Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/08/inundation_nation/

Blighty to become old-time Inundation Nation

Floods are the new terrorism, says expert

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 8th May 2008 09:18 GMT

A top boffin has warned that Blighty may be headed into a "monsoon" period, possibly a decade or more in duration, in which we can expect much more flooding than has been the norm for the past generation or so. Interestingly, Professor Stuart Lane doesn't ascribe his predicted watery onslaught to climate change. He says the UK has often suffered such flooding epidemics in the past.

"Flooding should be given the same priority as terrorism," suggests Lane, who works at Durham University's new Institute of Hazard and Risk Research.

"We have not been good at recognising just how flood-prone we can be," adds the prof, who is qualified in both civil engineering and geography. His research indicates that Britain is just emerging from an unusually long spell, starting in the 1960s, during which there was an abnormally low number of floods. At other times in the 19th and 20th centuries, the events of last summer would have looked fairly routine.

"This matters because we set our flood protection in terms of return periods – the average number of years between floods of a given size," he says. "We have probably under-estimated the frequency of flooding, which is now happening, as it did before the 1960s, much more often than we are used to."

In other words, last year's severe floods were actually not that unusual in a historical sense, and there may well be more of the same on the way. Prof Lane reckons that problems could be especially severe now, however, as there has been a lot of building since the 1960s and much of this will be threatened by floods - while flood defences, designed for the easy times of the last 40 years, will probably be inadequate. Ongoing plans for more building on flood plains could worsen the issue.

Durham Uni's suggested catchphrase for the coming waterlogged era is "Monsoon Britain". However, Vulture Central - having considered the government's plan to revitalise old Blighty under the Innovation Nation tag - would put forward "Inundation Nation" for consideration. You decide.

Professor Lane's work is published in the current issue of Geography and funded both from government/academic sources and the insurance industry. There is no indication that any of the cash is being spent on a hilltop deployable biodiversity payload flotation module, but one can always hope.

Lane is plainly a real scientist and engineer, not some kind of slick-talking mouthpiece. He summed up his arguments by saying: "We are now having to learn to live with levels of flooding that are beyond most people’s living memory, something that most of us have forgotten how to do."

So we've forgotten the period before living memory. Don't you hate it when that happens? ®