Last year we were chilled until the end of March, as part of a winter that seemed would never come to an end.
This year it feels as if we’ve been soaked through on a daily basis – and today this can be confirmed, as Met Office data shows that Hampshire has seen its wettest January since records began. Sadly, this weather shows no sign of abating as the forecast for the coming weekend is as equally squally as the last five weeks has been.
Granted, the British are famed for talking – and moaning – about the weather. But it is a fact that it has become more difficult in recent years. ‘Global warming’ was an unfortunate early name for the changes, because although the planet’s average temperature is indeed on the rise, its effects are most often seen at the extremities of climate in each season – sometimes hotter, yes, but also wetter, colder, and stormier. What used to be a once-in-a-decade event is now, sadly, commonplace, as the residents of Hambledon and the Somerset Levels could bleakly attest to at the moment.
Without going into the causes behind climate change – a debate for a different day – it’s clear we as a country need to prepare more carefully for flooding. And it’s also clear that this predominantly-coastal area will be on high alert more and more often.
The network of flood alerts set up by the Environment Agency is impressive, with phone warnings, text messages and emails all available to get information out fast, but in some senses that’s too late.
More money and effort needs to be spent on prevention. This could include more regular river dredging – and inspections – and improvements to drains, both urban and rural. Many places could see balancing ponds installed, and the list goes on.
In this context, it remains a mystery why the government has decided to reduce funding to the agency with the result that 1,400 jobs could go.
The events of Christmas and this month suggest that is the last area that should be targeted. We would suggest they look again –it will be cheaper in the long run to tackle the cause, rather than the effect.