High Land Hard Rain

CX8AiMEWEAAyatQIf an upturned boat is a watershed, what’s a country whose rivers have burst their banks? A deluge? A torrent? As climate change literally batters down your door and floods your living room, the response is characterised by a bluff ‘hale, hearty’ ‘Spirit of the Blitz’ response, and a series of chipper media stories about community spirit, or a benign but balefully dense ‘Isn’t this a bit unusual!?’, or still worse a bit of timid denialism. The Times managed a rather coy: “Whether induced by climate change or not, patterns are unmistakeable”.

The Association of British Insurers have declared the cost of the recent floods in Scotland at £1.3 billion, but it’s not really about money any more, is it? In a more sobering declaration, James Curran, the former chief executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and a leading climate expert said yesterday: “There is no natural weather any more. The world is now warmer by one degree centigrade than it would be without climate change – so there is no weather anywhere, at any time, that isn’t man-made these days.”

There is “no natural weather any more”.

You’re still surprised? Well we had a clue when the day of the Winter Solstice was warmer than the Summer one. That’s fucked up.

The flood forecasting and river management agencies have issued flood warnings for Caithness and Sutherland, and Aberdeen. Warnings are also in place for Tayside, Ayrshire and the Scottish Borders. Hundreds of people were evacuated in Aberdeenshire after the Rivers Dee, Don and Ythan burst their banks.  Large parts of Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire were swamped with devastating rainfall over Christmas while Sir Philip Dilley – the chairman of the Environment Agency – doing his best Sunny Jim impersonation was holidaying in the Bahamas.

Back in September 2013 the then environment secretary, Owen Paterson, assured us that climate change “is something we can adapt to over time and we are very good as a race at adapting“. Try telling that to your insurance company as you plowter about in yer wellies.

Luckily Rory Stewart, is “the minister in charge of floods”.

It’s a wonderfully British response to ‘send in the army’. It has a comical Dad’s Army feel about it: sending in a brigadier with troops and a load of sandbags. I can’t think of a more beautiful image of the depth of denial and incompetence than the state authorities trying to divert the course of rivers with sandbags in the face of – not the force of nature – but the force of decades of human intransigence and culpability, and manipulation and propaganda by the corporations that have paid for climate denial.

356ebb0c348e8def1fa5f4c84941fe06Images of the rising flood showing Abergeldie Castle teetering like an icon of feudal collapsonomics are the epitome of our predicament. The owner ‘Baron Abergeldie’ and his wife had to flee after realising it was too dangerous to remain in their ancestral home in Aberdeenshire.

The laird we’re told ‘regularly rents out portions of his 11,700-acre estate to royal shooting and fishing parties, and the castle itself was leased to the royal family between 1848 and 1970 before Gordon moved back to the 450-year-old tower.’

Here we all are, ‘teetering on the edge’ wondering what to do, other than flee and go and live somewhere else. The poor Baron and his wife are climate refugees just like the rest.

Large parts of Britain remain flooded as this map shows.

In fact after Storm Desmond arrived last month, reports tell us it hurled ‘1,700 cu m, the contents of an Olympic swimming pool, into the Solway Firth every second’ — a historic record for any English river. A similar torrent was measured on the Tyne in Northumberland.

Welly Wars

floods-wellies-stu_3545175bAs usual everyone rushed about wondering who to blame. George Monbiot told us, rightly, (‘This flood was not only foretold – it was publicly subsidised’): “Yes, Britain has been hit by massive storms and record rainfall. But it has also been hit by incompetence, ignorance and concessions to favoured interests.” While the Telegraph juxtaposed Nicola Sturgeon’s footwear choices with David Cameron’s bellowing: “Socialist Nicola Sturgeon steps out in £179 Barbour jacket and £130 Hunter wells, while David Cameron buys £12.99 ASDA boots to look like a man of the people”. The writer, Helena Norton concluded “She either keeps her wellingtons very clean, or they are fresh out of the box.”

It’s difficult to begin to describe how brutally banal this media is.

