Rising sea levels and fuller rivers are likely to increase the risk of flooding around the Thames Estuary over the next century.
Scientists, using sophisticated computer models and data from long-term monitoring projects, have been investigating whether extreme weather would get more or less common in future, and by how much. Their work has reduced uncertainty around the probable effects of climate change on the Thames.
Their results suggest that potentially the biggest problem, and the biggest area of uncertainty, will be sea level rise in the Thames Estuary over the next century. This rise is likely to be between 20 and 90 centimetres by the end of the century, largely due to thermal expansion of the oceans, melting glaciers and polar ice.
The last component is the least certain – at the extremes, melting polar ice could take the total sea rise as high as two metres, though this is extremely unlikely.
But the findings show that current predictions for sea-level rise in the Thames Estuary are realistic, and that the current ‘worst-case scenarios’ of maximum water levels can be reduced from 4.2 to 2.7 metres.