Thames Barrier – London’s flood defence

Thames Barrier. © Colin Cafferty 2012

Thames Barrier and Canary Wharf at night

The Thames Barrier protects London from flooding and is the second largest moveable flood barrier in the world at over 500 metres across. Run by the Environment Agency, it came into operation in 1982 and has a working life until 2060-70. The barrier consists of 10 giant steel gates that rise from the river bed to stand a total of 5 stories tall when the threat of flooding is present. As of June 2012, it has been raised 119 times.

England experienced its wettest summer in 2012 for 100 years which doesn’t bode well for the resilience of our cities to flooding as climate change becomes more acute. The IPCC forecast a global sea-level rise of between 0.18 and 0.59 metres by 2100 due to climate change. This could be dramatically higher if ice-sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic melt faster due to positive feedback loops.

Foster & Partners have proposed a huge infrastructure project known as the Thames Hub further downstream in the Thames Estuary which is backed by the Mayor of London. The ambitious plans feature a new “global aviation hub” and a larger barrier extending flood-protected land in the Thames Gateway region by 150%. The new barrier would also act as a crossing for high speed rail and integrate hydroelectric turbines into the structure generating enough power to supply the airport.

Thames Hub

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