Still, there’s always a plus-side as Reuters cheerily reminds us (‘Flood clean-up promises silver lining for UK construction firms’): “While insurance stocks such as RSA and Aviva have suffered, down 7.3 percent and 6.8 percent respectively since Nov. 30, fund managers and analysts see potential upside for the likes of engineering firm Kier Group, which carries out road repairs, and Renew Holdings, whose subsidiary Amco provides services to track maintenance company Network Rail.”

Rather than rub your hands with grubby glee, were is the impetus for change? Where is the ‘moment’ where everyone realises what’s going on? Daniel Johns, the head of adaptation at the Committee on Climate Change has said that the Government claims that it increased spending on flood defences ahead of the wettest December on record are “essentially meaningless”. And Adrian Gault, chief economist for the committee concluded that UK Government energy policies ‘will increase CO2 emissions’.  The fact is we are mired not just in flood-sludge but our own government failures. In a report quietly published last month showed, efforts to cut government’s carbon emissions, domestic flights, waste and water usage fell short on all counts.

We’re not any better here. Every year, year on year the Scottish Government fail to meet their own targets. 

It’s a mesmerising slow repeat.

The Flood should be an epic call to arms, instead it’s an excuse to retreat into cliche and business as usual with stock images of policeman in rowing boats ferrying grannies out of their house. This should be a game-changer of consciousness. When Abergeldie Castle tips into the Dee let’s hope it makes a splash.





Comments (53)

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  1. J Galt says:

    The usual high on emotion, short on facts stuff.

    Are you saying that severe weather events never happened before?

    When was this golden steady state period when floods didn’t occur or the odd building didn’t succumb to a bit of water erosion?

    1. Tam says:

      Abergeldie castle might give you a clue. Maybe you think it’s just ‘the odd building succumbing to water erosion’ – after 450 years. You could extend it’s 450 year ‘steady state’ period even farther back since they would not have built it on a site known to flood.

      1. J Galt says:

        Scottish rivers have a history of changing their courses – sometimes to dramatic effect – as indeed do rivers anywhere. Do a bit of digging to research historical examples.

        I grew up in a small Scottish coastal town where there was liable to be a bit of flooding when unusually strong spring tides combined with adverse wind conditions – it still occurs – however in the recollection of my parents and even further in the past (backed by historic photographs) it had occurred many times before.

        Yet this flooding is now exclusively ascribed to Man Made Global Warming and anybody who points out the historical examples and says how do you explain that? is abused and called an eejit and a “Denialist” (obvious obfuscation with holocaust denial in order to shut people up!).

        1. Can you give examples of Scottish rivers changing course because of wind conditions? Sounds interesting.

          1. J Galt says:

            With respect I didn’t say that.

            I gave the example of an event known to me, formerly acribed to a combination of tidal and weather conditions now ascribed to man made climate change.

          2. Do you think that man made climate change doesn’t exist?

          3. J Galt says:

            I don’t know for certain but I tend to doubt it.

            You point to certain events as proof of man made climate change and I point out that similar events occurred before man made climate change was thought of.

            It’s a conundrum isn’t it?

          4. Its not really a conundrum. No.

        2. DW says:

          I also grew up in a small coastal village.
          I think you are confusing a storm surge with the flooding currently being seen which is a wee bit too far inland for that.

          1. J Galt says:

            Yes I realise the difference, I was making the point that both types of events are now routinely ascribed to man made global warming whereas that was previously not the case. Merely pointing out this paradox is now apparently enough to invite condemnation.

  2. Lars Thorstein-Macdonald says:

    ‘It’s difficult begin to describe how brutally banal this media is.’

    Agreed although this kind of emoting isn’t much better. If there is a point to this jumbled article, then I’ve missed it.

    And, as you well know, Rory Stewart has nothing to do with the situation in Scotland.

    1. Hi Lars – I suppose the point of including Rory was just to illustrate the range of, what I would call ridiculous responses to the crisis.

