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World at Risk: Summer 2009

Pluvial (rain-related) flooding in urban areas: the invisible hazard

November 2012

By 2050 1.2 million more people are expected to be put at risk of pluvial flooding due to climate change and urban population growth

Pluvial (rain-related) flooding in urban areas: the invisible hazard

It is the invisible hazard: around 2 million people in UK urban areas at risk of sudden rain-related flooding. Recent research finds that this number of people is exposed to a 0.5 per cent risk of pluvial flooding, making such a scenario a 1-in-200 year event.

The research funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and presented at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) conference 2012 also finds that by 2050 1.2 million more people are expected to be put at risk of pluvial flooding – 300,000 due to climate change (which is increasing the likelihood of flooding) and 900,000 due to urban population growth (with expansion into areas at greater risk of flooding). This article summaries the research and draws out links with the case study of pluvial flooding in Luton.


  • AQA: AS Unit 1, Physical and Human Geography (Rivers, floods and management)
  • Edexcel: AS Unit 1, World at Risk (Global hazards)
  • OCR: A2 Section A, Environmental Issues (Earth hazards)
  • WJEC: Unity G1, Changing Physical Environments (Investigating Tectonic and Hydrological change)

In the Members' Area:

  • What is pluvial flooding and how is it being researched?
  • How can the socio-economic risks of a flooding be calculated?
  • What measures can be taken to mitigate against pluvial flooding?
  • Case study: Luton and the Ickley Close development
  • Conclusions and further reading

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