Tragic floods in Europe
Possibly we thought that we, humanity, would not be seeing the effects of climate change so soon, that it would happen, but in a long time and maybe by then, we would have found an alternative – perhaps another planet!
But have we been proven wrong, and the timing of the same could not have been worse already grappling with the pandemic irrespective of having conjured up vaccines, we are far from overriding the pandemics tide.
Europe has been particularly hit hard; not only is the continent battling the constant rise in Covid cases and its many mutations, but it is also witnessing something that it would never have envisioned in today’s time.
Germany, Belgium and now London have been hit with ‘craziest’ flash floods, and the devastation it has caused has left the people, the government and the scientific community stunned!
Why is the Scientific Community left stunned?
The scientists have at least when it comes to weather patterns that may indicate rain, cyclone, floods, etc. They have been able to give fair warning of the same well in advance, precisely what happened when discussing the latest deluge caused in Germany, Belgium and London.
Researchers were able to give fair warning, four days in advance, so to speak, of extreme rain in Europe via the Wide Flood Alert System and the fact that they could and did so led them to believe and feel a certain sense of achievement of the fact that they were forecasting something so early on.
As one of the hydrologists and flood forecasters at the University of Reading – Hannah Cloke, said, “we were stupidly congratulating ourselves that we are forecasting something so early… The assumption was that would be really helpful”.
However, the cheer and the sense of achievement evaporated fast (no pun intended) as the rains came down, resulting in one of the deadliest flash floods seen in recent history that caused so much devastation in one of the world’s most prosperous and most technologically advanced countries, which have made significant investments into flood forecasting and preparation catalyzed by previous inundations.
Timeline of what happened
Starting from 13 July, both countries witnessed intense storms and as much as 15 centimetres of rain was received in 24 hours, which resulted in swelling streams that washed away houses, cars and roads and eventually caused landslides.
The devastation caused is massive, and so are the loss of lives as more and more are reported missing. So far, it is estimated that 165 are dead in Germany, with many still unaccounted for, and the hopes of finding them slowly diminish even as search and rescue work continues.
Belgium, too has seen mass scale destruction, and 31 people have lost their lives, and many are still reported missing.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on 18 July when visited the most affected town of Adenau, said the scene was “terrifying”, “The German language can barely describe the devastation”.
However, if one thought that the weather beating was over, it was not the same day Southern Germany’s Bavaria saw more flash floods as it struck the region following heavy torrential rains.
Severe thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon resulted in flash floods in London. Roads and the Underground rail system in London were severely affected. However, it is not over yet, as an amber thunderstorm warning has been sounded for south-east England with a forecast of 75 to 100mm of rainfall forecast in some areas.
The Environment Agency, too, has sounded an alert for two flood warnings for areas in London.
Residents of London have reportedly said that they have never in their life seen something like this.
Before the torrential rains, London was witnessing extreme heatwave, only to be followed by heavy rain and lightning that struck several buildings.
Climate Change is upon us and finally showing its tentacles
Whose to be blamed for the current deluge in Europe? Let’s not forget that it is not only Europe facing this unprecedented weather pattern but also China, which has been hit with thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, and flooding.
For years, scientists have been sounding the alarm of climate change and the effects of rampant cutting of forests, environmental pollution, unchecked polluting of rivers and oceans, and mass killing of animals.
However, humanity was probably thinking that the same would be seen in decades to come, a long time from now, so why worry in the present moment.
Sadly, the time seems to have been put in a fast forward mode as the events of disruptive weather patterns are being witnessed all over the world.
Scientists have further warned that climate change will mean more flooding in Europe and elsewhere too. Researchers are just beginning to unravel the complex web climatic, hydrological and social factors that contribute to a catastrophe, as is seen in the present.
A warming climate can supercharge rainstorms as warmer air holds more moisture which translates into heavier rainfall. Hence keeping this aspect in mind as floods already rank as the most destructive natural hazard in Northern Europe and the experience of deadly floods in 2002 gave way to the formation and the launch of the European Flood Awareness System by the European Commission meant to provide emergency managers and early warnings.
However, although it worked, the system was not enough since the speed and intensity of the flooding in Germany took most people by surprise, including the government and the weather predictors.
What are the predictions for the future?
As seen in London, Germany and Belgium, scientists have warned that flash flooding will become a common occurrence as the climate crisis worsens.
Hence, government, businesses and citizens need to do much more to protect against future harm.
Adapting to the impact of flooding and severe thunderstorms will require a thorough overhaul by European countries infrastructure, which encompasses drainage and water supply systems and transport, energy supply, and communications to make sure the most negligible effect is witnessed when in the midst of such events.
However, the above is not enough – buildings will have to be redesigned, and public areas will have to be revamped to include better drainage channels and storm drains. Innovation will be the key, perhaps porous pavements, more green spaces and unpaved areas to let the water seep into the soil.
Conclusion: The time is upon us to pay greater heed to what we are doing and have done to the planet. Rampant destruction of forests, environmental pollution – air, water – has led to dangerous pollutants that we breathe, led to chocked rivers and oceans, even as the effects of the same has been seen on marine life for decades now.
This time around, though, climate change is not something that we are witnessing affecting the marine life or the forests and the animals but directly affecting us humans.
Who is to be blamed?
The answer is simple, even if bitter – Us!