Tag Archives: floods

World’s energy systems vulnerable to climate impacts, report warns

Power plants and electricity distribution networks are particularly vulnerable to droughts and floods.Power plants and electricity distribution networks are particularly vulnerable to droughts and floods. Photograph: Stephen Hird/Reuters

Rising sea levels, extremes of weather and an increase in the frequency of droughts and floods will all play havoc with the world’s energy systems as climate change takes hold, a new report has found.

Energy companies are more often cited as part of the problem of climate change, generating the lion’s share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to around 40% of the total. But they will also suffer as global warming picks up pace, as generators – from nuclear reactors to coal-fired power plants – feel the brunt of the weather changes.

Many large plants are particularly at risk from droughts, because they need water to cool their facilities, and floods, because they lack protection from sudden storms. Electricity distribution networks are also likely to be affected.

The vulnerability of energy systems to natural shocks was shown starkly when the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan had to be closed down following the 2011 tsunami, which prompted governments around the world to review their nuclear policies.

The World Energy Council (WEC), which compiled the study along with Cambridge University and the European Climate Foundation, urged generators to examine their vulnerability to climate change, saying that with suitable adaptations – such as protecting power plants from water shortages and building resilience into power networks – the worst of the problems could be avoided.  Continue reading

UK summer flash floods to become more frequent, study shows

Met Office and Newcastle University study is first to draw direct link between climate change and rise in summer downpours.

Flood damage in Boscastle, Cornwall, in 2004.Flood damage in Boscastle, Cornwall, in 2004. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/Getty Images

Flash flooding in summer is likely to become much more frequent across the UK as a result of climate change, with potentially devastating results in vulnerable areas, according to new research.

The study, published in the peer-review journal Nature Climate Change, is the first to draw a direct link between climate change and an increase in summer downpours.

The research, a result of a collaboration between the Met Office and Newcastle University, used climate change computer models and standard weather prediction models of the type used for short-term weather forecasts. It found that summers would be drier overall, but punctuated by more extreme downpours.

These can have a much worse effect than the steady rainfall typical of winter, because the dry land is less capable of absorbing water, and when too much falls in a short period it runs off, causing flash floods of the type that struck Boscastle in 2004, one of the worst examples of sudden localised flooding in recent years.

Whether any given area is subject to flash flooding will depend heavily on its topography, such as the proximity of uplands and rivers, but vulnerable areas are likely to experience far more incidents than they did in the past.

It is not possible to say exactly how many more floods are likely, but the researchers said instances of particularly heavy summer rainfall – defined as more than 28mm in an hour – would be about five times more probable.

Elizabeth Kendon of the Met Office, the lead author of the study, said that the research was groundbreaking in using a high-resolution weather forecasting model to translate the likely effects of climate change into a detailed prediction of future UK summer weather.

“Until now, we haven’t been able to do it in this way,” she said. “This should help people to understand what is likely to happen in the summer in future. It’s very important that we’ve detected this signal for heavier downpours in the UK. It’s now for policymakers to decide what to do about it.”

Some of the worst results could still be a few decades away, but the effects are already being felt and are likely to grow more severe, according to the models. But Kendon said more accurate predictions would depend on more scientific research being undertaken.

Summer rainfall is different to that typical of winter, when long-lasting steady bouts of heavy rain are common. These can cause their own flooding problems, as seen early this year when heavy rain caused widespread devastation in the UK with thousands of people forced to flee their homes.

Climate models suggest heavier winter rainfall for the UK. Summer downpours, such as those seen in 2012 when heavy rainfall followed a long period of drought, with disastrous results, are harder to predict but can take a greater toll as they are more sudden, and crops are ruined and tourism disrupted.

Kendon said: “It’s the hourly rainfall rates that you look at in summer.” The rain tends to fall in shorter but more intense bursts, caused by convective storms, but this has been difficult for climate models to simulate, because they lack the ability to home in on such brief events. It took the Met Office supercomputer, one of the most powerful in the world, nine months to run the necessary simulations.

The Guardian

Editors Note: This will either push insurance premiums through the roof or else make it impossible to get any kind of insurance cover for your property.

