Archives for March 2012

Drought order in parts of Yorkshire. Will it affect you?

Paul Hudson | 11:22 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Environment Agency has today confirmed that some parts of Yorkshire are now officially in drought.


The drought order applies to some catchments of the Rivers Don, Rother, Hull and Derwent and has been issued because the agency is concerned about the effect of drought on the environment.


In the River Hull & Don catchments data shows that it’s been the second driest 12 months since 1910.


But what does the drought order mean?


Firstly, there are no implications for public water supplies.


Despite bore holes in eastern parts of Yorkshire being 20% lower than normal, most of the county’s water comes from reservoirs in the west, which are more than 90% full. This water can be pumped around the county as necessary.


However, the Environment Agency does have the power to restrict how much water Yorkshire Water can abstract from bore holes if necessary, which would put an additional strain on water stocks further west.


But the current dry spell would have to last many more weeks for Yorkshire Water to start thinking about the possibility of restricting supplies to consumers, as has been the case for Anglian customers in Lincolnshire and parts of Nottinghamshire, who face a hosepipe ban from April 5th.


For agricultural and industrial users, the situation is different. Some have licenses to abstract water from underground sources, and in these instances, should drought conditions deteriorate further, holders of such licenses could be told by the Environment Agency to limit how much water they pump to the surface for their own use. In fact some have faced restrictions since last winter.


The Environment Agency is taking this step primarily to protect fish and other wildlife, because it expects to see lower river levels, as well as some streams drying up.


Recovery in Arctic sea ice continues

Paul Hudson | 17:35 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Arctic sea ice has staged a strong recovery in the last few weeks, reaching levels not far from normal for this time of the year.

The rise is all the more impressive, since February saw the 5th lowest ice extent since satellite records began in 1979, and until recently ice extent has been hovering close to record low levels.

Interestingly Antarctica sea ice extent is currently slightly above average, as it has been for some time.

Levels of Arctic sea ice are not just dependent on temperature levels, but local weather conditions play a huge part too.

The much publicised 2007 minimum Arctic ice level was in large part due to the prevailing wind, which blew more ice into the Atlantic - as opposed to anything directly linked to global temperatures, as widely reported in the media at the time.

Arctic weather systems are highly variable and prevailing winds can enhance, or oppose, the flow of ice into the Atlantic. Indeed the increase in ice extent this month has coincided with a change in wind direction which seems to have spread out ice cover.

It's too early to say whether this recovery will translate into higher levels of spring and summer Arctic ice compared with recent years, but scientists will be watching data closely in the coming days and weeks.

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Drought order update

Paul Hudson | 16:26 UK time, Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The continued dry weather in parts of our region has led Anglian Water to implement a hosepipe ban for all its customers in Lincolnshire from April 5th.

Customers in North Nottinghamshire who are served by Severn Trent for sewerage, but Anglian Water for their water supplies, will also have a hosepipe ban enforced.

Yorkshire Water and Severn Trent customers, across Yorkshire and the North Midlands, are unaffected.

The start of water restrictions doesn't come as a surprise. Land across parts of Eastern England is currently drier than at the same point during the famous drought year of 1976.

But there's been a huge difference in rainfall across our area.

At Malham in North Yorkshire, 1631mm of rain was recorded last year, 107% of average.

This is almost 4 times more than at Waddington in Lincolnshire, where only 423mm of rain fell in 2011, which is just 71% of average.

East Yorkshire has had similar amounts of rainfall to Lincolnshire.

But because of Yorkshire Water's £300 million underground pipe network, it's unlikely that hosepipe bans will affect customers here because water can be pumped eastwards from reservoirs in Pennine areas of Yorkshire, many of which are full to overflowing.

Lincolnshire & North Nottinghamshire are not connected to this pipe network, hence Anglian Water's decision to impose water restrictions on its customers.

Looking ahead, this weekend should see low pressure and the potential for some significant rainfall.

After that, the rest of March will see a return to weather that will bring low rainfall to areas which need it most.

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Global temperature update

Paul Hudson | 16:08 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Average global temperatures remained broadly the same throughout the month of February according to the UAH satellite measure.

The anomaly of -0.116C, relative to the 30 year running average, equates to an anomaly of approximately +0.137C above the more standard 1961-1990 average.

The decline of La Nina has picked up speed in the last few weeks, with most computer predictions expecting neutral conditions by Spring.

La Nina is an area of colder than average water in the equatorial Pacific area, and acts to depress global temperatures. El Nino is an area of warm water in the same region, and acts to increase global temperatures.

As conditions continue to return to normal, global temperatures should recover somewhat.

Computer simulations, shown below, suggests the most likely scenario heading through spring and summer, and into autumn, is for neutral conditions to continue.

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Winter 2011/2012: The final verdict

Paul Hudson | 15:07 UK time, Friday, 2 March 2012

Winter this year has confounded most long range forecasts issued last autumn, turning out to be mild, averaged over December, January and February (Climatological winter).

Talk of huge snowfalls, and the likelihood of another severe winter which were lapped up by an ever eager media, were wide of the mark.

The only notable cold spell, which brought to some areas the only snow of winter, occurred during early February.

One of the most interesting features of winter was the fact that this intense cold spell, which resulted in the equal coldest February temperature ever recorded in Lincolnshire, was cancelled out by the exceptionally mild spell which resulted in near record levels of warmth later in the month.

A significant new record was set on the 28th February, with Durham reporting 17.4C, the highest February temperature in 132 years of data

For these reasons, February has turned out to be slightly milder than average, across the UK as a whole.

Most attention though is focused on the lack of rainfall that some areas have experienced.

England only received 82% of normal rainfall this winter, with eastern and southern areas seeing the least.

Western areas of the UK had above average rainfall and this is why reservoirs in Pennine areas are mostly full to overflowing, which will be crucial should spring and summer remain dry across Yorkshire, as bore holes in East Yorkshire are badly depleted.

Lincolnshire, subject to a drought order since last summer, is desperately in need of a wet spring to prevent further restrictions being imposed.

It's worth remembering that the serious drought and water restrictions in the summer of 1976 was not just because of the prolonged heat wave. The previous summer of 1975 was dry, as was the winter of 1975/76.

As for the first half of March, some southern and central parts of the UK could see some useful rainfall this weekend.

After that, weather patterns suggest that rainfall will continue to be below average in eastern and southern areas, where it is needed most.

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