Muddy Thames busy with passenger ferries and a Navy frigate with Tower Bridge in the background, against an ochre-coloured sky

Impacts on the Thames Barrier

What is the risk?

Sea-level rises, increased river flows and more-frequent, more-intense storm surges are all possible effects of climate change. This poses potential flooding risks to several areas of the UK, particularly along the Thames Estuary. The Environment Agency wanted to know whether the Thames Barrier could cope with future extreme weather events, such as surges from the North Sea.

What have we done?

Using our cutting edge climate modelling, we forecast possible sea-level changes, predicted the intensity and frequency of storm surges, and how changes in rainfall could affect river flows up to the year 2100. This information formed the basis for simulated floods of the Thames Estuary, looking at how defences would cope with severe weather events.

Thames Estuary 2100 project

What's the conclusion?

During the simulations, the Thames Barrier proved strong enough to cope, despite the testing conditions. The defences offer unparalleled protection against North Sea tidal surges and hold back high tides when the river is swollen by heavy rainfall upstream. This information will inform the Environment Agency in planning future repairs and any necessary alterations to the barrier.