  3. Stephen Atson says:

    No, he did not say, or imply, that floods never happened before. That would be an idiotic thing to write, as clearly there is written, oral and video evidence of previous severe weather events. Why did you write that?

    What he’s saying is that we’ve changed and continue to change the climate. That the heat engine that drives the weather and climate is altering and we’re turning up the heat.

    What you need to do is look at patterns. There are plenty of people in this country now (not to mention the insurance companies) who can tell you that weather related damages are increasing and as the mayor of Kewick said in December “The flood defences were designed for a one in 100-year event and since it’s six years since we had the last one, we were sort of surprised that we got one so soon.”

    1. J Galt says:

      Why did I write that?

      Because the whole thrust of the article is that these recent flooding events are entirely due to global warming.

      At no point does the writer give examples of historical flooding events – some far worse than those at present – which would have given balance.

  4. Brian says:

    Great article Mike. And sometimes a large dose of emotion is necessary to get people’s attention.
    And, you need to realise that if your defences are not breached, and the water, very cleverly, sneaks over the top and floods everything in sight, then actually your defences have worked! Claiming this to be the case is a tactic Mr Stewart has learned from the UK media.

  5. Sam says:

    In 2014, Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist of the Met Office, said this about the rainfall and floods in Somerset. “We have seen exceptional weather,” she said. “We cannot say it’s unprecedented…. Is it consistent with what we might expect from climate change? Of course. As yet there can be no definitive answer on the particular events that we have seen this winter, but if we look at the broader base of evidence then we see things that support the premise that climate change has been making a contribution.”
    There were protests that this was linking floods to climate change unsupported by any science. Matt Collins (Joint Met Office Chair of Climate Change) of Exeter University (with which the Met Office works) contradicted Ms Slingo: “There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge”. Later, the Met Office issued a notice which included this: “As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding.” That still seems to be their line.

    The UK Climate Projections seem to involve the repeated use of computer models to forecast climate. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) observed that these models were “generally poor” at simulating extremes of precipitation and “they are not usually thought of as a source of reliable information regarding extremes”. The IPCC said: “In the Alps, paleoflood records derived from lake sediments have shown a higher flood frequency during cool and/or wet phases (Stewart et al,2011) ..a feature also found in Central Europe.. and the British Isles (Macklin et al 2012)…. In summary, there is high confidence that past floods larger than recorded since the 20th century have occurred during the past 500 years in northern and central Europe…”
    So which is it – is climate change causing flooding or not?

    A piece of research from the Scottish government, “Mapping flood Disadvantage in Scotland 2015” was published recently. The report claimed that 108,000 properties are classed as being vulnerable to floods. It warned that climate change is “likely to aggravate the frequency and severity of flooding” in the country.

    UK Climate Projections data generated by the Met Office, referred to in the report, are used by the UK and Scottish governments to develop planning frameworks to deal with flooding. Recently, research (Frigg, Smith and Stainforth: “An Assessment of the foundational assumptions in high-resolution climate projections: the case of UKCP09″) has been undertaken to scrutinise the usefulness of UK Climate Projections. The abstract says: ” The United Kingdom Climate Impacts Programme’s UKCP09 project makes high-resolution projections of the climate out to 2100 by post-processing the outputs of a large scale global climate model.The aim of this paper is to describe and analyse the methodology used and then urge some caution. Given the acknowledged systematic, shared errors of all current climate models, treating model outputs as decision-relevant projections can be significantly misleading. In extrapolatory situations, such as projections of future climate change, there is little reason to expect that post-processing of model outputs can correct for such errors.”

    One might interpret this to say that processing systematically flawed data is only likely to compound errors. If Frigg et al are right then flood planning across the UK may well be based on inadequate information that is not relevant to decision making. There is no doubt about their conclusions: ” On the available evidence UKCP09’s projections do not merit trust.”

    If this is true perhaps we should blame climate scientists more than the two governments. Or, should we?

