28 Dec 2012

Quieter weather in new year to offer respite from flooding

There is no doubt that 2012 has been a remarkable year of weather. At the beginning of the year, there were concerns of drought following two consecutive dry winters. However, as the year draws to a close, the focus has shifted to heavy rain and flooding.

The British weather is renowned for being a fickle beast, but this year, it really has demonstrated its ability to go from one extreme to another.

Drought restrictions and hosepipe bans made the headlines during late spring and early summer, following month upon month of below average rainfall – mainly across central and eastern parts of England.

The Environment Agency warned that unless there were prolonged spells of rain throughout the summer, the situation would worsen. Given the weather that followed, you’d be right in thinking that the weather may well have ears.

April and June were the wettest on record in the UK, followed by the wettest summer in 100 years, with heavy rain continuing through the autumn as well.

The ground went from being to cracked and parched early in the year, to sodden and saturated by autumn, with the soil simply unable to soak up any more water.

As a result, water stayed above the ground, rather than below it, causing surface or river flooding in many parts of the UK, leaving a trail of damage and misery.

This deluge of rain for months on end has been caused by the position of the jet stream – the fast moving ribbon of air, high up in the atmosphere, that determines how weather systems develop and where they go.

Since late-spring, the jet stream has spent much of the time to the south of the UK, which has put us in the firing line of low pressure after low pressure, bringing lots of heavy rain.

How wet has 2012 been?

Provisional figures from the Met Office for 1 January to 26 December show that some parts of the UK have already had their wettest year on record.

England has had its wettest year since record began in 1910, with 1095.8mm of rain recorded, with still four days of rainfall to add to this.

In order for the UK as a whole to have its wettest year on record, another 46mm of rain needs to fall between 27 to 31 December – something that is most certainly possible given the wet weather that will bring 2012 to a close.

The wettest year on record for the whole of the UK at the moment is 2000, when 1337.3mm fell.

How much more rain is there to come?

The final few days of 2012 will stay wet and windy, as further areas of low pressure move in off the Atlantic ocean.

During the next four days, western areas will see the greatest amount of rain, with 20-50mm falling widely, but as much as 70-100mm over the hills and mountains of Wales, north west England and western Scotland.

Elsewhere, further eastwards, it will be relatively drier, with 10-20mm expected during the same time period.

Given how saturated the ground is for many areas, there is no doubt that flooding problems will continue – something that the Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency will be keeping a close eye on.

Will a new year bring new weather?

There has been an increasingly consistent signal amongst the various weather computer models that the first week of January will offer a respite from heavy rain and flooding.

The jet stream is going to slide further north, which will confine any rain and brisk winds to the far north west of Scotland. At the same time, an area of high pressure is likely to build across most of the UK, bringing much drier weather.

At the moment, it looks as though it could be a cloudy high pressure, rather than a sunny one, but as long as it stops raining, I don’t think any of us are too bothered about that.

In the meantime, if you have any reports, videos or pictures of flooding where you are, then please get in touch with me on Twitter – @liamdutton.

As for the weather at the stroke of midnight for new year celebrations, keep an eye on the forecast for your area on the Channel 4 Weather website.

Tweets by @liamdutton