Floods are becoming a matter of increased concern for the UK. They can damage infrastructure, destroy entire fields of crops and force thousands of people from their homes. They are also expensive, with river flooding alone costing Britain about £475 million per year.

Recent years have seen some particularly extreme flooding events. 2007 saw the most serious inland flooding in 60 years, and the 2014 floods were caused by the wettest December and January ever recorded. Storms will only get more frequent and more severe with climate change, making better forecasting a priority.

Simply speaking, floods are the uncharacteristic covering of land with water. While bodies of water normally change size, the increased flow is not considered to be a flood unless there is significant damage. There are numerous kinds of flood named after the location of the flood, such as:

  • river, or ‘fluvial’, floods - water bursts the banks.
  • coastal floods -  too much sea water.
  • urban flooding - caused by a lack of drainage in cities. 

CEH work on flooding


Monitoring sites

Identifies unit hydrographs and component flows from rainfall, evaporation and streamflow data
Thames flooding at Wallingford
Produces forecasts of river level and flow in real-time and provides tools for off-line use
Weather radar providing flood warnings based on estimated rainfall
Auchencorth Moss carbon catchment
Showing the local impacts of climate change
Flood risk map data product
Digital flood risk maps for Scotland and Northern Ireland
Analysing a soil sample from Whim bog
Making soils information accessible to advance scientific understanding
Cyff river gauging station
Long-term study of stream flow, chemical fluxes and climate at an upland site
Himachal Pradesh, India. Photo - Shutterstock
Coordinating UK input to international hydrological programmes
Flood alert sign
Research at the interface of weather and flow forecasting, and climate prediction