Guest blog: ‘Risk of summer drought at normal levels’

17 06 2014

There have been some reports in the press that the Met Office has warned dry weather this June could bring a return of drought conditions to the UK – this is not the case. Here Victoria Williams, Water Resources Advisor at the Environment Agency, explains what the real risks are at the moment:

Every week we measure water resources in England to assess how dry the soils are and how much rain they can soak up, the amount of water flowing in rivers, stored below ground in aquifers and above ground in reservoirs, and the outlook for the coming months.

As we move into summer the overall water resources situation across England is looking generally healthy. This is not surprising given England has experienced the wettest six month period (Dec-May) on record.

Regionally it has also been a record breaker with the wettest six months experienced in southeast and southwest England and the second wettest in central and northwest England.

All our rivers have responded to the rainfall and are currently within normal ranges.  Groundwater levels throughout England are within normal ranges and are now starting to recede as expected for the time of year.

We also look ahead by modelling how rivers and groundwaters may respond to different future rainfall patterns over the summer. The results shows a broadly positive picture even if rainfall is below average and point to the risk of drought this summer being no greater than average.

However it is still as important as ever to use water wisely. If the weather does turn hot and dry there can be localised impacts on rivers, the environment and for farming. If this happens we work with abstractors to reduce the effects where possible and water companies will keep their customers informed if needed.

For more information see the Environment Agency water situation reports.

UPDATED: Wind and rainfall data 4 to 5 December 2013

5 12 2013


As forecast, there have been severe gales with widespread gusts of between 60 and 80mph across Scotland and northern parts of England. Some very high level mountain sites have reported speeds of over 140mph, but these are in very exposed areas and not representative of the winds most people have experienced.


It has been very wet in some areas overnight as well with 50.8mm of rain being recorded at Tyndrum, Perthshire and 42.4mm at Cluanie Inn, Ross & Cromarty.

Unsettled weather to come – but no repeat of ‘St Jude’ in sight

29 10 2013

There have been a few mentions in today’s media of another storm coming in for this weekend – with the Daily Express suggesting that a ‘new deadly storm’ is on the way.

It’s fair to say we are expecting a spell of unsettled autumnal weather over the next week, with some strong winds and heavy rain possible – but comparisons with the ‘St Jude’s Day storm’ (as some in the media have called it) are wide of the mark.

Currently forecasts suggest that we will see several low pressure systems affecting the country over the next week – which is a fairly typical picture for UK weather at this time of year.

These could bring gale force winds at times to some areas, but we don’t expect gusts to be anything like the exceptionally strong winds we saw on Monday. In fact, the winds are more likely to be similar to those we saw during the day last Sunday – the day before the big storm.

Of course, even gale force gusts do bring some risks and the Met Office will closely watch developments to assess any impacts.

The low pressure systems coming through over the next week are likely to lead to some rough seas and big waves around some coasts, as well as some heavy rain.

The Met Office, Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will be working together to monitor the risk of any impacts from these over the next few days.

Given the outlook for unsettled weather, we’d advise people to stay up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings from the Met Office and to sign up to receive free flood warnings from the Environment Agency and SEPA website.

July starts dry, sunny and warm

17 07 2013

Early Met Office figures for the first half of July show that it has been warmer, drier and sunnier than usual so far this month.

We’ve now had 11 days with temperatures over 28 °C somewhere in the UK, making it the longest hot spell since 2006.

The UK mean temperature up to the 15th July is 16.1 °C, a degree above the long term average for the whole of the month. The days have been particularly warm so far, with the average maximum temperature for the UK being 21.3 °C, 2 degrees above normal.

Rainfall for the UK from 1-15 July was 9.2 mm. At this stage we would expect to have seen about 48 % of the full month average, however we have only seen 12 %. We have seen less than 5 mm widely across much of England and parts of eastern Scotland (many locations with only 1 or 2 mm).

Up to the 15th we have seen 132 hours of sunshine across the UK, which is 77 % of the full month average. Again, we would have expected to have seen about 48% at this point in an ‘average’ month.

Looking at the individual countries, Scotland’s mean temperature has been 14.4 °C (1.2 °C above average) and Northern Ireland’s has been 16.3 °C (1.7 °C above average). England’s has been 17.0 °C (0.7 °C above average), and Wales’ has been 16.3 °C (1.1 °C above average).

Wales had the most sunshine with 155 hours, which is 86 % of the full-month long-term average.

England has seen the least rainfall for the first half of the month with 4.0 mm, just 6 % of the long term July average. Scotland has seen the most rain with 16.8 mm, but even that is only 17 % of the full-month average.

To put this in context, the driest July on record across the UK was in 1955 when there was 30.6 mm of rain. With only 9 mm of rain so far in the UK this July, this is likely to be a very dry month but – with two weeks to go – it’s too early to say where it will end up in the national series dating back to 1910.

