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British Geological Survey Warns Of Climate-Related Subsidence

May 19, 2021

By Paul Homewood


h/t Ian Magness

It is sad to see what used to be a serious, scientific body prostitute itself to global warming scaremongering:




New maps launched by the British Geological Survey (BGS) reveal how climate change is likely to drive an increase in subsidence-related issues for British homes and properties over the next 50 years.

Experts at the BGS, the UK’s geoscientific advisor which helps to advance our knowledge about changes in the environment, warns that the number of properties in Great Britain  facing subsidence issues and damage to property from shrink-swell is on the rise, with figures of just 3 per cent in 1990 likely to reach 10 per cent by 2070.

Shrinking and swelling of the ground, often reported as subsidence, is already one of the most damaging geohazards in Britain today, costing the economy an estimated £3 billion over the past decade.


BGS has combined geotechnical information about potential ground movement, with data about long-term rainfall and temperature scenarios, to identify the areas of Britain most likely to become susceptible to shrink-swell subsidence in the future.

Based on one of four new BGS datasets, the information traces the impact of climate change from 1990 and reveals important projections for the next decade, as well as future projections up to 2070.

They represent the worst-case scenario if Britain were to take no action to reduce carbon emissions, using scaled values which highlight the areas with the highest susceptibility to shrink-swell subsidence activity driven by a changing climate.

Shrink-swell refers to changes in soil volume due to moisture changes in the ground. When clay-rich soils absorb lots of water, swelling pressures can cause the ground to rise and structures to lift, known as heave. In warmer, drier weather, soils can become very hard when dry. As a result, the ground shrinks and cracks, leading to subsidence.


According to projections, more than three per cent of properties are likely to be affected across Great Britain by 2030, and almost three times that number (10.9 per cent), by 2070.

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‘By combining our extensive geology survey data and geological expertise to UK Climate Projection scenarios (UKCP18), we can highlight those areas most vulnerable to shrink–swell subsidence due to future climate change. This is important information that can help communities and property owners to build resilience to future climate change.’

Patrick Gray, BGS Head of Digital Products.

Note that there is no evidence offered that any of this has actually gotten any worse in recent years. Instead, the report is all based around UKCP18, the Met Office’s modelled projections for what might happen if global temperatures rise significantly. We are of course familiar with previous Met Office projections, which have proved wide of the mark.

London has always been a hot spot for subsidence, as London Clay is one of the most shrinkable of soil types of all. However there is no evidence that the London region is getting wetter or drier. In particular, summers were frequently drier in the past than recently, which totally undermines the BGS’ conclusions.



Opinion polls show that very few people are seriously concerned about climate change, which is no doubt the reason why the BGS has decided to publish this farcical study.


A study three years ago analysed the number of subsidence insurance claims, and found that they have actually been dropping since the 1990s:



  1. Broadlands permalink
    May 19, 2021 2:00 pm

    “They represent the worst-case scenario if Britain were to take no action to reduce carbon emissions..”

    What possible actions can stop smectite clay deposits from shrinking and expanding as they have been doing for millions of years… until diagenesis alters the mineralogy to form non-expandable clays?

  2. Mack permalink
    May 19, 2021 2:00 pm

    Being a society of geologists one would have thought that they might also have considered radical modern land use changes, in particular increased urbanisation in unsuitable sites e.g. flood plains, flimsy housing construction methods plus vastly increased water extraction, before trotting out the climate bogeyman. But, hey ho, anything to sound relevant I suppose.

  3. Gamecock permalink
    May 19, 2021 2:07 pm

    ‘They represent the worst-case scenario if Britain were to take no action to reduce carbon emissions’

    Which do not differ from what will happen if Britain DOES take action.

    Gotta love this:

    ‘BGS has combined geotechnical information about potential ground movement, with data about long-term rainfall and temperature scenarios’

    Rainfall and temperature predictions are ‘data.’

    • mjr permalink
      May 19, 2021 6:52 pm

      the Ferguson school of modelling i think

  4. Coeur de Lion permalink
    May 19, 2021 2:31 pm

    It’s terribly worrying that technical institutions like RGS and the Royal Society don’t even bother to look at the facts. They have lost their reputations.

