In July 2021, parts of London received a month’s rainfall in just one hour, causing flash flooding and disrupting transport. In my own home, I stood, arms painfully above my head, holding every available container to the ceiling desperately trying to stop the rain coming in through my roof; whilst I watched my neighbour up to his knees in rain water, unblocking the drains to stop the water cascading down the street from breaking over his door sill. Until that point, I’d always felt both smug and snug, living up one of London’s tallest hills and nowhere near a river. I was lucky, the damage to my home was minimal and the rainstorm was over in just one hour. Elsewhere in the UK, there was devastating flooding and loss of life.
Climate change is not just about the world getting warmer, but also the weather getting more extreme. In the UK we won’t just experience more heatwaves and periods of drought, but also significantly more storms and floods at all times of the year. All of the UK’s ten warmest years have occurred since the turn of the century as well as six of the ten wettest years on record. There is no doubt that it is human influence that is driving this change. The faster we reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, the more we can avoid the most severe impacts. In the meantime, we have no choice but to adapt to the weather challenges that we have caused and can expect in the years ahead.
Technical Construction, for those who are curious: Climate change data refers to pre-industrial levels, the same point in time that machinery revolutionised the textile industry. To directly reference that it is man’s interventions behind climate change I chose to use machine knitting and enamelled copper wire. Each section signifies a month of rainfall, with length, colour and texture representing events such as drought, storms and excesses of rain. Hand tooled lace work evokes raindrops on window panes. Dense tuck stitch and ruffle patterning shows more intense rainfall. Swirling knots represent the timing and duration of storms.
I chose 2019 as my starting point since the autumn and winter of 2019-20 was the wettest winter on record with heavy rainfall and storms causing widespread flooding: homes being evacuated, roads and railways being closed and loss of life. Pumps had to be set up to reduce water levels and at times the military were called in to assist. In February 2020 (the wettest month since records began in 1776) over 600 flood warnings were issued in just one weekend.