  6. bringiton says:

    There is no doubt that severe weather events have happened in the past,perhaps on the scale we have just witnessed.
    However……thanks to man’s intervention,these events are going to become more severe and more frequent so the question for flood prevention is,how much resources do we commit to preventing flooding on an unknown scale but probably very severe?
    Building Dutch style houses suits Holland where relatively gentle tidal flows are the main issue but in Scottish river valleys,it is not only the volume of water that is the problem but the rapid flow as well so another solution will have to be found.
    Insurance companies are probably going to force people to abandon dwellings in these areas but as the catchment area increases,the pressure on limited flood free areas will become intense.
    Many decisions taken in the past by local authority planning officials are now coming home to roost although the predictions for these sort of events have only been main stream scientific thinking for around a few decades so they cannot be entirely blamed.
    We have now seen a vision of our future and will have to make radical changes if we are to survive.

  7. John Page says:

    Great stuff, Mike………could Rory the Tory use the stones from his IndyRef cairn to help make the flood defences higher?
    John Page

  8. James Munro says:

    It is as though we as a species’ are incapable of either accepting or adapting to climate change. Our success has been through growth and development and the solutions to climate change mitigation run counter to this.
    Please be in no doubt that climate change is a threat of the gravest proportion, every other subject discussed on this site is of very little significance when compared to climate change.
    We can all do our bit under the heading “keep it in the ground”.
    An easy way to begin reducing your carbon footprint is to eat less – or no – red meat, good for your health and the environment.
    Apologies for the preachy nature of this post.

    1. John Page says:

      I think as a species we could adapt but the power of advertising to keep us consuming to fuel corporate short term profits is immense. The analysis in Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything is spot on. At the very point in the history of our species where we needed restraint as anthropomorphic climate change kicked in, the dominant narrative was that of neoliberalism….or more accurately the Objectivist cult espoused by eejits like J Galt the first poster to this article.
      We need independence governed by a written Constitution which subordinates the interests of corporates to the environment and the people who dwell in it. Otherwise we are screwed.
      John Page

  9. Jeff says:

    “In fact after Storm Desmond arrived last month, reports tell us it hurled ‘1,700 cu m, the contents of an Olympic swimming pool, into the Solway Firth every second’ — a historic record for any English river”

    When did the Solway Firth become an ‘English river’!?

  10. Alf Baird says:

    ““Socialist Nicola Sturgeon steps out in £179 Barbour jacket and £130 Hunter wells, while David Cameron buys £12.99 ASDA boots to look like a man of the people”.

    Image is everything, as all career politicians well know.

    Nicola’s a socialist? Dinners with well-suited offshore private equity folks and the unionist-elite still running Scotland’s institutions suggest otherwise.

    1. RabMac says:

      “Know thy self, know thy enemy”.

      Sun Tzu.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        Examples galore where the spuin wis ower peedie.Ye need a gey lang spuin tae slocher wi the deil.

    2. J Galt says:

      Well you have to work with whats there rather than what you wish was there. But that doesn’t say we don’t have to be vigilant if the relationships become too cosy.

      Maybe Nicola was making a point – if she’d gone one better and worn Lidl £5.99 wellies and a £4.99 SportsDirect cagoule she would have been ridiculed fur that as well!

      People aren’t stupid – they realise Cameron’s personal wealth is of a magnitude way beyond Nicola’s and comes from dodgier sources.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        “Well you have to work with whats there rather than what you wish was there. ”

        Other former colonies that achieved independence might disagree.

        1. J Galt says:

          Well perhaps, however even Ireland had to sup with the devil and compromise to begin with.

          The devil in question being Churchill and his backers who threatened utter destruction and bloodshed if they didnae. Mind you whether the USA would have allowed Churchill his orgy is debatable as even then in 1921 they held the Power because they held the Purse Strings!

          1. Alf Baird says:

            You seem awfie sure of your info. Any sources?

          2. J Galt says:

            None whatsoever other than reading the accounts of the Irish negotiators like Collins and Griffiths.

