The floods that have beset the UK this winter continue to wreak immense damage - personal, financial, and, most recently, political with the resignation of the Chair of the Environment Agency this week. The total cost to households, businesses and local authorities have been estimated at over £5 billion by one of the UK's leading accounting firms, KPMG, to the year end. Further flooding is predicted in the coming days and weeks across the UK’s waterlogged counties and towns. How might, therefore, the open climate platform, Vizonomy Europe, that Resurgence is building with the Vizonomy team have helped reduce this growing toll on the country? Below are four key ways in which our platform would have made a difference in ways that planners and communities prepared for Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank.
1. Dynamic Modelling of Evolving Climate Risk
Much play was made by the Government of the ‘unprecedented’ nature of the floods, despite the precedents of ‘unprecedented; flooding in the 2007, 2009 and 2013/4 floods . Extreme weather occurrences are no longer 1 in 100 year events, but are happening with greater regularity, despite their exceptional nature in deeper historical terms. Contingency planning needs to reflect this new reality. By importing the latest open data sets - including the data sets on those recent flooding events from DEFRA and the latest open climate prediction data from scientific agencies – our dynamic platform, Vizonomy Europe, would have reflected this changed reality by pointing towards the likelihood of repeat events of this severity. This risk profile would have been shown through compelling visualizations and dynamic maps that would be accessible across any online device. This would have added further weight to the concerns being voiced by many scientists, local authorities and campaigners that cuts to the
provision for flooding defences were misguided.
Tadcaster Bridge : The 400 year old Bridge was destroyed by the rising river and debris,
splitting the Yorkshire town in two. Credit : Minster FM
2. Pinpointing Flooding Risk to Infrastructure
Several UK cities suffered the paralysis and even destruction of critical infrastructure ranging from energy, transport, health and communication facilities. Many flood models highlighted flooding risk at the buildings level. No models, however, took the analysis across infrastructure type in the way that Vizomony Europe will, breaking each sector down – highlighting in the transport infrastructure category, for instance, vulnerabilities to flooding risk of roads, motorways, bridges, overground and underground rail, railway stations, airports and bridges, that proved to be critical when the storms struck.
3. Generating Light on Financial Risk
Much has been made in the public domain of the difficulty that many householders and businesses will have in obtaining affordable flooding insurance following the storms, and how the new flood re-insurance scheme, Flood Re, will increase the access to insurance of households most at risk. Through its open financial module developed by the Oasis Loss Modelling Framework , Vizonomy Europe would have flagged financial risk beyond the household sector, highlighting potential economic losses to public assets such as hospitals and schools as well as to public infrastructure. The availability of this information would have raised questions from local authorities about whether insurance levels were adequate, and pointed towards the cost -effectiveness of greater flood defence and mitigation measures.
4. Communicating Flooding Risk Internally and Externally
This winter's storms in the UK have raised intense awareness of flooding risk across the full range of stakeholders exposed to it – communities, businesses and public officials.
Collaboration between these groups is the key to taking individual and collective measures to recover from the current floods and to prepare for future ones. Vizonomy Europe will build on the work of US based Vizonomy to create highly attractive visualisations of flooding risk accessible not just to officials based in different city hall departments and agencies, but also to community and media groups. By making flooding risk assessment at the city level easier to understand through strong graphics, Vizonomy Europe will help to generate better informed local discussion on flood planning.
We plan to bring Vizonomy to Europe in 2016 in order help city authorities and communities t o understand and prepare for their climate risk more effectively. We will do this through an open source and open data approach, validating the UK Government's leadership and investment in open data publishing.
In the new era of climate volatility that we have entered, open climate risk platforms such as Vizonomy Europe help ensure that such public investments in open data infrastructure will, in turn, help to save hard critical infrastructure such as bridges and hospitals from the worst of extreme weather impacts.
The City Module below from Vizonomy breaks down risk by infrastructure type into sectors such as transport, energy, emergency health facilities , public buildings and communications installations, and their vulnerability to flooding. We plan to bring the platform to European cities in 2016.