Flood study and increasing urbanisation paints ‘concerning’ picture for UK

Flooding in Elgin (2019)
Image: JASPERIMAGE, Shutterstock

A Heriot-Watt University study has revealed that flooding in the UK could increase by an average of 15-35% by 2080.

The work was carried out by a team from the university’s water resilient cities project. The initiative is aimed at better preparing cities against floods through design and engineering, with an understanding being sought on the future risks of flooding.

Millions of people are affected by flooding ever year in Britain, with the UK Government reporting an annual cost of £2.2 billion used in prevention and managing of floods. Researchers said that the latest findings paint a ‘concerning’ picture, particularly with increasing urbanisation.

Dr Annie Visser-Quinn, a data scientist at Heriot-Watt University, said, “We used multiple datasets and methods and compared the results, using the most up-to-date data available.

“The estimates paint a concerning picture for the future UK flood landscape, especially when combined with increasing urbanisation.

“The north and east of Scotland is facing a 34% increase in the magnitude of flood events, which is significant.”

Dr Visser-Quinn and her colleagues looked at one in two year and one in 30 year events – the type of flooding that happens every two years, and the less common one in 30 years extreme event.

She continued, “We couldn’t get the different models to agree on those more unusual, extreme events, so there is still uncertainty there.

“However, we do think the bigger change will occur in the south and south west of England. That’s concerning given these are the more extreme events.

“Robust modelling will help improve our flood preparedness, which is why this work is essential. New climate data coming out later this year should be investigated as quickly as possible to inform the UK’s flood protection policies.”