North of England floods – Christmas 2015

Cause and Effect

It has not been long since floods last hit the headlines in the UK. Last time it was Cumbria that was hit by torrential rains and swollen rivers as a result of Storm Desmond. Now, less than a month later, Yorkshire and Lancashire have been hit over the Christmas period.

natfull0612 from ITV News on Vimeo.

Experts have linked the unseasonable weather around the world to El Nino: BBC News report and Guardian article

December saw record breaking figures recorded by Met Office observing stations. Just under a months worth of rain fell in some places in a 24 hour period meaning that already saturated ground was unable to cope. This led to widespread flooding in villages and towns around York, Leeds and Manchester. Police in West Yorkshire stated that it was the worst flooding experienced in 70 years.

In York, the River Ouse was 5.1 metres above normal summer river levels around the Christmas period.

River Ouse
Source: Gaugemap

Over 500 soldiers were sent into areas worst affected by flooding as 27 severe flood warnings were in place, meaning “danger to life”. Thousands of homes were left without power in the Greater Manchester area, whilst over 2000 people were evacuated from homes in York and hundreds from properties in Salford as rivers burst their banks.


dgreenvt from ITV News on Vimeo.

Many were left hoping that the damage caused to their homes will be covered by their insurance. However, the small print in some policies may leave some with a nasty surprise


The future – reducing the risks?

After the immediate danger had passed and people began the clear-up, many were again asking what can be done to mitigate against such events in the future? There are many examples of flood gates, walls and other methods that have been put in place after previous flood events. Although some of these  served to reduce the impacts this time around, many have not and may not do so in the future.

Development site
Source unknown

For years, many have called into question the decision to continue allowing permission for new housing to be built on floodplains. A recent Greenpeace investigation claimed that even now,  the government has still earmarked flood risk areas for the building of 9000 new homes as part of it’s fast track home building programme.

Furthermore, in a recent article published on the 9th December it is claimed by The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), that in August it warned the government that it needed to take action in relation to the number of homes at risk from future flood events. In October 2015 the government rejected this stating that a “….. strategy to address future residual risk would not be appropriate at this time.”

This interesting article asks: ‘What have we done to make flooding worse?

Do we need a Dutch-style delta plan to mitigate against future floods? After the storms and devastating floods that hit the Netherlands in 1953, huge investment has taken place in the country to prevent a future event. The centre piece is the ‘Delta Works Programme’.

However, not everywhere in Yorkshire fell foul of the wet weather. The town of Pickering decided not to adopt yet more hard engineering approaches, but to work with nature rather than against it.


Time for a rethink?

Have we learned our lessons from previous flood events?

Could more be done to prevent devastating floods?

VIDEO – Back-to-nature flood scheme

VIDEO – River Nar: Felled trees used to slow flow and stop flooding

It has also been suggested after previous floods that ‘careless farming‘ is a factor adding to the  flood risk in the UK

Should farmers be obliged to stop potential flooding? Some have suggested that farmers receiving public money should be forced to trap water on their land to reduce the chances of flooding further downstream.


Sources: The Independent; BBC News; GaugeMap; The Guardian; Sky News; Mail Online; ITV News; Housing Network – The Guardian; The Met Office; i100

Storm Desmond – December 2015

Thousands of people in Northern England and Southern Scotland were forced to leave their homes on the 5th and 6th of December 2015, when Storm Desmond dumped an unusually large amount of rain on already saturated ground, causing widespread flooding. Provisional figures suggest more than 341mm of rain fell in 24 hours in the Lake District – which was a new British record.

NASA radar
Source: NASA

But why has Cumbria flooded again?
Watch this explanation from BBC Weather to find out

More than 100 flood warnings were issued in Scotland, Wales and England in response to the severe weather, of which 47 were designated ‘severe’. In Cumbria a ‘major incident’ was declared as emergency services ferried people from their homes. Whilst in the Lake District the Coastguard was called upon to airlift people trapped in their homes by the rising flood water.

The heavy rain and strong winds were caused by an area of low pressure which arrived on Friday from the Atlantic. The tightly packed isobars show that the winds were also strong.

Source – BBC Weather

In Carlisle, the river flowed over the £38 million flood defences that were erected in 2010 following a severe flood in 2005 when three people died. In January 2005, 175mm of rain fell in just 36 hours, causing £250m of damage.

Street submerged in Carlisle

In some places, the army was mobilised to help take people through the flood water to safety.

