Richard North, 18/07/2021  

Even though the warmist Independent grudgingly concedes that experts and politicians admit it is still too early to say whether global warming caused the devastating deluge in Germany and elsewhere, that has not stopped the paper headlining its piece on the floods: "Devastating floods show Europe needs to curb emissions now, experts warn".

Bearing in mind that devastating floods, per se, provide no evidence whatsoever of global warming (much less of anthropogenic warming) – unless one is prepared to say that the St Mary Magdalene's flood of 22 July 1342 was an example of the phenomenon – one can take the Independent's report as reinforcing yesterday's piece on media agendas.

But there seems to be a case to make that it also illustrates the essential inhumanity of the warmist cause, where any human tragedy is enlisted to promote the agenda, despite there being indications that the proximate cause of many of the deaths – currently standing at 170, with many more missing – may be something more prosaic, amounting to human error.

This is the thesis of The Sunday Times (along with the BBC and others) which reports: "Germany knew the floods were coming, but the warnings didn't work", having weather scientists saying that a "monumental failure of the system" is directly to blame for the death and devastation triggered by a month's worth of rain that fell in two days this week.

In this, there is a dreadful irony in that there exists a highly sophisticated flood prediction model, part-funded by the European Union, linked to The European Flood Awareness System (EFAS). Since 2011, EFAS has been part of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, and became fully operational in 2012.

According to the ST narrative, he first signs of catastrophe were detected nine days ago by the Copernicus satellite and, over the next few days a team of scientists sent the German authorities a series of forecasts so accurate that they now read like a macabre prophecy.

This warned that the Rhineland was about to be hit by "extreme" flooding, particularly along the Erft and Ahr rivers, and in towns such as Hagen and Altena. Yet despite at least 24 hours’ warning that predicted, almost precisely, which districts would be worst afflicted when the rains came, the flood still caught many of its victims largely unawares.

In a further irony, one of the key members of the EU research team, for which she won an award, was Professor Hannah Cloke, Director of Hydrology Research at Reading University. She takes up the story for the ST, stating that Germany got its preparations "badly wrong", and that a "monumental failure of the system" had led to the loss of life.

The systems in place stem from the 2002 European floods in which at least 110 people died, with economic damage estimated in excess of €15 billion.

Cloke has it that, as a result of this catastrophe, she and two of her colleagues designed the European Flood Awareness System (Efas). They had resolved that victims had to be forearmed. "Given the number of deaths and the amount of damage, we had the idea that we should never allow this to happen again", Cloke is cited as saying in the ST.

In actuality, the European Commission was quick off the mark, with COM(2002) 481 final, pledging to adopt an integrated European strategy on prevention, preparedness and response to such risks. Already, it claimed to have developed a flood simulation system called "LISFLOOD" which would enable forecasts between two and ten days ahead of an event, simulating the impact of preventive measures in catchment areas.

This system, which has been constantly updated and expanded, to provide detailed modelling data of European river systems, has produced data which have been combined with observations from the EU's Copernicus satellites. Overlaid by algorithms, predictions can be made of river-levels up to ten days in advance.

In 2014, alerts and maps from EFAS allowed the authorities in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia to take early action to mitigate the effects of extensive flooding.

This time round, via the EU's Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), the EFAS raised the alarm on 10 July - four days before the first floods. Warnings went the German and Belgian governments about the high risk of flooding in the Rhine and Meuse basins.

Over the next few days, the EFAS produced minutely detailed charts correctly predicting most of the areas that would suffer the heaviest damage. Its German partner agency requested specific analysis of several rivers including the Ahr, along whose banks at least 93 people later died and 618 were injured.

Cloke is cited as saying that some of the flash flooding would have been tricky to forecast in detail but there was "certainly time" to prepare larger towns and cities with warnings or evacuations. She is further cited in Politico (which covered the story three days ago), saying: "I would have expected people to be evacuating, you don't expect to see so many people dying from floods in 2021. This is very, very serious indeed".

However, while the Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD), Germany's federal meteorological service, did pass on the warnings to local authorities, spokesman Uwe Kirsche says, "As a federal authority, the DWD is not responsible for initiating evacuations or other measures on-site … that is a task for the local authorities".

Politically, there is inevitably going to be an extensive blame game running. Armin Laschet, Germany's center-right candidate to succeed Merkel in September elections, accepted that the authorities had been warned and had erected barriers, but still avers that "nobody saw this coming".

Cloke disagrees. The EFAS issued a warning in the "extreme category", she says, "which means there's danger to life. It doesn't say you should evacuate, that's up to the national authorities. But typically, if you have a danger to life warning, and you know where that's going to happen, you make sure that you're in place for evacuation. That’s how disaster risk management works".

The ST suggests that one of the underlying problems is "the parlous state of Germany's alarm systems". Last September the BBK held a national "warning day", when people across the country were supposed to be simultaneously deafened by sirens and inundated with alert messages in a simulated natural disaster. It was a debacle: most of the technology didn't work.

Wolfram Geier, head of risk management at the Federal Office for Citizen Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) says that too many ordinary Germans were failing to look out for their own safety and take the warnings seriously. "People knew an extreme weather situation was coming and that it could hit them", he says, but thinks a lot of people clearly underestimated the warnings. Some even appear to have sought refuge in their basements.

Clearly, though, the UK is not in a position to indulge in schadenfreude - even if the image of Germans hiding in cellars to escape floods will take some removing. Rather, there are serious lessons we could learn.

Of these, the main one must be that the huge effort and expense the UK is devoting to preventing climate change – to absolutely no effect – should be abandoned. Instead, rather than adopting the "disaster tourism" approach of the Independent, we would be spending a fraction of the cost on mitigation, and in public education on effective responses to flood warnings and other weather phenomena.

Recalling that we are at the tail end of a period of interglacial warming, when global temperatures might be expected to rise (prior to plunging rapidly into a new ice age). One doesn't have to buy in to the anthropogenic global warming religion to accept that we should be reasonably prepared for what nature has to throw at us.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

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