How can the UK public services prepare for unpredictable, extreme weather?

The UK Met Office is not going to ‘live down’ its weather forecast of a ‘barbeque Summer and a mild Winter’ for 2009, anytime soon. There was ample rain through the Summer, the Cumbrian region saw severe flooding in November and now the nation is gripped by sub-zero temperatures not experienced for more than 30 years.

The inaccurate weather forecast is not a criticism of the Met Office. Forces of nature cannot be controlled, but these severe weather conditions do highlight the need for a more risk-led approach to public service planning. As we are seeing, the lack of planning to combat the current Arctic conditions engulfing the nation has thrown the country in turmoil, not to mention the substantial losses incurred by businesses. 

Global Warming is now often touted as the reason for such vagaries in weather, which according to environmentalists is set to intensify in the coming years. There is a very strong case for the government to undertake a scientific, risk-led approach to assess the potential effects of extreme weather, so that the required planning and realistic fund allocation can be made to deal with unforeseen weather situations. 

For instance, Halcrow Group Ltd, specialising in providing planning, design and management services for infrastructure development, works very closely with the UK Environment Agency on its Flood Defense programme. It conducts risk analysis on several of the Agency’s projects, using Palisade’s @RISK. Through flood risk management, the UK’s Environment Agency can reduce the probability of flooding from rivers and the sea through the management of land, river systems, and flood and coastal defenses. This also works to helps to reduce the damage floods can do through effective land use planning, flood warning and emergency responses.

There is now a dire need to extend this risk analysis-based approach beyond just flood defense, so that pre-emptive actions can be taken to reduce the adverse impact of extreme weather on the nation.

Craig Ferri
EMEA Managing Director of Risk & Decision Analysis

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1 Comment

  1. I’m a loyal Palisade product user. I must disagree with the suggestion that because of climate change the weather in the UK is more extreme and thus causing the "dire need". The weather in the UK has always been extreme. Extreme weather happens and the probability distribution is generally known (follows pretty much the Gumbell distribution). The problem is that the infrastructure has been poorly design (or rather cheaply designed) to to withstand extreme weather. An example is poor draining caused simply by lack of investment. Or caused by encroaching urbanisation which increases run-off which floods already under-designed facilities. It’s about how much we can afford. But the perceived threat (considered a fact by some but not me) of climate change, we now have something other than under-investment to blame.

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