Monday, February 1, 2010

UK coverage perpetuates thousand year flood 'myth'

Sam Bond in Media coverage of the Cumbrian floods in November reinforced the dangerous idea that being hit by one extreme weather event decreases the likelihood of the same thing happening again any time soon. Speaking at CIWEM's conference on flooding and coastal risks this week, the Environment Agency's Kate Marks said that lightning could strike twice and an incorrect concept of a thousand year flood was gaining a frustrating foothold in the popular psyche.

She said that the Cockermouth deluge was widely quoted in the media as being a one in a thousand year return period flood event. She questioned whether this was indeed the case, and said such authoritative statements failed to take into account the element of uncertainty in any flood predictions.

The concept of a thousand year flood also provides a false sense of security, she said. "Unfortunately it was quoted in the media and from there it spread like wild fire," she said. "Phrasing it in such a way mislead members of the public in particular. They see it as 'well, it hasn't happened for 1,000 years and it's now happened so we'll be safe for another 1,000 years'…..

River Cocker Estuary, Cockerham Sands. The village of Pilling is just visible on the horizon, and there is a heron in the channel in the centre of the photo, shot by David Medcalf, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

1 comment:

Instant said...

As a supplier of Flood Protection I remain amazed that whilst 1 in 5 houses are at risk - less than 3% of these have taken ANY action to protect themselves. Maybe, we all buy umbrellas only when it is raining.