Flood warnings for east of England

Flood warnings issued for England

Flooding is predicted for parts of England as heavy rain persists.Flooding is predicted for parts of England as heavy rain persists. Photograph: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Heavy rain across the east of England could cause flooding over the coming days, forecasters have warned.

The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning of rain for the region, predicting localised flooding that could cause disruption to travel.

The wet weather would persist until Wednesday night, the Met said, with up to 70mm (2.76in) of rain expected in worst-hit areas including parts of Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire and the Humber.

The Environment Agency (EA) warned of a flood risk in the east, mainly from surface water and low-lying rivers.

It said: “There may be some flooding of low-lying land and roads, some disruption to travel and possibly flooding to individual properties.”

Meteo Group forecaster Gareth Harvey said: “An area of prolonged rain is moving up over the eastern region and it’s not going to shift until Wednesday night.

“The rain is not exclusive to the east region but that’s where the persistent and largest rainfall totals of between 50 and 70mm will be.

“Pretty much the whole of Great Britain will see rain at some point over the next 48 hours.

“This means there could be some localised flooding.”

The EA has issued 10 low-level flood alerts in the south-east and the Midlands, mainly warning of groundwater flooding close to rivers.

The Guardian

Somerset Levels Flooding

Taming the floods, Dutch-style

A De Dommel water board project shows how reclaimed land polders are being given back to rivers and meanders are cut into flood plains, as part of Netherland's back-to-nature approach.A De Dommel water board project shows how reclaimed land polders are being given back to rivers and meanders are cut into flood plains, as part of Netherland’s back-to-nature approach. Photograph: Courtesy De Dommel Waterboard

It is 100 days since David Cameron visited the submerged Somerset levels at the peak of the winter floods that devastated swathes of England and hundreds of broken flood defences have now been repaired thanks to £270m of emergency funding from government. But in the Netherlands, also battered by the record deluge but relatively unscathed, an ongoing multibillion-euro programme continues to reshape the watery nation, with none of the political storm whipped up in the UK.

Hard-won reclaimed land – polders – are being given back to rivers and meanders are being cut back into flood plains, all as part of a back-to-nature approach that is reversing centuries of battling against water, in favour of finding ways to live with it.

The Netherlands is a land of waterways and a quarter is below sea level, with 60% of its people in flood-risk areas. There is deep experience of what it takes to deal with flooding, in both financial and human terms.

Jan Kant is the fourth generation of his family to farm the Noordwaard polder in the heart of the giant four-river delta than dominates the south of the Netherlands. “I am attached to this area,” he says simply. But, with his sons who now run the business, he is about to move away. The dykes protecting Kant’s low-lying fields are about to be broken and the area flooded, to take 30cm off the river level that threatens the nearby town of Gorinchem.

The Noordwaard polder in Werkendam is one of the key areas of the national Room for the River project.The Noordwaard polder in Werkendam is one of the key areas of the national Room for the River project. Photograph: Courtesy Werry Crone/Noordwardpolder RR project  Continue reading

Serbia floods threaten country’s biggest power plant

Aerial view of flooded area along the Sava river 120 miles north of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.Aerial view of flooded area along the Sava river 120 miles north of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. Photograph: AP

Soldiers and energy workers have stacked thousands of sandbags to protect Serbia’s biggest power plant from flood waters, which are expected to keep rising after the heaviest rains in the Balkans in more than a century killed dozens of people.

On Monday, Bosnian state radio reported that the swollen Sava river, which has wreaked havoc in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, had again overwhelmed flood defences late on Sunday and flooded parts of the northern town of Orasje.

Waters receded in other parts of Bosnia, leaving behind mud, debris and dead animals. Another 1,000 people were evacuated from the border town of Bijeljina, threatened by flood waters from the Sava and the Drina, as well as 5,000 people from the northern town of Odzak, reports said.

In Serbia, a wall of sandbags several miles long was built around the Nikola Tesla power plant in the flood-hit town of Obrenovac, 20 miles south-west of the capital, Belgrade. It covers roughly half of Serbia’s electricity needs.

A Reuters cameraman saw another 10 trucks stacked with sandbags standing by. Authorities in Belgrade said emergency services and volunteers had filled 60,000 bags and dispatched them to the power plant.

Map of the floods in the BalkansMap of the floods in the Balkans  Continue reading