Why are we in drought?

13 03 2012

Rainfall amounts across many parts of the UK have been below average for the last two years. Importantly, this includes two dry winters – the periods when we would normally expect our rainfall to replenish river, reservoir and groundwater levels.

2010 was the eleventh-driest year in the series from 1910 and the driest since 2003. The dry weather continued during 2011 with large parts of central, eastern and southern England having well below average rainfall – several Midland counties – such as Shropshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Warwickshire – had their driest year on record.

Map showing the rainfall seen between Nov 2010 and Feb 2012 compared to the long-term average for the same period

This emphasises why there are concerns about drought in parts of England and Wales.

There is no one reason for the dry weather over the last few years; it’s all part of the natural variability of the UK climate. However the dominance of high pressure systems over Europe has been a significant influence. These areas of high pressure effectively block the path of the Atlantic weather systems that bring us our usual wind and rain and this has happened relatively frequently over the last couple of years.

Looking back to the drought of 1976 we can see that in contrast to this year, the whole of the UK was subject to a prolonged period of below average rainfall. Between May 1975 and Aug 1976 only parts of the Western Isles and Western Highlands saw rainfall even a little above normal. Many parts of England and Wales saw only half or less of the rainfall that we could normally expect in that time.

Map showing the rainfall seen between May 1975 and Aug 1976 compared to the long-term average for the same period.

This table shows how much rainfall fell across the UK in 1975-76 compared to 2010-12:

Region/district May 75-Aug 76 total (mm) % of 61-90 average Nov 10-Feb 12 total (mm) % of 61-90 average
UK 1018 72 1502 99
England 689 64 929 82
Wales 1097 62 1658 84
Scotland 1527 82 2386 117
Northern Ireland 1098 78 1638 108
England & Wales 745 64 1030 82
N England 855 69 1212 94
S England 601 60 780 74
N Scotland 1742 86 2564 114
E Scotland 1062 74 1730 113
W Scotland 1734 83 2843 123
E & NE England 666 67 901 88
NW England & N Wales 1160 71 1690 96
Midlands 622 61 780 74
East Anglia 524 65 579 72
SW England & S Wales 907 59 1383 81
Central S & SE England 584 59 824 78

We are working closely with the Environment Agency, Government, local authorities and water companies to ensure that the UK best manages the need for water, while protecting agriculture, horticulture and the environment.

Our role includes providing forecast information to the public; government and the water companies on when, and how much rain, is expected from the next few days to a month ahead. We also maintain observations of how much rainfall there has been and where. This can be compared with our historical database of rainfall, which goes back to 1910, to provide an understanding of the current rainfall situation. The Met Office also provides the UK’s only real-time assessments of rainfall, evaporation and soil moisture for water resource specialists.

Rob Varley, Operations Director at the Met Office, said: “The last two years have been very dry across many parts of England with some areas seeing as little as 60% of their normal rainfall in that time.

“Even sustained rainfall over the next few months would have a limited impact, however we are working with the water industry to make sure they have the best weather forecast information available to help them manage their resources.”

Howard Davidson, Environment Agency South East Regional Director said: “We will continue to work with water companies to meet the challenges of a continued drought.

“The Environment Agency’s role is to balance the water needs of people, businesses and the environment. Using water efficiently will help to ensure we all have enough water for our homes, to produce food, products and services, and to protect our valuable natural environment and wildlife.”

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Freezing night with further snow to come in the week ahead

19 12 2010

It was another very cold night across much of the UK last night, with temperatures falling as low as -19.6 C at Shawbury in Shropshire.  The extreme low temperatures were caused by a combination of snow cover, gentle winds and clearing skies. It is likely that we will continue to see some extremely cold nights in parts of the UK through the coming week.

A band of heavy snow swept across much of the southern half of England yesterday. The snow was heavy for several hours and gave 20cm at Farnborough, 9cm at Heathrow and 11cm at Charlwood. London saw between 5-10cm.  Snow showers also continued across parts of Scotland and northeast England, with significant falls.

The tables below reveal the lowest temperatures (those that recorded lower than -5.0 deg C) seen last night and snow depths recoded at 9 am this morning.

