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Wettest weather?

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Mark Easton | 17:57 UK time, Thursday, 11 September 2008

How wet was it where you live? I've just been sent the latest rainfall release from the Natural Environment Research Council which confirms that this year "the UK registered its wettest January to August period on record."

Map showing rainfall from January to August 2008

And we have just endured the fourth highest August rainfall since 1962 - for Northern Ireland it was the wettest since they started measuring these things.

As well as a largely thunder-black map showing that the whole of the UK has seen either "substantially above average" rainfall this year or is simply defined as "very wet", the NERC offers little comfort to those people at risk of flooding.

"A significant proportion of index rivers registered new maximum August flows", it records.

"A second successive notably wet summer" has left many areas "very vulnerable to further rainfall with a high short-term risk of more flooding and the prospect of an extended 2008/9 flood season."

Parts of County Antrim saw 10-12 cm of rain in just 24 hours. An intense thunderstorm in Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire registered 6.3 cm in less than two hours.

England and Wales reported its third wettest August since 1956. Scotland saw its fifth wettest since the same year.

Over the whole of the UK, it has been the sixth wettest summer on record; three of the nine wettest since 1914 have been in the last five years (2004, 2007, 2008).

Car driving through flooded roadHowever, historically, wet summers are not that unusual - there were lots in the 19th century. Experts remain unconvinced that we can blame the rain on climate change. They tell me that "current models indicate that the UK will have drier summers on average, but with periods of heavy rain, and that variability (extremes - floods and droughts) may be enhanced."

As in 2007, much of the rain relates to the southerly track taken by the jet stream. When this happens, Britain finds itself in the path of many more vigorous Atlantic frontal systems.

Last year, we were essentially 'saved' from even worse flooding by a very dry autumn. So what do the Met office reckon will happen this year?

"For the UK, temperatures are likely to be either near average, or above average" with "below average amounts of rain".

Let us hope it is "below average" enough for the millions whose homes, livelihoods and, in some cases, lives are threatened by exceptional amounts of rain.


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