Flood research centre opening in UK

Image: Jonathan Ford on Unsplash

A flood research centre is to open in the UK aiming to develop new ways to protect against rising river, rainfall and sea levels.

The £6.5million FLOOD Centre will be led by the University of Southampton, with experts from the universities of Bristol, Loughborough and Newcastle, the National Oceanography Centre, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and British Geological Survey. Scientists will work to improve their understanding of flooding using advanced monitoring and new forms of computer modelling, artificial intelligence and machine learning to map and forecast future flooding risks.

“We need to act now to improve the way we manage the large and growing threat of flooding in the UK and elsewhere in the world."

Ivan Haigh, University of Southampton

Ivan Haigh, a professor of sea level and coastal impact at the University of Southampton, said the centre will develop a talent pool of environmental experts invested in building flood resilience in the UK and globally.

He said, “Flooding is the most destructive natural hazard that humanity faces with nearly two billion people exposed to its risk.

“We need to act now and come together to improve the way we manage the large and growing threat of flooding in the UK and elsewhere in the world. We will train experts to best understand how to tackle the challenges of floods in future years, not only for the UK but countries globally who are facing extreme problems from climate change."

Image: Chris Gallagher on Unsplash

Currently one-in-six households in the UK are located in flood-prone areas. The biggest drivers are increased river flow, surface runoff, storm surges and waves, said Haigh, which are compounded by climate change and shifting populations. The new hub will work to combat these growing challenges.

Deputy director Jennifer Brown, from the National Oceanography Centre, said “This is a great opportunity to focus science research directly around the challenges faced by those managing and responding to flooding.”

The centre has been part-funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and is supported by 37 organisations in the flood sector - from local authorities, national government, water, energy and infrastructure companies, environmental, engineering and management consultancies, regulators, finance and insurance companies and charities.

Sean Longfield, a lead scientist from the Environment Agency, said, "We look forward to working closely with a diverse range of people, skills and academic perspectives over the next seven years to develop world-leading research to improve our understanding of and resilience to future flooding and coastal change."

Ceri Gibson, Tyne Rivers Trust chief executive, said, “Having just returned from the Trent catchment, where thousands of people and businesses are suffering from flooding, I cannot think of a better time to get this exciting initiative up and going.”