How does climate change link to flooding?

Floods have been part of human life since we starting building huts, growing wheat and farming sheep. Every so often, a community would experience a dreadful storm, a river bursting its banks or huge waves crashing onto the shore. The results were - and still are - devastating. It can take years to recover.

But now we’re seeing these ‘once in a generation’ type floods happening much more regularly. The village of Wolverley, Worcestershire, was flooded four times in the past decade. The Met Office confirmed that four out of the five wettest years on record in Britain have taken place since the year 2000.

There are two ways climate change can make flooding more likely. Firstly, sea levels are rising due to melting ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic. Rising sea levels make storm surges more frequent and more severe, which can create disastrous flooding in coastal areas. In December 2013 a large storm surge hit the east coast of the UK, causing 1,400 homes to be flooded, and thousands of people to be evacuated. This was considered the worst tidal surge in the UK for 60 years.

On top of this, our atmosphere is warmer. And a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture. With more water in the atmosphere, when it does pour there’s a lot more rain up there to fall down! This increases the severity of flooding as riverbanks are overwhelmed, making floods much more destructive.  

We can no longer claim that these recent floods are ‘simply nature’, ‘once in a lifetime’ occurrences. This terrible disruption to people's lives and to families can be prevented, and tackling climate change is a vital step.

We’re working with the people of Wolverley to tackle flooding and climate change: by planting trees. 

Photo: Allan Harris, cc