Today, live via the web from the Royal Society in London, flood risk managers and their professional partners, together with members of the public affected by flooding, can hear results from the massive research effort underway to improve prediction of and response to UK flood threats.
Britain’s largest peacetime emergency since WWII was, arguably, the extreme rainfall that caused flooding in June and July 2007. This resulted in 13 deaths and £3.2bn of damage to property. The crisis led to Sir Michael Pitt’s independent review, and the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.
Flood damage costs around £1bn per year. With more than 12 per cent of us living in areas identified as being at risk of flooding, these costs are set to rise unless we find new and innovative ways to reduce the frequency and consequences of river, coastal and surface water floods.
Since 2004, a consortium of scientists and engineers from over 20 universities, industry organisations and specialist consultancies has worked to understand the risks and develop solutions with support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Environment Agency, Office of Public Works (Ireland), Northern Ireland Rivers Agency and UK Water Industry Research.
Today’s dissemination meeting of the Flood Risk Management Research Consortium (FRMRC) will announce practical research outputs from their work, inviting the public to participate online.
Places at the event itself were booked up within hours of it first being announced, so to share results with as large an audience as possible, the FRMRC’s dissemination committed chaired by Professor Colin Thorne from The University of Nottingham is harnessing the power of the internet with IT expertise from colleagues at Swansea University to make video available live online. Presentations and debate on Monday should point the way to better flood management.
At four sessions throughout the day major findings from hundreds of research papers, technical reports and dissemination events produced by FRMRC members over the past seven years will be presented to 160 stakeholders, including academics and flood risk managers. Video will be streamed live via the web, and people will be able to participate in debate using Twitter, e-mail and SMS messaging.
According to river scientist Professor Colin Thorne from The University of Nottingham’s School of Geography, who chairs the FRMRC’s Dissemination Committee, the sessions will all address some of the most challenging flood risk management issues.
‘Inundation modelling’ is the subject of the first session, from 9.45am. This area of work focuses on creating predictive models, simulations and maps of how flood inundation occurs and its likely patterns.
Professor Thorne says: “We have invested millions of pounds in developing ever more complex and accurate computer models of flood inundation, but are the models academics and consultants produce the ones needed by stakeholders in Local Authorities and other bodies responsible for delivering flood risk management following the Flood and Water Act?”
Session 2, from 11.30am, will be on ‘Improving the management of flood infrastructure’. The UK has thousands of miles of levees and other flood defences, but are they being properly inspected and maintained or — like the defences that were supposed to protect New Orleans from events like Hurricane Katrina — might they fail when seriously tested? And what happens if they do fail?
In Session 3, delegates will hear about ‘Land use and flood risk’. The frequency of ‘flash floods’ during summer seems to be increasing and many people affected by recent events at Boscastle in 2004, Cockermouth in 2009 and Tintagel in 2010 believe land owners are at least partly to blame. Participants will examine whether the evidence suggests land use actually does affect flood risk significantly.
The final session, ‘Communicating flood risk and uncertainty’, will look at how technical specialists can communicate risk and uncertainty to people in ways they understand and can act upon.
“The public realises that flood warnings cannot be 100 per cent reliable or accurate, “says Prof Thorne, “and they want and expect scientists to be straight with them regarding the uncertainties that are inevitable when dealing with floods.”
To view the full programme and find details of how to participate using the internet, visit to the FRMRC website at: www.floodrisk.org.uk
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