  5. May 19, 2021 2:45 pm

    Until Yesterday the BGS produced maps of what IS, not what might possibly in a worst case scenario exist.

    Secondly and I quote:

    “Experts at the BGS, the UK’s geoscientific advisor which helps to advance our knowledge about changes in the environment, warns that the number of properties in Great Britain facing subsidence issues and damage to property from shrink-swell is on the rise, with figures of just 3 per cent in 1990 likely to reach 10 per cent by 2070”.

    First point. There I was thinking “environment” was the remit of DEFRA not the BGS!
    Second point, they are comparing 1990 empirical data to

    • Gerry, England permalink
      May 19, 2021 3:37 pm

      Anyone else think we are still very close to the 3% figure today in 2021 after supposedly 30 years of global warming?

  6. May 19, 2021 3:27 pm

    Sorry no idea what happened it posted it’s self!

    Anyway back to my second point.
    This is a comparison of 1990 empirical data to a worst case scenario up to 50 years from now to 2070. Also, where is the empirical data collected up until the present day, some 30 years later? The whole focus in this travesty of an interpretation of statistical output from a model.

    Model output is presented by statistical analysis. This is done to capture the uncertainty in the output because a model is not populated with real empirical data so the output is not a fixed value unlike a simple calculation. A most likely scenario may be spot on but based on a probability the chance for it to be inaccurate is mapped by producing as must have happened in this case, a bimodal distribution of probable outcomes to catch all possible scenarios on the plus and also the minus sides of the “most likely”. Even when presenting such data correctly does anyone take about one extreme in exclusion of the rest of the range
    Small point but empirical data cannot be compared directly to model data. They are not the same thing. Models do not produce empirical data. Who are these ” scientists who fail to mention that?

    No serious scientist or impartial scientist not intentionally wishing to deceive, presents one extreme of a bimodal uncertainty range separate from all the rest of the output. NONE!

    Present that anywhere except in the climate bubble and you will be laughed out of a presentation room with your P45 in hand.

    Standard practice is to present the “most likely” case ( This is what is thought will happen) and as a support mention the uncertainty range on BOTH SIDES of the most likely value. Never ever is an extreme statistical value promoted alone. Where is that “most likely” case in this piece?

    Even worse, there are two sides to the uncertainty. The equally probable extreme on the other side will say that nothing will change. That is equally valid and carries equal weight to their “worst case scenario”. Promoting only the the uncertainty on one side of the most likely without also presenting the “most likely” and also uncertainty on the other side is simply a wilful abuse of statistics to force fit to a chosen narrative.

    I declined to renew my status as a Fellow of the Geological Society 3 years ago when without consulting it’s membership the society produced a political statement claimed to represent “The Society”.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      May 19, 2021 8:02 pm

      Very interesting comment, PMFB. Thanks.

    • Coeur de Lion permalink
      May 19, 2021 9:16 pm

      That’s like what happened to the Royal Society some years ago when a collective statement denying nullius in verba was rejected by 43 members with much fury.

  7. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 19, 2021 3:32 pm

    Incidents of subsidence can be highly variable year on year. Weather, i.e. hot dry summers, is of course linked to surges in claims for subsidence, so actual insurance industry data would seem to indicate that the climate risk is not actually increasing.

    See page 8:-

    Click to access Crawford-Subsidence-The-Silent-Surge-vFinal.pdf

    (If someone could copy the image and link it would be useful?)

  8. Thomas Carr permalink
    May 19, 2021 3:33 pm

    Nothing new about this or so building surveyors tell me. Particualrly in parts of Essex as the clay strata expand and contract with the more extreme wet and dry seasons. Foundations are ususally installed to cope. As before it is to do with weather not climate.

    • Duker permalink
      May 19, 2021 10:50 pm

      Yes. The ring foundations with steel reinforcing cage is all that is needed in most cases for shallow foundations

  9. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    May 19, 2021 3:50 pm

    What utter, utter BS.

  10. ellyssen permalink
    May 19, 2021 3:55 pm

    Very sad. And they call so called climate deniers conspiracists.

