University Professor Dr. Chris Skinner forecasts the floods of tomorrow. His work at the University of Hull looks at the conditions which cause flash floods, and since 2014, he’s run SeriousGeoGames – a project which uses virtual reality and gamification to let people understand flooding and the complex decisions which go into protecting against them.
Chris argues coastal cities in particular must respond to increasingly extreme weather conditions – and he is a firm believer that we must do more to live side by side with the sea. He is however skeptical that Hull will one day be underwater, pointing to the IPCC’s predictions that sea-levels will rise just 1m in the next 80 years.
Across the globe, extreme weather and flooding is increasing and this summer’s tenth anniversary of the devastating floods across much of the UK, act as a stark reminder. In Hull alone, three people were killed and over 10,000 homes and businesses were evacuated. Most of the city’s schools closed down and residents were forced out of their homes for months and, in some cases, years.
Our approach to flooding, and the steps we take to protect against it in the future, is now critical. The UK government’s review of flood resilience highlights the need to build new towns and cities with inbuilt flood defences such a sea walls. Yet towns such as Pickering in North Yorkshire contradict this approach – successfully withstanding major regional flooding in 2016 using natural protections such as ‘leaky dams’ made of logs and branches.
In Aarhus, Denmark, climate change is also on the agenda. On a recent trip to the city, Signe Marie-Iversen from the Center for Environment and Energy, shows us a satellite map of Aarhus on which she has cryptically written in biro: ‘100-years incident in 2050’.
Large areas on the map are marked in pale blue: the river valley west of the city centre, the well-to-do suburbs of Vejlby-Risskov to the north – indicating predictions for flooding in the case of extreme rainfall. The city’s new waterfront developments, including the landmark Iceberg building, are marked in pink: at risk of flooding due to storm surges.
Signe seems sanguine about the potential impact on the city of a ‘one in a hundred year’ event, and well versed in the complexity of balancing the practical needs of the city with the increased risk of flooding as the climate changes.
This month, a £14m project was announced in Hull that works with the environment to protect against flooding. The project, which uses drainage lagoons and aqua storage systems to store excess water, offers the best hope yet that the devastating floods of 2007 are not repeated.
Whether nature offers the best protection against flooding, or man made defences, such as higher levees and sea walls – it’s clear that more urgency is needed when it comes to adapting to the new reality of our global climate.