Ajay Nair, News Reporter
The British Isles have some of the worst flood projections in Europe with at least 85% of UK cities with a river – including London – being forecast to face increased river flooding by the 2050-2100 period.
Research by Newcastle University, published in the Environmental Research Letters journal, also shows the impact of heatwaves and droughts and predicts increased heatwaves for 571 European cities and further droughts, particularly in southern Europe.
The study shows an increase in river flooding especially in northwestern Europe. Cork, Derry, Waterford, Wrexham, Carlisle, Glasgow, Chester and Aberdeen are among the worst hit cities in the UK and Ireland for river flooding.
The experts said even in a low impact scenario, 85% of cities with a river are predicted to face increased river flooding. In that instance, Derry, Chester, Carlisle, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Newcastle are expected to be the worst hit.
A high impact scenario suggests half of cities in the British Isles could see at least a 50% increase on peak river flows.
Co-author and lead investigator of the study Professor Richard Dawson said there were far-reaching implications in terms of how cities adapt to the changing weather.
“The research highlights the urgent need to design and adapt our cities to cope with these future conditions,” he said.
“We are already seeing at first hand the implications of extreme weather events in our capital cities.
“In Paris the Seine rose more than four metres above its normal water level. And as Cape Town prepares for its taps to run dry, this analysis highlights that such climate events are feasible in European cities too.”
Of the European capitals, Dublin, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius and Zagreb are most likely to experience the most “extreme” rise in flooding.
In a high impact scenario, some cities could see more than an 80% increase on peak river flows. These include, Derry, Cork and Waterford in Ireland, Braga and Barcelos in Portugal and Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
:: 20 worst hit cities for flooding in UK and Ireland under a high impact scenario
(City – percentage of increase in water per flooding event than previously experienced)
Cork – 115%
Derry – 99%
Wrexham – 80%
Waterford – 80%
Carlisle – 79%
Glasgow – 77%
Chester – 76%
Preston – 74%
North Lanarkshire – 74%
Galway – 72%
Newport – 71%
Cardiff – 71%
Telford and Wrekin – 70%
Wirral – 68%
South Tyneside – 63%
Newcastle upon Tyne – 63%
Exeter – 63%
North Tyneside – 60%
Kirklees – 60%
Gateshead – 60%
The academics found – even in a low impact scenario – that the number of heatwave days and their maximum temperatures will increase for all European cities.
Southern Europe will see the biggest increases in the number of heatwave days and central European cities will see the greatest increase in heatwave temperatures, according to the report.
The increase is set to go up from 2C to 7C in a low impact scenario and from 8C to 14C in a high impact scenario.
Stockholm and Rome could see the greatest increase in the amount of heatwave days while Prague and Vienna could see the greatest surge in maximum temperatures during heatwaves.
Although southern European regions are adapted to cope with droughts, this level of change could be beyond breaking point
In the low impact scenario presented by the scientists, drought conditions only intensify in southern Europe while river floods worsen in northwestern Europe.
They estimate cities in the south of Iberia – such as Malaga and Almeria – will experience droughts more than twice as bad as in the 1951-2000 period.
The high impact scenario sees 98% of European cities suffering from worse droughts in the future and southern European cities could see droughts up to 14 times worse than today.
Lisbon and Madrid are among the top capital cities for increases in the amount and magnitude of droughts, while Athens, Nicosia, Valleta and Sofia could see the worst increases in both and droughts and heatwaves.
Lead author Dr Selma Guerreiro said: “Although southern European regions are adapted to cope with droughts, this level of change could be beyond breaking point.
“Furthermore, most cities have considerable changes in more than one hazard which highlights the substantial challenge cities face in managing climate risks.”