"The New Year Brings More Extreme Weather And Flooding For Storm-Weary U.K."
A never-before seen boat wreck exposed in Cornwall. Nine World War II explosives washed ashore on a beach in Essex. The Thames Barrier, closed for the eleventh time in a row. These are just a handful of the scenes from a weather-weary Great Britain as the U.K. braces for more brutal storms, flooding and gale-force winds forecast to last throughout the week.
While the three severe flood warnings for parts of Dorset issued earlier in the week have just been lifted, the Environment Agency currently has over 300 lower-level flood alerts and warnings in effect across England and Wales.
Regions in the western and southern U.K. have been hit the hardest by the most recent round of storms. On Monday night, 27 foot high waves pounded Land’s End, the southwestern tip of the U.K. And just a few hours earlier, flood sirens screeched their warning of extreme danger to people and property in Dorset, as tidal surges broke through sea defenses and residents were directed to move to upstairs rooms facing away from the ocean. Flooding has also cut off several villages in Somerset, with supplies now being ferried in by boat.
According to the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, seven people have died and 1,700 homes have been flooded in England due to storms and flooding in December and January.
Back in December, hurricane-force wind gusts hit Britain, causing transportation chaos, and plunging tens of thousands of homes into darkness. The extreme windstorm, named Xaver, kicked up the biggest tidal surge seen in 60 years, flooding at least 1,400 properties on the eastern coast of England.
In an interview with BBC Radio Live 5, Sir David King, U.K. climate change envoy, said that the current floods — the worst seen in decades — are expected to become more frequent in the coming years.
“The important thing to get across is the simple notion that storms and severe weather conditions that we might have expected to occur once in 100 years, say, in the past may now be happening more frequently,” King said.
“And the reason is – as predicted by scientists – that the climate is changing and as the climate changes we can anticipate quite a radical change in weather conditions.”
King recommends that Britain will need to spend up to a £1 billion (roughly $1.6 billion dollars) a year by 2020, to mitigate the damage from climate change and extreme weather.
The Environment Agency has estimated that for every pound invested in flood defenses the country will save about £7 or £8 in flood damage. Earlier this month, however, the Environment Agency confirmed that it was cutting 1,500 jobs and said that the cuts would impact flood operations such as risk management, maintenance, and modeling.
“If we really want to manage this problem, and I’m sure that all of us do, we will have to do two things,” King said. “One, get back to the higher investment level in flood defences and, two, push hard on the rest of the world in terms of mitigating the impacts of climate change and of course this is a big target for getting an international agreement.”
One possible silver lining in the otherwise exhausting onslaught of wacky weather is that the U.K. broke a number of records for wind power generation in December. Last month over 2.8 million MWh of electricity came to the National Grid from wind farms, enabling wind power to meet 10 percent of total electricity demand. On December 21, a new daily record was set, as 132,812 MWh were generated by wind, about 17 percent of the national energy demand.