Army flooding
Source: ITV News

55,000 homes in Lancaster, Morecambe, Carnforth and the surrounding areas lost their power after the flood defences at an electricity substation were unable to hold the flood water back.


Several bridges were washed away by the flood water. Pooley Bridge in Ullswater, Cumbria, collapsed, plus Coledale High Bridge near the village of Braithwaite was swept away.

This aerial footage shows the extent of the flooding:

Cumbrian Floods 06/12/15 – Aerial Video – A66, Keswick, Cockermouth – Storm Desmond 2015 – Adamedia Ltd from Adamedia on Vimeo.

Additional useful materials can be found below:


Sources – BBC News The Guardian; BBC Weather; The Telegraph; ITV News; Daily Mail; Sky News; Getty Images; The Independent; NASA


Vanuatu – Cyclone Pam Case Study

Tropical cyclone Pam has brought torrential rain and damaging winds to the islands of Vanuatu.

Pam began to form on the 6th of March, 750km to the east-northeast of the Solomon Islands – a remote island chain about 1,750km northeast of Australia’s north-eastern city of Cairns.

The system developed as a twin disturbance before becoming a cyclone. Since then Pam gained energy from the warm waters of the South Pacific. Sustained, destructive winds of more than 180 mph hit Vanuatu, the rainfall caused just as many problems. A rainfall report of 495mm for one 24 hour period was recorded.



VIDEO – Dozens reported killed in Vanuatu cyclone

Cyclone Pam leaves ‘most’ of Vanuatu population homeless

Vanuatu appeals for aid in wake of devastating cyclone



State of emergency declared for Port Vila after Cyclone Pam

UN confirms 24 dead and 3,300 displaced in Vanuatu

 Vanuatu development wiped out by ‘monster’ Cyclone Pam. 90% of buildings in capital affected 



VIDEO – Cyclone Pam: ‘Hungry, homeless and alone’

Vanuatu islanders forced to drink saltwater

INTERACTIVE – Before and after: Cyclone Pam’s impact on Vanuatu


Typhoon Hagupit – The Philippines

Saturday 06 December 2014

Typhoon Hagupit made landfall in the town of Dolores in the eastern Philippines, on Saturday afternoon (GMT). The storm brought down electricity lines and trees. Hagupit was weaker than originally anticipated, being reduced to a Category 3 storm, two levels below a “super typhoon”

VIDEO – Hagupit comes ashore with winds in excess of 120 km/h.

Images – Over 716,600 were evacuated ahead of the typhoon as of early Saturday evening, local time, according to the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council..


People were moved to higher ground and into more solid buildings such as churches, schools and sports stadiums. Dozens of domestic flights were cancelled and inter-island ferry services were suspended.

Public storm warning signals were applied in a number of provinces amid predictions winds could rip off roofs, cut power and damage buildings. Residents in low-lying areas were warned about possible flash floods and landslides.

Meanwhile, Google established a crisis page for Typhoon Hagupit to allow those in its path to track the storms progress

Hagupit, known locally as Ruby, had maximum sustained winds of 109mph and gusts of 130 mph when it made landfall in Dolores in Eastern Samar province on Saturday evening local time.

Sunday 07 December 2014

The wind strength at landfall made Hagupit the most powerful storm to hit the Philippines this year.

“Many houses, especially in the coastal areas, were blown away by strong winds,” Stephanie Uy-Tan, the mayor of Catbalogan, a city on Samar, told the AFP news agency. “Trees and power lines were toppled, tin roofs were blown off and there is flooding.”

Hagupit flood

Over 24 hours, the storm brought 396mm of rain, which is equivalent to half a month of precipitation.


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Officials say two people were killed when the eastern provincial city of Borongan was hit by the storm.

Floods and landslides have already been reported in the nation’s central region, while four provinces have declared a state of emergency. Photos – Many remain in evacuation centres.


Monday 08 December 2014

As the typhoon weakened to a tropical storm and headed towards the capital Manilla, many have been preparing to return to their homes after the biggest peacetime evacuation in the countries history.

However, it appears that lessons have been learnt following the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan last year when 7000 people died. Typhoon Hagupit has left around 22 dead.

Many put the reduced death toll down to the mass evacuation ordered by authorities after warnings were issued prior to the typhoons arrival on Saturday. Over one million people were moved to around 1000 emergency shelters across the country.

More details here from BBC News plus additional material here

More details from AJE can be viewed here


Sources and links:
BBC News; CNN; Al Jazeera; Accuweather; BBC Weather; Google; AFP; The Telegraph; The Weather Channel; ABC News; Mail Online; The Guardian