This week saw hydrologists from across the UK, and some overseas visitors, congregate in Birmingham for the 2014 British Hydrological Society Symposium. The Scottish Flood Forecasting Service was there presenting our recent experience of setting up and using the pilot surface water flood forecasting model for Glasgow along with other hydrologists from SEPA.
There was a wide range of talks covering droughts, floods and snow, to water resources and governance. Here are some interesting things I didn’t know before this week:
- The June 2012 surface water flood in Newcastle saw 51mm of rain, 26mm of which fell in 30 minutes. However this wasn’t the largest event on record for the city, in 1941 50mm fell in 30 minutes! (David Archer JBA / Newcastle University)
- It might be possible to predict snow cover in Scotland, particular for low lying ground, early in the season based on the North Atlantic Oscillation. Unfortunately there is no evidence yet that this would help us predict snowmelt flooding. (Michael Spencer Edinburgh University)
- The flow volume in the River Thames for winter 2013/2014 was more than the previous two largest events combined (Chris Beales Environment Agency)
- Historic flood evidence might be even more challenging to consider than I previously thought with people moving historic flood stones or putting them in years after the event (Colin Clark CHRS)
For me though the key message of the week, which came through in several talks but particularly from Glen Watts and Craig Woolhouse (both of the Environment Agency), was a call for the hydrologists of the future to be better communicators to make sure that decision makers can use our great science to help saves lives and livelihoods. Not an easy task when working against the sensationalised backdrop painted by the media, but rather than focussing too much on figurers and statistics we should learn to tell relevant stories of our own to get the key message across.