  11. elaine fraser says:

    Rory the Tory admitted on Channel four news (following the floods in England before Christmas) that some areas could not be saved in the future – I was so shocked at his honesty that I watched the clip later to check that I hadnt misheard. Not only was I correct but whoever was interviewing him just let the comment pass – imagine being flooded and hearing a government minister actually admit on tv that in future some areas -your area? – would be left to the sea. Whats plan B for those folk?

    At an anti-fracking meeting I heard that the head of some fracking company living down south has built his big house on stilts – he’s obviously not in denial.
    One of the most chilling aspects in Naomi Kleins book This Changes Everything is when she details the measures big business and the wealthy are already taking to both capitalise on climate change and at same time insulate themselves from it including investment in security firms. I guess to be ready for when we all start clambering for safety and find ourselves locked out just like the Syrian refugees are experiencing now.

  12. Eleanor Ferguson says:

    I know this comes under the heading of tinkering round the edges but I have noticed while house hunting in Edinburgh, that many new flats do not provide any outside space or if they do,do not allow washing to be hung out. Instead washer/driers are fitted as standard, getting people into the habit of doing washing and drying in one easy, very energy wasting operation. This actually goes against building regulations but developers seem to be able to bypass this because the council doesn’t enforce it.It would be relatively easy to have drying areas in areas hidden from general view if visibility is deemed to be a problem. I feel if there was more of a campaign to save electricity in homes and offices, people might feel that they are doing something rather than feeling so helpless.

  13. Mathew says:

    A good article – and the emotion is completely justified given that we are living through an emergency. The Independent recently published a letter by 11 leading climate scientists saying that the measures agreed at Paris COP fall woefully short of what is needed to prevent runaway climate change. From this point on we can pretty much give up on governmental\UN leadership on this issue. Expect floods to be yearly and getting progressively worse.

    1. Sam says:

      @ Mathew “Expect floods to be yearly and getting progressively worse.”

      No, I don’t expect that and I doubt if you can point to any science that says that. As the IPCC says, the models used to make projections on rainfall are very poor at doing so. What is actually being claimed as a link to climate change is that climate change will make the atmosphere warmer allowing the air to hold more water vapour. This is what is claimed will make for greater intensity of rainfall.

      At present, El Nino is at its peak. It is El Nino that is exacerbating the effects of a stuck jetstream. Sean Batty, STV’s weatherman explicitly ruled out a link to climate change and today’s floods.

      1. J Galt says:

        Sean has spoken! lol

        1. Sam says:

          The relevance of Sean Batty is that he is a meteorologist and he will get his weather information from the Met Office. The Met Office has not linked this year’s flooding to climate change.

          In 2014, Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office tried unsuccessfully to link the 2013/14 floods to climate change. In 2015/16 we have had more floods and the Met Office is not saying the floods are linked to climate change. Below is what the Met Office said in 2014 after the Chair of the Met Office, Mat Collins, had publicly contradicted Ms Slingo. He said: “There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge”.

          The Met Office 2014 statement said: “The report by the Met Office states that “As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding. This is in part due to the highly variable nature of UK weather and climate.” This agrees with the latest IPCC Report that states: “Substantial uncertainty and thus low confidence remains in projecting changes in Northern Hemisphere storm tracks, especially for the North Atlantic basin.”

          This is the basis for Prof Collins’ comment and means that we are not sure, yet, how the features that bring storms across the Atlantic to the UK – the jet-stream and storm track – might be impacted by climate change. As the Met Office report highlights for this year’s extreme conditions, there are many competing factors – from changes in the winds of the upper atmosphere to disturbed weather over Indonesia.

          What the Met Office report – and indeed the IPCC – does say is that there is increasing evidence that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense. It is clear that global warming has led to an increase in moisture in the atmosphere – with about four per cent more moisture over the oceans than in the 1970s – which means that when conditions are favourable to the formation of storms there is a greater risk of intense rainfall. This is where climate change has a role to play in this year’s flooding.

