The Somerset Levels Flooding, 2014

From the OCR A course.

One of the case studies, in the UK Environmental Challenges section.

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  • The Somerset Levels
    • Where?
      • Vast flat agricultural area
      • South west England
      • Lying between the Quantock, and Mendip Hills
      • Jan 2014 - 4225km became inundated with flood water.
        • The flood lasted several weeks, causing immense disruption to peoples lives and considerable environmental damage
        • Villages were cut off and many people & farm animals had to be rescued
    • Causes?
      • Human
        • River Parrett = not been dredged for some 20 yrs, and its channel had been silted, reducing its capacity to cope with flood water
        • Drainage ditches used to drain the land for farming increased the speed of water flow into rivers
        • Building on the floodplains (road and houses) increased run-off into rivers
      • Physical
        • Wettest winter period since 1910 - 12 major storms between Dec 2013 and Feb 2014, driven accross the Atlantic Ocean by the powerful jet stream
          • Jet stream = narrow band of very strong wind currents the circle the globe several km above the Earth
        • Strong tidal surges swept sea water into the river systems & prevented water from the land escaping to the sea - led to the flooding of the River Tone and Parrett
        • Tidal surges deposited huge amounts of silt in the river channels, reducing their capacity to hold water
        • The land is extremely flat/ low-lying, making it particularly vulnerable to flooding
    • Effects?
      • Social
        • 600 homes were damaged
        • Some villages were cut off for weeks (eg. Muchelney)
        • Several roads were impassable, increasing journey times, and leading to considerable inconvenience
      • Economic
        • cost = £82m - £147m
        • Farm animals had to be moved, fed expensive grain and sold
        • Businesses in the area lost money due to extra transport cost and lack of visitors.
      • Environmental
        • 7000 hectares of productive agricultural was underwater for several week
        • Natural Enland reported that the floods seemed to have little impact on the wildlife.
    • Consequences
      • Short term
        • Environmental Agency installed 62 pumps, working 24/7, to remove 1.5 million tonnes of water
        • Royal Marines deployed to help the residents that were cut off by the flood
        • Police increased their patrols
      • Long term
        • March 2014 - govt wrote a 24 yr flood action plan for Somerset
          • dredging more of the river parrett and tone
          • repairing damaged flood banks
          • Raising the road into Muchelney
          • Making the pumps permenant
          • Building a flood barrier, similar to the Thames Barrier, to hold back tidal surges
        • All the solutions = hard engineering, expensive, man-made approaches

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