I noticed some time ago that a common search query bringing people to my website is ‘Why does York flood?’
There’s very little useful/user-friendly information available online to someone asking that question. After trawling through a few websites aimed at school pupils, and Google books, I thought I’d provide a useful and hopefully accurate summary/answer, in an effort to fill that gap.
York in particular
- Our main river – the Ouse – collects the waters from several rivers coming down from higher ground in Yorkshire – its tributaries. These are the Ure, Swale, and Nidd. (Other rivers also join the Ouse, beyond York.)
- York is on the confluence of two rivers: the Foss, a smaller river, joins the Ouse just downstream of the city centre, past Skeldergate Bridge.
- At times of heavy rain, it all runs off the higher ground north of York rapidly and hurtles down the tributaries towards us, aiming for escape into the North Sea, via the Humber.
- It’s rather flat down here in the Vale of York (as the name suggests), which means the water spreads out a bit when it gets to us rather than rushing through.
So York has always had a tendency to flood. This most recent and particularly dramatic flood occurred after a record amount of rainfall in a short amount of time. But the spectacle of a rising river spilling out beyond its usual confines is very common in York.
In York and elsewhere
Of course, floods in general, in York and elsewhere, are thought to be getting worse/more frequent, and the general consensus seems to be that this is connected with:
- More of the land is built on, so an increase in hard surfaces like concrete, tarmac etc means water runs off rather than being absorbed into earth as it would be in ‘olden times’ when it was all fields. (A small example of this is the ‘road stream’ spotted by Clifton Bridge recently.)
- Changing weather patterns/climate change.
Also on this website
As mentioned above, the Ouse floods to some extent on a fairly regular basis, and this has been recorded on this website at various times over the years:
Photo from 1978 floods, Ouse Bridge
Station Rise open to through traffic during floods (early 1980s, probably 1982)
Elsewhere on the web … not much
One useful web page, full of interesting information on the York flooding situation (sadly it looks rather dated and uses a weird font, but anyway): coolgeography.co.uk – floods, York
If you’ve found clear, well-presented, authoritative information on York’s flooding problems, please add any links via the comments form below.