          With respect to changes in storminess, the good news is that recent advances in climate science are starting to pay dividends. Improved spatial resolution in models – that means that they can model weather and climate in more spatial detail – is allowing the models to represent some of the key factors that drive regional weather patterns. As the Met Office report states ‘With a credible modelling system in place it should now be possible to perform scientifically robust assessments of changes in storminess, the degree to which they are related to natural variability and the degree to which there is a contribution from human-induced climate change.’

          The Frigg et al paper says the UK Met Office Climate Projections do not merit trust. Possibly one should take the final sentence of the Met Office report above with salt.

          Paltridge et al report a declining trend in atmospheric humidity since 1973 just to complicate the picture some more.

      2. Well if STV say so then that’s the end of that.

    2. Mathew says:

      Sam – if you are saying that man made warming heats the atmosphere which causes more water vapour which then falls as rain then you are agreeing with me!
      Whether it’s an El Nino year or not the direction of travel is clear – more floods, longer droughts, steadily rising sea level.

      1. Broadbield says:

        There are a number of incontrovertible facts such as: CO2 levels at epochal highs; prevalence of other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; shrinking ice sheets at north and south poles and glaciers; acidification of sea etc etc. Whether any one weather event can be ascribed to climate change is doubtful, but surely what is not in doubt (other than to those who believe in alien abductions) is that these changes are anthropogenic. What is also not in doubt is that climate is extremely complex and unpredictable and subject to tipping points which can arise very suddenly and are irreversible.

        Surely, then, we adopt the precautionary principle and do something about it?

        1. J Galt says:

          Alien abductions?

          Setting up straw men? Surely your arguments should stand without the need of tricks like that.

          Even if you’re right about man made climate change the UK is essentially irrelevent.

          The industrial power moved on decades ago – the UK could go back to the stone age tomorrow and it would not make a blind bit of difference.

          1. Broadbield says:

            Yep, and most of us will be dead before it all kicks in, so why should we care. Let’s just go on living our rich (relatively) little lives and to hell with tomorrow and the people in the poorest countries who are going to be most affected.

          2. John Page says:

            Plan B from the Heartland Institute play book…….if people clearly understand the science around climate change, simply move to saying there is nothing that can be done……nothing can be done about consumerism, fossil fuel consumption……after all its just human nature
            Do you not get bored with yourself, J Galt?

          3. J Galt says:

            “Consumerism” (Baltic Dry Index new record low) and “Fossil Fuel Consumption” (Brent at $31) is collapsing as we speak. The Party’s over.

    3. John Page says:

      Mr J Galt
      You are sounding more like Dad’s Army than Atlas Shrugged.

      1. J Galt says:

        Yes interesting character was Ayn and her Objectivism! However I’ve never read “Atlas Shrugged” although I did plow my way through “The Fountainhead”.

        The J stands for James btw and the name is not a reference to Rand’s mysterious character!

  14. Kenny says:

    It’s irrelevant whether man-made climate change is the cause of these particular floods or not. The fact is that floods have been happening more and more often in some parts of Britain and their severity has been more and more extreme. Il Nino and the jetstream have both played a part this year, but that shouldn’t excuse people from considering the fact that, y’know, the icecaps are melting and in other parts of the world, snow is not settling on mountains (hence the brutal Californian drought last summer.) There are a whole lot of changes to our climate and we need to adapt to them.

    However, flood defences are not the answer. Water has to go somewhere when it falls and large amounts of water moving at high speed will overcome even the biggest wall eventually. Look at the roads and bridges and riverbanks that have just collapsed in the last few weeks. We need to look upstream and prevent these catastrophic high-intensity flows from happening at all. People want to dredge rivers. Are they insane? All that will do is make the water move even faster, taking more and more soil with it.

    On the steep slopes, we need to plant trees. Lots of trees. DEFRA insists that hills should be “naturally” bare so that sheep can graze them to nothing. This is the exact opposite of the truth. The sheep need to be taken off the hills and the hills be completely reforested. Land with trees on it will soak up twice as much water as land without it, not to mention the vast amount of water than can actually be held ON trees.

