Climate Detectives Projects 2018-2019

Project topic: Extreme weather


Team: Space Tyne

2018-2019   Corbridge Middle School   Corbridge   United Kingdom   5 Student’s age: 10-11

Summary of the project

Storm Desmond happened in the North of England from Thursday 3rd of December and ended on Tuesday 8th of December 2015. It was an event that shocked the UK, with a rainfall of 341.4mm over 5 days. The winds in this time period rose up to 130 km per hour. This is strong enough to severely damage houses, properties and mature trees. Desmond brought moist air up from the Caribbean to the British Isles. As a result, rainfall from Desmond was unusually heavy, with the Met Office designating Desmond an extreme weather event as a result of the expected rainfall.

Main results

We researched the causes of the storm, its effects and how we could mitigate this type of flooding in the Tyne Valley in the future by re-wilding. We modelled how soils can absorb more water if they are planted rather than being used as grouse moors. Modelling the Flood Event We modelled the flood event by having a variety of containers – some with bare soil to represent the burnt moors and others with grass or meadow flowers to represent a ‘re-wilded’ moor. Prediction We predict that the container with more plants will have a higher chance of absorbing the most water. Equipment 4 Containers Tubing Grass seed Meadow grass Watering can 4 measuring cylinders Method 1. Place a hole in all 4 of the containers and place a tube in the holes. 2. Fill all of the containers with compost 3. Sow the seeds in the containers; one of the boxes is filled and made with bare compost, the second box is grass, the third box is grass and meadow seed, the last box is meadow seed. And fourthly we will water them every other day for 4 weeks. 4. The pour water over the trays and measure the amount and speed of run off. Variables • The independent variable is that we are changing the type of ground. • The dependant variable is that we are measuring the growth of the plants and how much water has been absorbed by the plants and the soil. • The control variables are the amount of compost, the amount of seed and the amount of water poured over the tray to mimic the flood event. Initial Results The run off in the bare ground tray was instant, much of the soil was lost making the water muddy – which would reduce the nutrients in the soil. The trays containing grass or meadow plants had no surface run off. The water that did percolate into the soil and run out through the tube was clear. We have an number of measurements that we still need to take. Conclusion of or Modelling Investigation Burning the grouse moors could be a contributory factor in the flooding seen during Storm Desmond. If plants were allowed to grow on the uplands there would be less rapid run-off and more soil protection. There would be an added benefit of reduced amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through both less burning of organic matter and more absorption of the gas through photosynthesis.

Actions to help lessen the problem

There is a huge amount of further research that needs to be done on both the link between global warming and high impact weather events such as Storm Desmond. It is highly likely that with increasing temperatures, urbanisation, building on flood plains, rising sea-level and deforestation human lives are increasingly at risk of severe flooding. On a local basis storms such as Desmond are quite likely to happen again – and not as a ‘once in 100 year’ event but much more frequently. Only extensive data analysis and modelling will be able to help our understanding of this. We have identified that land management, such as burning the grouse moors, is really bad for the environment and is probably linked to rapid run off and flooding. We would recommend that the uplands and moors in Northumberland are ‘re-wilded’ and planted with trees and shrubs. This would have three advantages: • Run off would be slower as water is physically blocked by stems • Percolation would be higher as the roots make water flow into the soil • Carbon dioxide would not be released by burning – meaning there would be less global warming.

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