Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Floods could overwhelm London as sea levels rise - unless Thames Barrier is upgraded

Steve Connor in the Independent (UK): There is significant risk of London being hit by a devastating storm surge in the Thames estuary by 2100 that could breach existing flood defences and cause immense damage to the capital, a study of global sea-level rise has found.

Melting of polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers could increase sea levels significantly over the coming decades leading to a 1 in 20 risk that the existing Thames Barrier would be unable to cope with an extreme storm surge, the study concluded.

Extreme storm surges that can breach the barrier would in the past have occurred with a frequency of about 1 in 1,000 years, but in a warmer world they could occur as frequently as 1 in every 10 years, scientists said.

The increased threat posed by rising sea levels is one of the reasons why flood defences around the Thames estuary and the barrier itself will be strengthened.

An international panel of glaciologists and climate scientists said there is still huge uncertainty about how sea levels will change in the coming century as a result of climate change and its effect on polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers....

The Thames Barrier at night, shot by John Sparshatt, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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