    Further down the slopes, we need to install ponds and swales everywhere we can. There is no reason whatsoever that every piece of land can’t collect and store (or at least radically slow down) every drop of rain that lands on it. We could also work on drastically improving the quality and depth of our soils so that the soil itself can hold much more water. If we took this approach, we could be confident that floods would simply not happen because there would never be enough water flowing towards the flood-prone areas to cause any problems. In towns near rivers we might still need to think about our drainage, because covering floodplains with tarmac and concrete inevitably means that some water has nowhere “natural” to go, but if the upstream water is better contained, this is a fairly minor issue.

    It will mean changing the way we think about farming and land use generally, but as we start talking about land reform and using our land in different ways, maybe it’s worth putting a greater responsibility on the upstream landowners for the water they allow to run straight off their land at great speed and carrying tons of priceless topsoil. You can bet that if towns could sue the landowners above them for the water they dump downstream, things would change pretty quickly.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Kenny, these are very persuasive arguments. Land reform is vitally important in so many aspects of every day life, and for the economy generally, and far too important to leave the current ownership structures to do pretty much as they wish, with consequences as we see. Its a great pity the SNP heirarchy decided to ignore its membership (and some MSPs) on the need for more substantial land reform. They ‘have the power’ yet appear to be unwilling to use it.

      1. Broadbield says:

        Monbiot made these points very recently.

        1. Kenny says:

          Aye, he’s the only journalist in the mainstream who’s saying anything about upstream flood prevention rather than the usual “HMG/SG/local council didn’t build a big enough wall” approach.

          For anyone wondering how realistic these ideas are, watch this from about 22 minutes. The whole thing is fascinating, but the flood management bits are pretty well explained there:

          1. Broadbield says:

            I would make a further point. In parts of southern Spain, where they get huge downpours (of fairly short duration), they plant woodlands in terraces across the hillsides to slow down the water, and they plant the trees straight into the ground. In UK they plough a ditch straight down the hill and plant on the raised ridge. When it rains the water shoots down the ditches they’ve created instead of trickling into the soil. It’s the rural equivalent of what happens in built-up areas where they can’t get the water into the rivers fast enough.

  15. Sam says:

    Hydrology and Earth System Sciences has something to say on flooding, past and present.

    (1)The apparent increase in flooding witnessed over the last decade appears in consideration of the long term flood record to be unexceptional, whilst the period since 2000 is considered as flood-rich, the period 1970–2000 is relatively “flood poor”, which may partly explain why recent floods are often perceived as extreme events. The much publicised (popular media) apparent change in flood frequency since 2000 may reflect natural variability, as there appears to be no shift in long term flood frequency (Fig. 4).
    (2)The principal finding of this work is that of the strong correlation between flood-rich phases and solar magnetic activity, indicating a clear driver for flooding patterns across Britain, what is still unclear is the relationship between the spatial/temporal distribution of flood clusters and solar activity.
    (3)The findings identify that whilst recent floods are notable, several comparable periods of increased flooding are identifiable historically, with periods of greater frequency (flood-rich periods) or/and larger floods. The use of historical records identifies that the largest floods often transcend single catchments affecting regions and that the current flood rich period is not exceptional.
    (4)climatic factors, such as lower temperatures and increased precipitation connected to the so called Little Ice Age, should be considered as the main driver behind flood frequency and magnitude.

  16. Eleanor Ferguson says:

    David Ross has a good article in today’s Herald about repopulating our so called “wild land” areas. Areas that were cleared and kept artificially clear of trees and shrubs are what some people believe is natural and we are told that if they were not managed they would revert to scrub- as if that was a bad thing. It’s all in the vocabulary-scrub is messy and undesirable much in the same way as our native wild animals are “vermin”.

  17. ben madigan says:

    – my heart goes out to families who have had their homes, furniture and mementoes destroyed by flooding.

    To get down to brass tacks – here’s a little information for people who are faced with flooded out homes.

    It was written with the currrent Irish floods in mind but the principles apply everywhere, especially as a PhD geologist reviewed them. I hope it is of some help to whoever needs assistance in these times.


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