Using Live River Flow Data to Investigate Storm Abigail

After following the progress of Storm Abigail – our first weather system to be given a name – track across the UK this weekend, I decided to take a closer look at some of the river systems in the north of England, to see how they have been affected.

Severn MapTo do this, I made use of the excellent Shoothill GaugeMap web site, winner of the Open Data Award for Innovation in 2014.

Cockermouth Kingfisher FlowThe site presents an interactive map and regularly updated data for river levels, river flows, and groundwater flow for a huge number of measuring stations on all of our major rivers – as well as many smaller rivers, streams and brooks. The data displayed on each of the stations on the map is recorded at 15 minute intervals by the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Montford Data 2It is really easy to home in on a river or stream of your choice – you can search for gauge stations by river name, river catchment, location, or even the station’s name if you happen to know it.

It is then possible to explore the different data sets available – choosing from river levels (in metres), downstream levels (where available, an additional graph will be displayed on a second tab on the screen), river flow (in cumecs), or groundwater levels. The data is clearly displayed in number form, as well as on really easy to follow colourful graphs.

Egremont FlowFavourite gauge stations can be saved (when you have created a GaugeMap account), and you can even follow particular stations on Twitter! It is also possible to embed a river level gauge onto a web site – great tool for displaying local rivers, or maybe focusing on fieldwork sites, or even selecting rivers for comparison case studies.

I found it fascinating watching the changing conditions in river systems as the storm passed over, and can see this site being used as a great tool in the classroom. It would be a great starter to any lesson on rivers and would be particularly helpful for any ‘floating topicality’ lessons looking at flooding in specific UK locations. The site presents a wealth of information in such an easily accessible way, students would be most comfortable in exploring the information themselves, and perhaps create their own enquiries. It is certainly going to be a valued addition to my ‘Geo Favourites Bar’ – why not check it out, and see what it tells you about your local river?


About devongeography

Head of Geography and Assistant Vice Principal at South Molton Community College, North Devon. Exeter Chiefs supporter!
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