Hayley Fowler selected to give Award Lecture at the British Science Festival

Prof Hayley Fowler, CESER Researcher and Professor of Climate Change Impacts, has been chosen to give the Joseph Lister Award Lecture (Social sciences) at the British Science Festival which will be held in September 2013 in Newcastle upon Tyne. Hayley will talk about “Climate change, extreme rainfall and flooding: what is happening to our weather?”

There is currently much public interest in extreme weather and the perceived increase in heavy rainfall and flooding over the past decade which the media has blamed on global warming. But what is happening and what can we expect to happen in the future?

Extreme rainfall is increasing around the world. This lecture will discuss what causes different types of extreme flood events and whether this is increasing based on the latest evidence. It will also look at the role of ‘atmospheric rivers’ which bring large amounts of moisture and thus rainfall, causing flooding in the UK. ARs are water vapour rich, long narrow bands at least 2,000 km long and several hundred km wide – at any given time, four or five ARs in the atmosphere will carry 90% of moisture moving towards Poles. When water vapour is forced upwards (i.e. by meeting mountainous areas), this can lead to flash flooding.

The lecture will also examine the latest projections from climate models. This will include new results from Hayley’s research group which runs very high resolution climate models (using the UK Forecast Model) to try to predict how global warming might affect convective ‘thunderstorm’ type rainfall events which cause localised flash-floods. These generally happen in summer and appear to be increasing. Current climate models cannot resolve convective processes so we do not know whether these events will become more frequent/intense? The lecture will showcase new climate model simulations from the NERC-funded CONVEX project (ready in summer 2013).

Local as well as national case studies will be used to demonstrate the above, particularly given widespread flooding in the Newcastle region in 2012 (e.g. June 28th pluvial flood – extensive flooding in city centre and gridlock, 5th Aug pluvial flood and 24/25th September fluvial flood which affected Newburn, Morpeth and parts of Yorkshire), examining how our urban areas have increased in propensity for flooding.

The lecture will finish by examining how we might start to better manage and plan for these types of flood events, showcasing new ideas and modelling techniques from the Water Resources researchers in CESER: including the use of crowd sourcing techniques (using smart phone applications) to collect improved information on where floods occur. The lecture will demonstrate examples of where crowd sourcing has successfully led to improved modelling of flooded areas and flood depths for different rainfall events using a new modelling system called CityCat developed by CESER reserachers.

SINATRA: New NERC grant to understand flooding from intense rainfall

The £2.7M SINATRA (Susceptibility of catchments to INTense RAinfall and flooding) Project, funded by NERC, the Environment Agency and the UK Met Office under the Flooding From Intense Rainfall thematic programme, will start later in 2013. This large consortium project is led by Dr Hannah Cloke at Reading University and deputy director Prof Hayley Fowler in CESER.

SINATRA assembles a multidisciplinary team of world-leading experts from academia (Reading University, Bristol University, Newcastle University (CESER, CeG and Geography), Exeter University, Hull University, King’s College London), industry (Halcrow and JBA), and government (UK Met Office (UKMO) and their joint Flood Forecasting Centre (with the Environment Agency), the British Geological Survey (BGS), the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) and the Cabinet Office’s Natural Hazards Partnership.)

SINATRA aims to advance scientific understanding of the drivers, thresholds, and impacts of flooding from intense rainfall in ‘at-risk’ UK catchments and to translate this small-scale process understanding into new open source model architectures and parameterisations to enable the development of decision-support tools, improving the capacity of forecasting agencies to deliver impacts-based warnings and predictions needed for managing Flooding From Intense Rainfall.

Contributions from CESER include expertise in crowd-sourcing (Dr Geoff Parkin and Mr David Alderson), hydrodynamic modelling (Dr Vedrana Kutija and Dr Qiuhua Liang), laser scanning (Dr Pauline Miller), atmospheric precursors (Prof Hayley Fowler and Dr Stephen Blenkinsop), historical flood reconstruction (Dr David Archer, visiting fellow), risk assessment (Prof Enda O’Connell, Dr John Ewen and Dr Greg O’Donnell) and rapid field response (Dr Andy Large and Prof Andy Russell, Geography).