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Thames Barrier

The Thames Barrier is the world's second-largest movable flood barrier (after theOosterscheldekering in the Netherlands) and is located downstream of central London. Its purpose is to prevent London from being flooded by exceptionally hightides and storm surges moving up from the sea. It needs to be raised (closed) only during high tide; at ebb tide it can be lowered to release the water that backs up behind it. Its northern bank is in Silvertown in the London Borough of Newham and its southern bank is in the New Charlton area of Charlton in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The report of Sir Hermann Bondi into the North Sea flood of 1953affecting parts of the Thames Estuary and parts of London[1] was instrumental in the building of the barrier.[2]

Geographical weather system
London is vulnerable to flooding. A storm surge generated by low pressure in the Atlantic Ocean sometimes tracks eastwards past the north of Scotland and may then be driven into the shallow waters of the North Sea. The surge tide is funnelled down the North Sea which narrows towards the English Channel and the Thames Estuary. If the storm surge coincides with a spring tide, dangerously high water levels can occur in the Thames Estuary. This situation combined with downstream flows in the Thames provides the triggers for flood defence operations.

Rising water levels

The threat has increased over time due to the slow but continuous rise in high water level over the centuries (20 cm (8 inches) / 100 years) and the slow "tilting" of Britain (up in the north and west, and down in the south and east) caused by post-glacial rebound.

Historical flooding
Fourteen people died in the 1928 Thames flood, and after 307 people died in the UK in the North Sea Flood of 1953 the issue gained new prominence. Early proposals for a flood control system were stymied by the need for a large opening in the barrier to allow for vessels from London Docks to pass through. When containerization replaced older forms of shipping and Tilbury was expanded, a smaller barrier became feasible with each of the four main navigation spans being the same width as the opening of Tower Bridge.

Design and construction

The concept of the rotating gates was devised by (Reginald)Charles Draper. In the 1950s, from his parents house in Pellatt Grove, Wood Green, London, he constructed a working model. The novel rotating cylinders were based on a small household appliance - a brass gas tap which could be found in most post war houses in the UK. The barrier was designed by Rendel, Palmer and Tritton for the Greater London Council and tested at the Hydraulics Research Station, Wallingford. The site at New Charlton was chosen because of the relative straightness of the banks, and because the underlying river chalk was strong enough to support the barrier. Work began at the barrier site in 1974 and construction, which had been undertaken by a Costain/Hollandsche Beton Maatschappij/Tarmac Constructionconsortium,[3] was largely complete by 1982. In addition to the barrier itself the flood defences for 11 miles downriver were raised and strengthened. The barrier was officially opened on 8 May 1984 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Total construction cost was around 534 million (1.3 billion at 2001 prices) with an additional 100 million for river defences. Built across a 520-metre (570 yd) wide stretch of the river, the barrier divides the river into four 61-metre (200 ft) and two about 30 metre (100 ft) navigable spans. There are also four smaller non-navigable channels between nine concrete piers and two abutments. The flood gates across the openings are circular segments in cross section, and they operate by rotating, raised to allow "underspill" to allow operators to control upstream levels and a complete 180 degree rotation for maintenance. All the gates are hollow and made of steel up to 40 millimetres (1.6 in) thick. The gates fill with water when submerged and empty as they emerge from the river. The four large central gates are 20.1 metres (66 ft) high and weigh 3,700 tonnes.[4] Four radial gates by the riverbanks, also about 30 metres (100 ft) wide, can be lowered. These gate openings, unlike the main six, are non-navigable

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