The most noticeable feature of the wild, wet and windy winter weather has been the part played by the sea, with remarkable pictures of seaside promenades being pounded by water and rocks, followed by flooding.

The main problem seems to be that very high tides prevent rivers draining away properly, and strong winds support tidal surges, as well as pinning the water up against the coast. In addition, the heavy rain caused by intense low pressure systems, and generally warmer air that can hold more moisture, means that the ground is waterlogged and the rapid run off into the rivers keeps them topped up.

All in all, there has been more flooding this century – in the last 14 years – than in most of the last one, and many UK villages and towns are now experiencing it for the first time. It’s not just to do with more building and concrete, though that doesn’t help. It’s to be expected with the disturbed weather that follows from changes to the lower atmosphere, with warming, more evaporation and stronger winds. It’s no surprise that the Thames Barrier is now much busier than it was initially. For the first 17 years from 1983, it was used 39 times, but in the first four years of this century it was raised 48 times. Indeed, over this Christmas period it has been in use ten times.

It can expect to be even busier in the future because another factor is steadily making matters worse – sea level is rising world-wide. It was doing so in a minor way throughout the last century, with the water expanding as it warmed up, but, at a rate of about 2mm a year, the total increase was only about 6in, though that has been enough, with surges, to stress most flood defences.

The present century looks like being a quite different challenge because not only will the sea continue to expand as it warms more, but it will now be topped up with the water from melting ice caps and mountain glaciers. Almost all the latter have been retreating for decades, and are likely to disappear completely before the century is over.

However, they only make up one percent of all the ice in the world, with both Greenland, nine per cent, and Antarctica 90 per cent, the rest. Satellite measurements, of volume and gravity, show that all this land ice is melting increasingly quickly with outlet glaciers from the ice caps retreating and speeding up.

A metre higher sea level, expected by the end of the century, will make the present problems look like a damp patch.

We have the evidence, we now need action.