined high tide and tidal surge in the Thames estuary.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown chaired an emergency Cobra committee meeting on Friday morning and another Cobra meeting was chaired by Hilary Benn later that day.

However, the waters were nearly 8in lower than expected and tides peaked without major breaches of sea defences.

The Met Office is working on a major new study of coastal flooding around the UK using information from a range of climate models, which will include the effects of changes in sea levels and in storminess.

Its experts warned that events such as Friday’s storm surge could become more frequent as a result of climate change.

Met Office scientist Jason Lowe said: “It is not possible to attribute any single weather event to climate change.

“However, floods that occur once in a hundred years on the east coast today may happen once every ten years by the end of the century.”

The storm surge was one of the highest since the 1953 east coast floods, which claimed more than 300 lives.

In Lowestoft, in Suffolk, Met Office figures showed the 1953 surge peaked at 2.74 metres. On Friday it peaked at 2.13 metres – 0.7 metres above the alert level in the town.

On the other side of the North Sea the Netherlands were also battered by the surge.

Kate Martin

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