UK environmental challenges

  • Created by: Janeway
  • Created on: 09-04-19 12:33

Air masses and how they affect the UK weather

  • Tropical maritime air masses come from the Atlantic - they bring in warm, moist air and mild weather
    • Example - February 2014,strong winds and winter storms, damaged SW railway
  • Polar maritime air masses come from Greenland and the arctic sea - they bring wet, cold air and cold, showery weather
  • Arctic Maritime air masses come from the arctic - they bring wet, cold air and snow
    • Example - 2009-2010 had most severe snow since 1981-1982. 10-20cm in England and Wales with 30cm in Scotland
  • Polar Continental air masses come from central Europe - they bring:
    • Hot air and dry summers
    • Cold air and snow in winters
    • Example - Beast from the East brought air from Russia
  • Tropical Continental air masses come from North Africa - they bring hot, dry air and hot weather in summer
    • Example - In 2003, most extreme heatwave for 500 yrs. UK record temperature of 38.5
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Case Study: UK Flood Event: Somerset Levels

Effects of flooding:


  • 6, 900 hectares of agricultural land was underwater for over a month
  • Natural England reported that floods had little impact on wildlife
  • Farm soil ruined


  • Financial cost to the Somerset economy was between £82million - £147 million
  • Many livestock had to be moved and sold
  • Local businesses lost trade and people couldn't work
  • Fram soil ruined


  • 600 homes affected
  • villages such as Muchelney cut off
  • Journey times longer as roads were inacessible
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Case Study: UK Flood Event: Somerset Levels

Causes of flooding:

  • Physical:
    • Prolonged rain, hurricane force wind speeds and tidal surges
    • Storm cause by a powerful jet stream driving low-pressure systems and their storms across the Atlantic
    • 12 major storms from Dec 2013-Feb 2014
  • Human:
    • Builings on Floodplain below sea level
    • Rivers should have dredged - it had not been dredged for 20 yrs  - River Parret in particular needed to be dredged


  • Enviroment Agency installed 62 pumps to remove 1.5mill tonnes of water
  • Royal Marines deployed
  • In Mar 2014, government wrote 20 yr flood plan - dredging rivers, repairing flood banks, raising roads and building tidal barriers
  • Giant pumps brought in from the Netherlands
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Farming and fishing

Mechanisation of Farming:

  • Machinery replaced work previously done by hand
  • Farms have increased in size
  • destruction of hedgerows
  • consumers want produce year round - less fertiile soil
  • more pesticides and fertilisers - impacts local water supplies (eutrophication-nutrients drain into water which causes an agal bloom-uses up all the oxygen + blocks out sunlight)

Commercial Fishing:

  • Over 1 bill people relying on fish 
  • Large trawlers locate fish socks
  • over fishing
  • young fish caught and so they can't breed and certain fish are in decline (tuna and cod)
  • accidental deaths of other species (dolphins)
  • In 1900s the ocean contained 6x more fish
  • In 2003, a scientific report estimated large ocean predators reduced to just 10% of of pre-industrial population
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Water usage and management

  • 40% of water is for domestic use
  • 40% is for energy
  • 19% is for industry
  • 1% is for agriculture


  • Reservoirs:
    • Large area of water to capture and store water
    • expensive to construct and maintain
    • disrupts natural flow of water
    • floods a lot of land - can't build in those areas - plants drown
    • chemical imbalance in soil means it can't be used as farmland
  • Water transfer scheme:
    • take water from 1 part of the UK where there's a surplus, to  part that's running low
    • often transferred via rivers, canals or pipelines
    • impacts local ecology - different water chemistry
    • introduces non-native invasive species which can threaten new ecosystem
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UK energy sources

  • Oil and natural gas
    • Pipes sunk down to reservoirs to pump oil out - refined into petroleum and used intransport
  • Coal
  • Nuclear
    • Mining radioactive minerals. Electricity generated from the energy released when atoms of the minerals are split or joined together
  • Wind
  • Solar
  • Tidal
    • Tidal barrage built across estuaries. Movement of tides used to drve turbines
  • Wave
    • Use the up and down motion of waves to force air/hydraulic fluid in and out of chambers to drive a turbine 
  • Biomass
  • Geothermal
    • Cold water pumped under ground and comes out as steam - heating or drives turbines
  • Hydro
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Sustainable energy

UK Targets -

  • EU set UK a target of ensuring 32% of itselectricity comes from renewables by 2030
  • Get 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020
  • UK has a carbon budget to meet, agreed during 2008 climate change act

Recent Developments - 

  • 2010 - 2013, department of energy + climate change recorded £31 bill of private investment in renewables supporting over 35,000 jobs
  • 2014, £10 bill invested in renewables
  • 2015, government published plans to cut subsidies for renewables

UK Strategies - 

  • Renewable heat incentive
  • Promote offshore wind farms and research wave energy
  • create up to 50000 jobs n renewable energy sector by 2020
  • reduce UK's carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels
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