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UK Starts 2024 Fighting Floods - Has Climate Change Made This The New Normal?

The Flooding Incidents of 2024 So Far

January 2024

Storm Gerrit ran through Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the North of England in late December 2023, with its high winds causing power outages, road blockages, and loss of life. Gerrit’s heavy rain and snowfall also caused flooding in those affected areas – particularly,

Scotland and Yorkshire Thereafter right as 2023 became 2024, Storm Henk dropped 40mm of rain over a span of 24 hours across the south of England and Wales. Flood warnings and alerts abounded on January 4th. 

Northamptonshire’s River Nene rise caused an evacuation of a caravan park in Great Billing, Northampton with 31 people and their pets taken to safety. River Nene’s levels eventually reached 1cm shy of its 1.64m record, which was previously set in December 2020. 

Worcestershire was badly affected too. The River Severn had been high three times during winter months, peaking on the 3rd of January when parts of the city of Worcester in particular were flooded and homes evacuated. As with the River Nene, the River Severn was very close to its peak record, again set in 2020. 

The town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire is very susceptible to flooding. Both the River Severn and River Avon run around the town, as well as smaller rivers and brooks through the middle. Pictures of the flooding of Tewkesbury Abbey on the 5th of January were particularly stark – an eerie repetition of the same situation that occurred in the summer of 2007.

The Environment Agency announced that 102,000 properties had been protected during Storm Henk, but 2,200 had been damaged. The damage will cost roughly £150M. Sadly, two people also lost their lives.

February 2024

The mainland was saturated from the downpours in January, and rainy spells continued to maintain it in February. East, West, and South-coast areas of the UK received flood warnings on the 10th of February, while areas of Wales and the Peak District were subjected to snowfall and ice. 

More flood warnings were issued on the 21st of February across much of the east, with water breaking onto roads and into properties. 

The Climate Question

Invariably, climate-change deniers recall past extreme weather events in a bid to downplay the uniqueness of single occurrences. However, those arguments fall flat when it comes to frequency coupled with severity. Generational floods are happening in tighter and tighter time frames. 

Looking at the levels of the River Trent, scientists found that the highest peak level one would expect across a fifth-year period is now happening once every ten years . Climate change is a contributing factor, As well as the river’s own cyclical patterns climate change is a contributing factor.

It has been well-documented that climate change’s most discussed and key indicator is its warming of the planet. The Earth is getting hotter and hotter. What this does is create an atmosphere that holds more moisture. What follows? Heavier rain. The wettest period in the UK on record was from July 2023 to December 2023, right as Gerrit arrived, with Henk following shortly after.

Climate change is a man-made phenomenon and a man-made issue. The erosion of natural defences to flooding is a man-made phenomenon and a man-made issue. Examples of this include habitat destruction, the draining of wetlands, and building on floodplains.

The housing crisis has resulted to building on floodplains and, while strongly advised against, has happened relentlessly. These actions are contributing to and are potentially transformative for the climate crisis. According to one study, 10% of new houses built since 2013 have been on areas of land that are at a high risk of flooding, impacting these homes individually as well as the surrounding area.

These trends will continue, especially as the current UK government under Sunak – as well as the increasingly likeliness of the UK’s next government under Starmer – is refusing to take climate change seriously by doubling back on promises and commitments to implement green solutions like commercial solar, arming the UK workforce with green skills, and investing in public transport. 

If this is the new normal, what are the risks?

The Risks

Two lives were lost due to Storm Henk. Power outages and road blockages can exacerbate many health-related issues too; NHS appointment cancellations, increased isolation and loneliness, and financial stress from lost income or property damage and the mental health concerns that grow with it. 

Sewage dumping has been a common issue for a number of years, as corrupt officials turn a blind eye to corporations and businesses contaminating bodies of water. Unfortunately flooding exacerbates that problem, bringing tainted water into homes, businesses and public spaces. These unsanitary conditions can contaminate previously uncontaminated areas. 

As noted above, property damage and losses can amount to millions of pounds. In times of existing construction supply-chain stress and drawn-out insurance processes, people could be without stable and permanent shelter for a long time. This can be costly for individual households as well as the government.

These risks perpetuate more risks. It’s a feedback loop that can be hard to break.


Naturally, in times like this, the emphasis turns to the community. Buzzwords like ‘recovery’ and ‘resilience’ have become a choral chant. No one doubts community resilience. People have an unwavering ability to rise to challenges, adapt, and overcome them. Making sure those communities that are vulnerable to flooding – both at the current level and, hopefully, at a lower level in the future – are prepared is a must, through both education and resources. However, governmental change is beyond essential.

It’s a common theme for all climate change emergencies. Yes, the people on the ground – invariably and inevitably the most vulnerable and affected – can make changes that will make a difference. The onus needs to be put back on the shoulders of government, so that the everyday person isn’t burdened with total responsibility.

Atlantic Renewables

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