Climate-fueled storms highlight gaps in UK flood protection

By Chelsea Harvey | 05/22/2024 06:37 AM EDT

Experts say adaptation policies must support society’s most vulnerable as global warming worsens extreme rainfall.

Floodwaters overtake a car in Wallingford, United Kingdom, on Jan. 5.

Floodwaters overtake a car in Wallingford, United Kingdom, on Jan. 5. Leon Neal/Getty Images

A series of heavy rains and floods that inundated the U.K. and Ireland last winter were worsened by climate change, new research has found. And they’ve tested the region’s climate adaptation policies, which experts say need to focus more on low-income communities and other vulnerable populations.

That’s the recommendation in a new report from the science consortium World Weather Attribution, which investigates the links between climate change and extreme weather events and examines the human policies that affect their outcomes.

The study examined 14 major storms that swept through the U.K. and Ireland between last October and March. The storms caused widespread floods and led to power outages, transportation disruptions and property damage — to the tune of more than $725 million in insurance claims. Death tolls are still uncertain, but at least 20 people are believed to have died in the U.K. alone.


Powerful winter storms are common in the U.K. and Ireland. But a full season of unusually severe disasters strained both countries’ abilities to respond and recover in between events, the report warned.