Somerset Levels (Extreme Weather in the UK, Flooding)

GCSE students go straight to this version for more detail.

Thank you to Mike for sending this card of the Somerset Levels. The Somerset Levels is an area of around 650km² in the south west of England, most of the land here is agricultural and there are many busy market towns and lovely villages. The area is low lying and particularly vulnerable to flooding by both tide and river.

January 2014, the flooded River Tone Credit: Press Associates

There was an especially widespread and persistent flood during the winter of 2013/14. The autumn had been very wet due to powerful low-pressure storms from the North Atlantic, brought in by the Jet Stream. This meant that the ground was already saturated before the rainfall of December 2013, which was twice the monthly average. The rapid runoff resulted in both the River Parrett and the River Tone bursting their banks and flooding the Levels. Wet weather continued and more storms arrived in February 2014, flooding the area again.

Over 600 homes and 16 farms had to be evacuated. Infrastructure was severely damaged, including power supplies, roads, and railways. 14 000 hectares of farmland were flooded and around 1000 livestock were evacuated. Clean-up work cost an estimated £10million, just in the short term. A further £20million action plan was later launched by Somerset County Council and the Environment Agency.

The location of the Parrett catchment, within the Somerset Levels area of south-western UK. The extent of the flooding in 2013/2014 is also shown.   Credit shown, plus James Fitton

The environmental impacts were even worse though; an enormous volume of debris dumped by the floodwaters had to be cleaned up and stagnant waters had to be re-oxygenated before being pumped back into rivers. Maybe the worst impact was the contamination of all flooded areas by oil, agricultural chemicals, livestock effluent and human sewage.

There is a model answer on this for GCSE Geography students at Geography Cat’s Learning Guaranteed Blog. Click here to go straight there.