August 5, 2022

London’s River Thames shrinks as extreme heat, looming drought dry up source

London’s River Thames shrinks as extreme heat, looming drought dry up source


By Biodun Busari

The starting point of England’s River Thames has dried up and moved downstream, following weeks of little rainfall and a heatwave in July that destroyed the United Kingdom’s all-time temperature record.

According to CNN, the source of the river has moved 5 miles (8 kilometers) downstream to Somerford Keynes, according to the Rivers Trust, which works across the UK and Ireland.

The Thames usually begins in the English market town of Cirencester, part of the green and hilly Cotswolds countryside, and flows through the capital, London, and then out into the North Sea.

“What we’re seeing at the source of the iconic River Thames is sadly emblematic of the situation we’re facing across the country, now and in future,” Christine Colvin, Advocacy and Engagement Director for the Rivers Trust, said in a statement sent to CNN.

“Whilst it’s not uncommon for the source to be dry in the summer, to only be seeing the river flowing five miles downstream is unprecedented. The climate crisis is leading, and will lead, to more extreme weather including droughts and heatwaves. This poses a grave threat to rivers and, as a result, the wider landscape,” she said.

She added that the country needed to build resilience against the future climate.

“This means detecting household leaks, fixing mains infrastructure leaks, more efficient water use domestically plus implementing sustainable drainage solutions as part of desperately needed green infrastructure,” Colvin said.

The shift in the river’s headwaters comes as authorities in England warn that the country could officially fall into drought at some point in August.

Southern England recorded its driest July on record since 1836, with only 17% of average rainfall, according to the Met office. The country as a whole recorded just 35% (around 23 millimeters) of its average rainfall in July.

Several water companies have already announced hosepipe sanctions in parts of England’s south.

The UK’s Met Office has warned that high temperatures will return to England next week, though they are not expected to reach near the record highs seen in July.

“We could see parts of the UK entering heatwave conditions if the above-average temperatures last for three days or more. As the high pressure builds there is very little meaningful rain in the forecast, especially in those areas in the south of England, which experienced very dry conditions last month,” Met Office chief forecaster Steve Willington said.

Rebekah Sherwin, deputy chief meteorologist at the Met Office, said that early August sunshine in the UK did not have the same heating potential of mid-July, because the sun is lower in the sky and the days are shorter.

“Both of these factors suggest that we’re very unlikely to see temperatures peak much above low to mid 30s. However, this would still be a hot spell of weather,” Sherwin said.