February 27, 2014

The Weather Report from Soggy South West England

The mass media have (for a change!) recently been full of reports about floods in South West England (amongst other places!). Here we offer our own perspective on recent events, together with a few additional bits of information that don't seem to have been widely reported as yet.

First of all here's a (slightly cloudy) view of the Somerset Levels taken from on high by the Landsat 8 satellite on January 23rd 2014:

The Somerset Levels from on high, on January 23rd 2014

The Somerset Levels from on high, on January 23rd 2014

If you're familiar with the West Country you might be able to make out the town of Bridgwater at the top left, with the M5 motorway heading past it in our direction. East of that you can see the main railway line from Exeter to Bristol gingerly making its way across one of the big blue bits.

Secondly, here's a view of the South West's soil being washed out to sea on February 16th 2014, courtesy of NASA Worldview and inspired by George Monbiot's article in the Guardian entitled "How we ended up paying farmers to flood our homes":

The South West of England from on high, on February 16th 2014

The South West of England from on high, on February 16th 2014

As George puts it:

It has the force of a parable. Along the road from High Ham to Burrowbridge, which skirts Lake Paterson (formerly known as the Somerset Levels), you can see field after field of harvested maize. In some places the crop lines run straight down the hill and into the water. When it rains, the water and soil flash off into the lake. Seldom are cause and effect so visible.

Last, but not necessarily least, here's Network Rail's time lapse video of their attempts to repair the Great Western main line from Plymouth and Penzance to the rest of once Great Britain, which was washed away at Dawlish by the storm of February 4/5:

At around 18 secs you can see the impact of the next big storm that arrived on February 14/15. The current estimate for the trains to start running again is "Mid April". According to the leader of Plymouth City Council "the rail disruption was costing the city £5 million a day". According to Robin Gisby, Managing Director of Network Operations for Network Rail:

We'll worry about adding up all the numbers later on.

Meanwhile over in the South East of England David Cameron has apparently recently stated that:

Man-made climate change is one of the greatest threats to the UK and the rest of the world.

When are you going to start putting our money where your mouth is David?

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Comments on The Weather Report from Soggy South West England »

March 9, 2014

Jim @ 1:08 pm

The weather has improved a bit recently, and Network Rail now say that:

We plan to reopen the Great Western Main Line through Dawlish on Friday 4 April, almost two weeks ahead of our mid-April estimate.

Innovative approaches to sea defence and round-the-clock working by a team of more than 300 engineers have seen major rebuilding work completed along the damaged seafront.

March 10, 2014

Jim @ 9:01 am

A new video, hot off the presses at the BBC:


Large stretches of the British coastline have been hit hard by storm after storm this winter, with some areas suffering the equivalent of seven years of erosion in just three months.

In the last few weeks we have seen three times the fresh water coming into estuaries that we would normally see in a wet period. The amount of fresh water coming in is unprecedented.

Now the National Trust has called for a rethink on how Britain defends its coastline and suggested that some locations may have to to be sacrificed because the sea can no longer be stopped.

[...] also with recent evidence about the UK Government's progress in addressing their responsibilities for the built environment and a new low carbon infrastructure [...]

April 4, 2014

Jim @ 6:31 pm

Network Rail have announced today that:

The communities and businesses of south and west Devon and Cornwall were celebrating today as their rail link with the rest of the country was restored in time for the Easter holidays, following eight weeks of painstaking repairs to the storm-ravaged railway at Dawlish.

Mark Carne, chief executive, Network Rail, said: “Our army of engineers has done an amazing job of putting back together a railway that was ravaged by the elements. They have overcome every obstacle thrown at them, winning many battles along the way to restore this critical piece of the network, ahead of schedule, and in time for the Easter holidays.

“The biggest thanks must be reserved for passengers and local communities and businesses who have been hugely supportive and patient over the past two months as we worked flat-out to rebuild this vital rail link.

“Our focus now moves to the medium and long-term looking at what can be done at Dawlish to make the current coastal route more resilient and, by the autumn, understand what the best viable relief route might be.”

The trains to Cornwall may be running once again, but it seems there is still more work to be done at Dawlish:

With the most critical phase of the restoration now completed and the line reopened, engineers will now move to the less critical phase that includes:

  • Fully restoring the signalling and electronic equipment – currently a normal service is running with some minor retiming owing to a temporary signalling solution being in place
  • Removing the shipping container temporary sea wall
  • Rebuilding Brunel’s original sea-wall at the breach site using original stone and craftsmen repairing
  • Restoring the public footpath on the seaward side of the sea wall so the much loved coastal path from Dawlish to Teignmouth can reopen
  • Rebuilding the ‘lost road’ at Riviera Terrace so residents cut off by the breach can fully return to their homes again

Network Rail have also released a new time lapse video covering the period from February 10th to April 1st, which has noew replaced the original one in the post above.

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