For the longer running England and Wales precipitation record which dates back to 1766, the record driest July was in 1825 with just 8 mm of rain. England and Wales have seen just 4 mm so far this month, but – again – it’s too early to judge where it will end up in the records.

With regards to sunshine hours, 1955 is the sunniest July on record with 256 hours of sunshine, with 2006 close behind with 253 hours.

The warmest July on record is 2006 with a UK mean temperature of 17.8 °C; this is also the warmest month in the national record which goes back to 1910.

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall  
1-15 July Actual Diff from Avg Actual % of Avg Actual % of Avg
  degC degC hours % mm %
UK 16.1 1 132.1 77 9.2 12
England 17 0.7 147.2 76 4 6
Wales 16.3 1.1 154.7 86 8.7 9
Scotland 14.4 1.2 104.1 74 16.8 17
N Ireland 16.3 1.7 114 81 15.7 19

The reason behind this very warm weather is an area of high pressure which has been sitting right above the UK since the start of the month.

This dry weather is in sharp contrast to last year’s wet weather and follows on from a dry June this year.

The Environment Agency measures water resources in England every week to assess how dry the soils are and how much rain they can soak up, the amount of water flowing in rivers, stored below ground in aquifers and above ground in reservoirs, and the outlook for the coming months.

Trevor Bishop, head of water resources at the Environment Agency, said: “Last year’s exceptionally wet summer and autumn has left us in a fairly good water resources position, with most rivers, reservoirs and underground water stores around normal for the time of year. Some river levels are dropping as a result of the hot, dry spell that we are enjoying, and we would urge everyone to continue use water wisely, to protect water supplies and the environment.”

More information can be found in their latest water situation report.

Guest blog: Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1953 floods

31 01 2013

Craig Woolhouse is Head of Flood Incident Management at the Environment Agency. He looks at how flood risk management has progressed since 1953 and how you can keep flood aware.

Canvey Flood

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the 1953 floods where over 300 people died, 24,500 houses were damaged and over 30,000 people were evacuated. Outside the towns and villages, thousands of animals were drowned and great tracts of farmland were made infertile by salt water. This was one of the worst peace time calamities to hit Britain with Winston Churchill declaring it a “National Disaster”.

Those affected by the floods would have gone to bed without a flood warning and many of the flood defences today along the east coast, including London’s Thames Barrier, didn’t exist at all.

We’re lucky enough to have a lot more tools at our disposal to keep flood aware and safe these days. For example, you can join the 1.2 million people in England and Wales already signed up for free flood warnings. Where there was major loss of life in 1953, major flood defences have been built – for example Canvey Island, Jaywick, Felixstowe, Lincolnshire, Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth. The Thames Barrier, celebrating its 30th birthday tomorrow as one of the world’s largest moveable defences, was also constructed as a result of the 1953 floods.

There have also been massive improvements in long range flood forecasting since 1953 like the joint Environment Agency and Met Office flood forecasting centre which provides 24/7 flood guidance to emergency services and local authorities.

We’re much better prepared than in 1953 but we cannot afford to be complacent. Despite the low probability, extreme floods like 1953 could strike at any time and we need to be prepared as a country and as communities for when these happen.

Visit the Environment Agency website to see what you can do to stay flood aware.

You can find out more about how weather and flood forecasting has improved on our website.

UK rainfall over the last eight days

27 11 2012

After a dry start to the month, the last eight days have seen some very wet weather affect the UK, causing widespread flooding and disruption. So just how much rain has the UK seen and where has been wettest? The following maps show the full picture.

UK rainfall from 19-27 November 2012

The darkest blues on the map above show the areas that have seen the most rainfall, with South West England, Wales and parts of Northern England being particularly affected. How do these totals compare with the monthly average for November?

Eight day rainfall totals compared to whole November average

This map shows that areas from North East England through the Midlands to South West England have seen above average rainfall during the last eight days. However, parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland have seen very little.

As always, we have worked closely with the Environment Agency throughout the recent weather and have issued a series of accurate and useful forecasts and warnings which have helped emergency responders, county councils and members of the public stay informed about the latest developments.

Assistant Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Paul Netherton, said: “I would like to formally thank and recognise the hard work of the Met Office over the past week. The information provided was invaluable and enabled the responders in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to prepare and respond effectively to assist our communities.”

For the rest of this week it looks as though there will be some respite from the rain with much drier conditions forecast. It will be colder though, with an increased risk of frost, fog and even ice towards as we head through the next few days.

