There is increasing concern today that water levels are high in the Oxford area, with a good deal more water still to come down to Oxford from the Cotswolds catchment. The area is presently (midday) on an EA Flood Alert (the lowest level of concern).
We’re seeing more flooding globally, Venice is badly hit at the moment – and the awful flooding in the north of England continues.
There is no doubt that the climate is changing. Oxford has always flooded but the change will make it more common and more severe. The immediate threat may recede now, let’s hope so, but it highlights again that it’s imperative that Oxford is better protected, not only for the many people directly affected but for the city itself to continue to function and thrive into the future.
The multi-partner Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is in process and all concerned are working hard to make it happen as soon as humanly possible. As we have said before, “it can’t come soon enough.”
Exceptional rainfall has caused widespread and serious flooding in the north of England. It seems pretty clear (from this, and many other events worldwide) that climate change is happening here and now https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-50343977
Flood defences are sorely needed for Oxford’s river flooding, and more than ever now that we’re faced with more frequent extreme weather events. The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is being developed to provide that defence.
The BBC reports widespread damage and disruption from flash flooding in the Yorkshire Dales. Another unusual weather event and evidence of the massively damaging force of flood waters.
“Steve Clough, of the mountain rescue team, said: “The conditions were so bad that in the end only about 10 or 12 team members could make it there.
“The roads were a raging torrent and there were sheds and household oil tanks floating down them.”
Mr Clough said his team spent more than eight hours searching properties in the area, rescuing about 10 people, but he added that North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service helped many more and estimated “100 or more” homes had been affected.
“Some homes had a metre of water in them – it was horrific,” he said.”
While Oxford’s flooding is not typically flash flooding, the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events, and the damaging effects, disruption, human distress and cost of flooding is relevant everywhere.
Vicki Arroyo is the Executive Director of the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown Law, where she also serves as the Assistant Dean of Centers and Institutes and a Professor from Practice. See here for more about her: https://www.georgetownclimate.org/about-us/staff.html
In the video below she talks about preparing for and adapting to climate change. She ends with:
“The larger point I’m trying to make is this. It’s up to us to look at our homes and our communities, our vulnerabilities and our exposures to risk, and to find ways to not just survive, but to thrive, and it’s up to us to plan and to prepare and to call on our government leaders and require them to do the same, even while they address the underlying causes of climate change. There are no quick fixes. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. We’re all learning by doing. But the operative word is doing.”
As a flood plain city Oxford is very vulnerable: seven main rivers meet at Oxford, with a combined upstream catchment of about 2,500 km2. For over 10 years our Alliance has been talking to, calling on, and working with, the authorities responsible – from the Directors of the Environment Agency to local government and other bodies – to make Oxford better prepared for what climate change will bring. A good deal has already been done but more is needed; the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme will enable Oxford to continue to thrive. Without it we may be, almost literally, sunk.
From the new (26 November 2018) Met Office report on the challenge of climate change in the UK:
‘The projections will be factored into the UK’s flood adaptation planning and the Environment Agency’s advice to flood and coastal erosion risk management authorities.
Since 2010 government has invested a record £2.6 billion in flood defences, and we are on track to protect 300,000 more homes from flooding by 2021.
Chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, said: “The UKCP18 projections are further evidence that we will see more extreme weather in the future – we need to prepare and adapt now, climate change impacts are already being felt with the record books being re-written.
“It is not too late to act. Working together – governments, business, and communities – we can mitigate the impacts of climate change and adapt to a different future.
“The Environment Agency cannot wall up the country, but will be at the forefront – protecting communities, building resilience, and responding to incidents.” ‘
“Communities will want new flood defences after many Welsh rivers burst their banks during Storm Callum, Wales’ environment agency has warned.
Parts of Wales saw the worst flooding for 30 years ….
A 21-year-old man was killed after a landslip and many homes and businesses were flooded as Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and south Powys bore the brunt of the storm on Friday and over the weekend.”
We’ve been proactive in Oxford so we’re much further ahead – the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is currently being considered for planning approval. Whether the Welsh floods are in part related to climate change would require event attribution analysis to give an estimate of the probability that that is the case. But certainly it’s the sort of event that one would expect with climate change. It’s vital that Oxford’s as ready as it can be.
Whether this event is due in some part to climate change may be impossible to know for sure, but there is no doubt that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent across the world. Now is the time to prepare Oxford for that future.
The planning application for the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is being scrutinised; if approved Oxford’s flood risk will be reduced. Without it Oxford will remain largely undefended and future generations will rightly ask why something wasn’t done while the opportunity was there.