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East Anglia on the ‘front line’ of managing the impact of climate change, says Environment Agency director

PUBLISHED: 14:25 30 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:30 30 November 2018

A car drives through a flood on the A1120 near Earl Stonham. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A car drives through a flood on the A1120 near Earl Stonham. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Sarah Lucy Brown

Rising sea levels, shifting coastlines and drier summers all expected to impact the region into the future.

East Anglian pigs wallowing to keep cool during the 2018 heatwave Picture: PETER CRICHTONEast Anglian pigs wallowing to keep cool during the 2018 heatwave Picture: PETER CRICHTON

East Anglia is on the “front line of managing the impacts of climate change in the UK” according to the Environment Agency’s regional director.

Dr Charles Beardall OBE said on-going improvements to weather modelling and warning systems, and maintenance and enhancements of flood defences are required to counteract rising sea levels and increased winter rainfall, while new strategies to safeguard water supplies are needed as summers become hotter and drier.

Mr Beardall’s comments came in the wake of the release of the much-anticipated UK Climate Projections 2018 report earlier this week, which uses the latest science from the Met Office to illustrate a range of future climate scenarios until 2100 based on different rates of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

The high emission scenario shows summer temperatures could be up to 5.4 °C hotter by 2070, while winters could be up to 4.2 °C warmer; the chance of a summer as hot as 2018 is around 50 % by 2050; sea levels in London could rise by up to 1.15 metres by 2100; average summer rainfall could decrease by up to 47 % by 2070, while there could be up to 35 % more precipitation in winter.

Sea levels are projected to rise over the 21st century and beyond under all emission scenarios – meaning we can expect to see an increase in both the frequency and magnitude of extreme water levels around the UK coastline. Even in the low emission scenario, the projections show the UK’s average yearly temperature could be up to 2.3 °C higher by the end of the century.

On flooding, Mr Beardall said the number of “episodic events”, when a massive downpour of rain happens in a short period of the time, are expected to increase in years to come.

Dr Charles Beardall (far right ) at the Ipswich Flood Barrier site alongside  (eft to right)  Sue Roper (Suffolk County Council), MP Ben Gummer and David Ellesmere.Dr Charles Beardall (far right ) at the Ipswich Flood Barrier site alongside (eft to right) Sue Roper (Suffolk County Council), MP Ben Gummer and David Ellesmere.

“We are constantly fine-tuning our modelling, so we know where they are going to land, and improving our extensive warning systems, so residents can take appropriate measures either to move out or move their belongings upstairs,” he said.

New flood defences being built have “taken into account the current climate change projections” said Mr Beardall, pointing to the £70m Ipswich 
flood barrier scheme and the £140m spent over the past two decades to protect the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, as examples of major capital projects in the region.

READ MORE: Make best use of time to prepare for sea level rise, says coastal flood expert

The increased chance of heatwaves also means “managing our water is a massive challenge”.

A sign at Felixstowe Ferry after a tidal surge last year.A sign at Felixstowe Ferry after a tidal surge last year.

“East Anglia is already the driest part of the country, and in a few decades a summer like we have just experienced will become the norm. The agriculture sector relies on access to water and in the future demand will increase - it’s a critical issue,” added Mr Beardall who said the combination of our shifting coastline, rising sea levels and lack of summer rain means East Anglia is on the “front line of managing the impacts of climate change in the UK”.

Also commenting on the report, head of Coastal Partnership East, Bill Parker said: “While this is an increasingly serious situation, we can make a difference if we take effective action now.

“Crucially, we need to be sure we manage the coast as a whole, taking into account areas that are currently undefended or who will need to re-align, alongside the areas currently defended from coastal erosion and flooding highlighted in the report.”

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