24 – 25 November rainfall update

25 11 2012

Overnight rainfall recorded at Met Office observing stations from 6pm Saturday 24 November to 8am Sunday 25 November:

Station     Amount
Fylingdales, North Yorkshire 36.6 mm
Pershore, Hereford & Worcester 32.6 mm
Sheffield, South Yorkshire 32.6 mm
Gingley-on-the-Hill 31.8 mm
Leek, Staffordshire 31.6 mm
High Mowthorpe, North Yorkshire 31.4 mm
Exeter Airport, Devon 31.2 mm
Dunkeswell, Devon 30.8 mm
Scarborough, North Yorkshire 30.6 mm
Normanby Hall, Humberside 30 mm

Below are the highest rainfall totals recorded at Met Office observing stations between midnight on Saturday and 8am this morning:

Station     Amount
St Mary’s Airport, Isles of Scilly 58.2 mm
Plymouth, Devon 56.8 mm
Cardinham, Cornwall 49.2 mm
Exeter Airport, Devon 48 mm
Dunkeswell, Devon 47.8 mm
Camborne, Cornwall 44.6 mm
Culdrose, Cornwall 41 mm
Pershore, Hereford & Worcester 40.6 mm
Astwood Bank, Hereford & Worcester 39.6 mm
Liscombe, Somerset 38.4 mm


Rainfall totals 24 November 2012

24 11 2012

It has been another wet day across much of the southern half of the UK. Here are some rainfall totals between midnight and 9pm from Met Office reporting stations:

Station     Amount
St Mary’s Airport, Isles of Scilly 57 mm
Plymouth, Devon 49.2 mm
Camborne, Cornwall 42.8 mm
Culdrose, Cornwall 40 mm
Cardinham, Cornwall 39.2 mm
Exeter Airport, Devon 31.6 mm
Dunkeswell, Devon 27.6 mm
North Wyke, Devon 26 mm
Bournemouth Airport, Dorset 24 mm
Liscombe, Somerset 21.4 mm

There is more rain to come over the rest of the weekend and into the start of next week.

Stormy November weekend

24 11 2012

As forecast, unsettled weather continues across the UK, with more heavy rain and strong winds expected to affect many areas at times through the weekend and into next week.

The Met Office and the Environment Agency are warning the public to be prepared for possible travel disruption and flooding as some areas see up to 60 mm on top of the rain that has already fallen over this week.

Eddy Carroll, Met Office Chief Forecaster, said: “The current very unsettled run of weather is set to continue with further spells of wet and windy weather expected across the country over the next few days.

“The southwest of England and parts of southeast Wales are expected to see the heaviest rain on Saturday with between 30 to 40 mm of rain in many parts and up to 60 mm of rain in some areas. Further rain moving in from the west on Sunday continues the risk for further flooding and travel disruption. We urge everyone to keep up to date with forecasts and warnings and be prepared for what the weather will bring.”

Along with the heavy rain strong winds may add to the potential for travel disruption, especially across southern Britain overnight Saturday into Sunday. Winds gusting to 50 or 60 mph are expected across southern counties of England overnight Saturday and into Sunday with severe gale or possibly storm force winds over the English Channel.

Rain spreading north across the UK Saturday 24 November 2012

Rain spreading north across the UK Saturday 24 November 2012

John Curtin, Head of Incident Management at the Environment Agency, said: “We would urge people to continue to be prepared for flooding, sign up for Environment Agency flood warnings, keep up to date with the latest situation, and stay away from dangerous flood water.

“Our teams have been out around the clock over the last few days to minimise the risks and prepare for flooding and we are continuing to deploy teams across the country to keep communities safe.”

Looking a little further ahead the weather is expected to become drier and colder in most areas by the middle of next week, however overnight frost may then bring the risk of some icy roads after the recent rain.

The public can keep up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings for their area on our website and with forecasts on TV and radio during this unsettled spell. You can also be #weatheraware by following us on Twitter @metoffice

Rainfall totals update

23 11 2012

The table below shows total rainfall from midnight on the 20th November until 7.00 am this morning. Some areas have had over 90 mm of rain over the last three days.

Location Total (mm)
Exeter Airport                       92
Tyndrum 91
Westonbirt                           79.2
Shap                                 73.2
North Wyke                           72
Usk    69.6
Filton                               67.6
Libanus                              67.6
Winchcombe    65.8
Capel Curig 65.6
Tredegar 64.4
Brize Norton                         63.6
Skye: Lusa                           63.4
Little Rissington                    62.8
Liscombe                             62.6
Yeovilton                            60.8
Cardiff                 60.8
Cluanie Inn                 59.8

Further rainfall is expected over the weekend. Keep up to date with weather warnings from the Met Office and flood warnings from the Environment Agency.

Satellite and rainfall radar showing the weather from midnight Tuesday 21st November to the morning of the 23rd November.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,286 other followers

%d bloggers like this: