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More heavy rain is forecast

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Ritz
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« on: September 09, 2008, 08:43:15 pm »

More heavy rain is forecast

The clean-up and repair bill from the weekend storms will run to tens of millions of pounds, insurers have said, as forecasters predicted more bad weather for flood-ravaged areas.

Forecasters said early predictions were that September could be a record month for rainfall.

And further questions emerged about flood defences for high risk areas after it was revealed plans were shelved in one of the worst affected areas.

Environment Agency proposals for the historic market town of Morpeth in Northumberland, where 1,000 properties were damaged and 400 residents evacuated, were put out to consultation but never implemented.

Instead residents found themselves issued with giant expanding pillows designed to soak up water like nappies. Each should have absorbed 20 litres of rain but residents found they couldn't handle the sheer volume of water when the River Wansbeck burst its banks.

Many people whose homes were flooded have barely finished clearing up from last summer's floods.

The historic Abbey in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, which came to represent last year's floods, was once again surrounded by water.

More rain is predicted for areas already "saturated" with rain, Met Office forecaster John Hammond said.

Deluges are expected in western England and Wales, and more rain on Thursday in the North East, the West Midlands and Wales.

"That's clearly not going to be very helpful given the large amount of rain we have already seen this month," he said. "It's an early prediction but arguably it's angling to to be one of the wettest Septembers ever."
« Last Edit: September 09, 2008, 08:49:57 pm by Ritz » Report Spam   Logged

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Ritz
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« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2008, 08:47:03 pm »

The weather is changing.

Temperatures and sea levels are rising. Summers are getting hotter, winters are getting wetter. But what does that mean for us here in the UK? What will it be like to live here in the future? And why should we even care?

In the first few years of this century alone, floods, storms and heat waves have shown just how vulnerable we are to extreme weather. In August 2004, a 9ft wall of water swept through the villages of Boscastle and Crackington Haven, in Cornwall, washing 75 cars, six buildings and several boats out to sea. Between June 25 and 26 this year, three people lost their lives in floods in the north of England. In the 2003 north west Europe heat wave, 27,000 people died. 

Extreme weather events such as these become more frequent and more deadly with climate change: if average temperatures in the UK go up by as much as 5.8°C – the upper end of scientific predictions – by 2100, the effects will be unbearable... and inescapable.

By 2020, well within most of our lifetimes, the number of days in London hotter than 25°C will have doubled. Fast-forward to 2050, and we’ll experience up to five times as many hot days. Rubbing your hands together with glee and reaching for the tanning lotion? Not so fast: in central London, the urban heat island effect can add a further 6° to the highest temperatures elsewhere, making a hot day in the suburbs an absolutely unbearable day at Charing Cross. The number of really hot days (higher than 30°) is also expected to increase: heat waves, reminiscent of last July, when Hyde Park famously stood empty in searing 36° heat, will soon be common in the city.

 
No escape

Escaping the heat won’t be easy. Public transport is one of the first casualties of climate change. Hotter days mean slower trains: safety fears dictate that you can’t travel at high speed on hot, possibly buckled, tracks. And don’t think going subterranean will help keep you cool: temperatures on the Underground can be 10°C higher than they are at street level. In the heat wave of 2003, the highest temperatures recorded on the Underground were 36.2°C at a station and 41.5°C on a train. By 2050, the worst affected trains and platforms will reach temperatures of over 35°C for up to 45 days during the summer. Reckon there’s a quick fix? In 2003, the Mayor’s office offered a reward of £100,000 for anyone who could come up with a way of cooling the Underground. Of the 3,500 entries, every single one was rejected as impractical.

Air-conditioning units are likely to top most wish lists in the near future. In 2005, only about 2% of UK homes had air-con, but by 2006, the number of units sold by retailers had rocketed tenfold. If the UK develops the same appetite for air-con as the US (16% of domestic electricity use and 26% of commercial and business use), we’ll need to generate an extra 56 billion kilowatt hours of electricity – at an annual cost of around £5 billion. As demand for that electricity would be concentrated in the summer months, less than half could be met by existing UK power plants, meaning a huge number of new ones would have to be built – only to sit idle during all but the hottest times of the year. And if, as seems likely, they would generate electricity by burning fossil fuels, the plants responsible for powering the units that provide us with chilled air would, ironically, actually be exacerbating global warming.

Don’t expect any natural respite courtesy of summer showers, though: a shift in rainfall patterns (already underway) means rainfall in Southern England is expected to decrease by up to 40% in summer months, compounding the suffocating heat with severe drought – and putting even further pressure on already scarce freshwater sources. And when we’re not parched, we’ll probably be underwater: extreme storms and floods will become increasingly frequent and severe as weather conditions become more polarised. Here in the UK, the number of people at risk of coastal flooding is expected to increase from 0.9 million in 2002 to 1.8 million in 2080. Insurance experts now predict that by 2080, the annual cost of flooding in the UK could be as much as £2 billion: that’s 15 times what it is today. The devastating flash floods in recent years in Cornwall, Yorkshire and Sheffield just a taste of things to come: extreme weather events can trigger storm surges, a serious threat to human life in coastal areas and river deltas. When storm surges combine with higher sea levels, the results could breach the Thames Barrier, the UK’s largest and most vital flood defence.

Morphing ecosystems

But it isn’t just Britain’s human population that will suffer as a result of climate change. The natural ecosystem is expected to change almost beyond recognition, too. As much as 42% of the UK and Ireland will experience widespread ecosystem shifts, according to the UK Climate Impacts Programme. What does this mean? Well, the demise of our national dish, fish ‘n’ chips, for one thing: Atlantic cod, along with other fish species such as herring and sand eels, are already moving away from the British Isles as ocean waters approach the lethal temperature for their eggs. Terns and other wading birds could be wiped out as rising sea levels engulf their nests. And as fish populations decline, the WWF has warned, so the grey seals and fin whales that prey on them will disappear. 

Morphing ecosystems, devastating floods, searing heat waves, deadly droughts, rising sea waters and lethal storm surges all spell bad news for Britain. Climate change will prove fatal for some, uncomfortable for many, and extremely expensive for everyone. But if you think we’ve got it bad, other parts of the world will fare much worse: the effects of global warming could decimate much of the developing world as small islands and coastal areas become uninhabitable, whole regions are plunged into long-term drought, agricultural productivity drops dramatically and the spread of infectious diseases increases exponentially.

Environmental refugees, forced to flee their homes by the effects of climate change, already number in the tens of millions worldwide. By 2050, as a result of rising sea levels, permanent flooding and shortages of food and fresh water, that number could reach 150 million. In Bangladesh, where half the population lives less than five metres above sea level, a 1% increase in global average temperatures will trigger a loss of 10% of all land area – and create a further 30 to 40 million refugees.

But before we congratulate ourselves on escaping the fate that awaits people in parts of Africa and southern Asia, we should spare a thought for those who will face the higher costs of absorbing and providing for the forthcoming tidal wave of environmentally-driven immigrants: in short, us – along with the rest of the developed world. In addition to costs related to refugees, the financial costs the UK will face include more money spent on humanitarian aid, higher prices for tropical products (tea and coffee for starters) and a drop in profits for UK businesses based abroad.

When it comes to climate change, no man is an island. Sad
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