  11. bluecat57 permalink
    May 19, 2021 3:57 pm

    It will be GOVERNMENT created as well.

  12. May 19, 2021 4:28 pm

    The picture of the house at the top of the article looks like Cornwall (I could be wrong!) to me. If it is; it’s the extensive tunnelling underground for Tin (and other minerals) wot dun it!

  13. Charles Higley permalink
    May 19, 2021 4:39 pm

    Subsidence is a large change in altitude of the land. It is not local enough to crack a building. Foundation settling is what the picture is showing. I call BS.

  14. lapford permalink
    May 19, 2021 5:05 pm

    Bizarre publication. Properties in UK have always been subject to either ground heave or shrinkage- my mid devon property does both at different times depending on what the weather has been doing, nothing new at all. I suppose the BGS is now producing this speculation to justify their funding, much the same as so many organisations and charities these days. Mention climate change and the money pours in, perhaps I should try it.

  15. mjr permalink
    May 19, 2021 7:03 pm

    interestingly the photo on the BGS site to accompany the article is not the same as the one shown above. Rather than a building with a massive and scary crack from top to bottom it is an indoor picture with a small crack. Maybe they thought they were over the top

  16. cookers52 permalink
    May 19, 2021 8:01 pm

    Well well problems with subsidence in clay soils is due to climate change

    The BGS have gone woke of lately , I thought I was reading a Greenpeace booklet when I picked up the BGS magazine in our local museum.

  17. cookers52 permalink
    May 19, 2021 8:15 pm

    Cracks in gable end walls are common, how many are caused by subsidence due to clay shrinkage is another matter.

    The usual problem is the gable end isn’t tied in too well with the rest of the structure, the gable must be tied to the roof and all other supporting walls.

  18. Harry Passfield permalink
    May 19, 2021 8:24 pm

    Subsidence like that in the picture can also be caused by conifer hedges. I know. My B-i-L was a builder and one day he came with me to a friend’s new-ish estate house where the owner showed us a similar crack in his gable-end wall. You could put your hand in the crack by the window in the bedroom!!
    Of course, it was all caused by climate change (in 1998)! Except, my B-i-L noticed a conifer hedge close alongside the gable-end. He told my friend to chop it down and remove the roots. All credit to my friend, he did just that. A month later, the crack had closed! My friend told me that you could almost feel the wall moving back into true and the crack closing. When it was all finished it was like it had never been there.
    Me? I believe the BGS…it must have been global warming!! Or Conifer Change.

  19. Norman permalink
    May 19, 2021 9:26 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I seem to remember that during the last serious drought there was concern that in order to meet the higher levels of water extrction required by population increase and lifestyle change that the aquifers were more easily depleted.
    Increasing ground water extraction doesn’t appear to have been considered in this survey

  20. May 20, 2021 11:25 am

    Looking at that top picture of the house, other cracks can be faintly discerned beneath the render. It looks to me as if someone has taken one of those faint cracks and darkened it for the photo..

  21. Michael permalink
    May 20, 2021 1:56 pm

    The “confusion” here is that there is currently a rush by the Bank of England and PRA to stress test climate physical risks against real portfolio assets (mortgages and insurance policies) of our major banks and insurers.

    The first big problem is that the data vendors supplying the physical risks for the UK are mixing up very badly the Atmospheric Loading Models and General Circulation models which predict late 21st century gaseous conditions in the atmosphere via Representative Concentration Pathways with observational data from weather and climate records (including soils response.

    The best to worst case RCPs of late century get gobbled up and become next month it’ll be like this in a dervish whirl of bad science.

    So the near term decadal models (weather) and the late century gaseous models (it has to be late century or you cannot avoid near term pollution of results – pardon the pun) get mixed in an Eton Mess of outcomes that get vomited back up to the press.


  22. James H. Shanley permalink
    May 20, 2021 3:09 pm

    The UK is still rebounding from the weight of the last ice cap; a real professional geologist would be interested in evidence of ice age rebound; not minor local subsidence issues.

  23. May 20, 2021 5:31 pm

    “It is sad to see what used to be a serious, scientific body prostitute itself to global warming scaremongering”

    Well put

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