Somerset Flooding Introduction and Causes (01:16)
In 2013 and 2014, heavy rains caused record flooding in low lying areas, damaging property and disrupting lives. Low pressure systems, topography, and human activity contributed to the event.
Low Pressure Systems (03:05)
The jet stream position over southern England, cold air from Canada, and warm air from the Caribbean combined to create a depression series. This generational event led to three times the average rainfall in Somerset in January and February of 2014.
Somerset Topography (02:59)
The flat and low lying region covers about 70,000 hectares. Rivers are slow flowing and affected by tides. Silt clogs the Parrett and Tone rivers, reducing drainage capacity.
Human Activity: Draining the Somerset Levels (03:38)
Hear the difference between pluvial and fluvial floods. Medieval monasteries drained marshes to create farm land, called moors. Excess water is pumped into rivers and channels that are positioned higher than the land. Pump stations are ineffective if the drainage system is inundated.
Human Activity: Changing Practices in Farming (03:07)
The Parrett River drains an area of 1,665 square kilometers. Uplands grasslands that traditionally absorbed rainwater have been replaced with grain farming— reducing infiltration rates, increasing surface runoff, and increasing silt in drainage channels.
Impacts of the Somerset Floods (04:10)
January 2014 flooding affected previously "safe" properties; total damage was estimated at £16 million. Property values have plummeted, insurance premiums have increased, and village economies have been negatively affected. A local resident discusses the psychological and emotional toll.
Responses to the Somerset Floods (04:10)
Media coverage and a local flood action group pressured government to allocate £20 million to the Environmental Agency. "Hard" engineering flood risk reduction measures include flood fence walls, upgraded pumps, and dredging silt from rivers. "Soft" engineering measures include maintaining mud banks.
Upstream Flood Reduction Measures (02:14)
Somerset farmers have built retention ponds and created floodplain woodlands to decrease runoff.
Reducing Agricultural Runoff (03:17)
Somerset farmers are building field silt traps and experimenting with crops to slow infiltration rates. Soft engineering solutions upstream are cheaper than maintaining man made drainage systems downstream.
Credits: Extreme Weather: Somerset Flooding (00:29)
Credits: Extreme Weather: Somerset Flooding
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