Location Minimum temp (°C)
SHAWBURY -19.6
PERSHORE  -19.5
CROSBY -17.0
SHOBDON  -16.8
PERSHORE COLLEGE OF HORTICULTURE  -16.2
SHAP FELL  -15.8
CASTLEDERG -15.7
DALWHINNIE  -15.3
WOBURN  -15.1
WOODFORD -14.7
Winchcombe Sudeley Castle -14.7
Newton Rigg -14.7
Newport -14.7
BENSON -14.6
TULLOCH BRIDGE -14.3
CAPEL CURIG -13.8
YEOVILTON -13.8
Myerscough -13.7
Exeter Airport -13.4
BRIZE NORTON -13.0
Bridgefoot -13.0
Cluanie Inn No 3 -12.9
HAWARDEN  -12.7
WINTERBOURNE  -12.4
THREAVE CDL -12.4
BALLYKELLY -12.3
COLESHILL -12.2
Llysdinam -12.2
Bainbridge -12.1
HEREFORD/CREDENHILL -12.0
TYNDRUM  -12.0
Carterhouse -11.9
CAIRNGORM  -11.5
CARLISLE  -11.5
Mona -11.5
WARCOP RANGE -11.4
KATESBRIDGE  -11.4
Santon Downham -11.3
AVIEMORE -11.2
EXETER CDL -11.1
Ravensworth -11.1
ESKDALEMUIR -11.0
KESWICK  -11.0
PRESTWICK RNAS -10.8
Tredegar Bryn Bach Park No 2 -10.8
DRUMALBIN  -10.7
LEEMING -10.7
Drumnadrochit -10.7
BLACKPOOL SQUIRES GATE -10.6
MULLINGAR -10.6
SENNYBRIDGE -10.5
Westonbirt -10.5
SCAMPTON -10.4
LITTLE RISSINGTON -10.4
Cambridge -10.4
Astwood Bank -10.2
REDESDALE CAMP -9.9
EAST OKEMENT FARM -9.9
BRAEMAR NO 2 -9.9
Cardiff Bute Park -9.9
WEST FREUGH  -9.8
DUBLIN AIRPORT -9.8
LOSSIEMOUTH  -9.7
BINGLEY NUMBER 2 -9.7
ROCHDALE  -9.7
Coton-in-the-Elms -9.6
CASEMENT AERODROME -9.5
Cavendish -9.4
STRATHALLAN AIRFIELD -9.3
RHYL  ESAWS -9.3
Bradford -9.3
DUNKESWELL AERODROME -9.2
SOUTH FARNBOROUGH -9.1
TAIN RANGE -8.8
ST. ATHAN -8.8
Market Bosworth -8.8
WATTISHAM -8.7
LOCH GLASCARNOCH -8.6
SPADEADAM -8.6
CHURCH LAWFORD  -8.6
STONYHURST  CDL -8.6
NORWICH AIRPORT -8.6
GLASGOW/BISHOPTON -8.5
DISHFORTH AIRFIELD -8.5
CONINGSBY -8.5
LYNEHAM -8.5
ODIHAM -8.5
AUCHINCRUIVE -8.5
GREAT DUN FELL  -8.3
ALBERMARLE -8.2
DURHAM  CDL -8.2
LINTON-ON-OUSE -8.1
SUTTON BONINGTON  -8.1
Writtle -8.1
KINLOSS -8.0
TRAWSCOED  -8.0
ANDREWSFIELD -7.9
CHIVENOR -7.9
MIDDLE WALLOP -7.9
ST ANGELO -7.9
KINLOCHEWE -7.9
NOTTINGHAM/WATNALL -7.8
MARHAM -7.8
NORTHOLT -7.8
GURTEEN -7.8
Normanby Hall -7.8
CAIRNWELL  -7.7
DUNDRENNAN  -7.7
COTTESMORE -7.6
FYVIE CASTLE  -7.6
KEELE -7.6
HOLBEACH  -7.5
BOSCOMBE DOWN  -7.5
CRANWELL -7.4
ALTNAHARRA NUMBER 2 -7.3
BEDFORD -7.3
EGBASTON -7.3
MONKS WOOD -7.3
CHARTERHALL  -7.2
Houghton Hall -7.2
LAKE VYRNWY  -7.1
Brooms Barn -7.1
Lentran -7.1
LARKHILL -7.0
High Mowthorpe -7.0
Ryhill -7.0
EDINBURGH/GOGARBANK -6.9
LISCOMBE -6.9
Eton Dorney -6.9
BEALACH NA BA -6.8
COVENTRY  COUNDON -6.8
Pennerley -6.8
CHURCH FENTON -6.7
WADDINGTON -6.6
Gringley on the Hill -6.6
WITTERING -6.5
Leek -6.4
Levens Hall; Kendall -6.4
VALLEY -6.3
Leconfield new -6.3
BRISTOL/FILTON -6.3
ROTHAMSTEAD NO 2 -6.3
TOPCLIFFE -6.2
GLENANNE -6.2
NORTH WYKE -6.2
GLEN OGLE  -6.1
ST BEES HEAD -6.1
LONDON/HEATHROW AIRPORT -6.1
WISLEY -6.0
Blencathra -5.9
Derrylin Cornahoule -5.9
LEUCHARS -5.8
FYLINGDALES -5.8
WAINFLEET  SAMOS -5.8
CLAREMORRIS -5.8
Sheffield -5.8
DONNA NOOK NUMBER 2 -5.7
MANCHESTER  HULME LIBRARY -5.7
Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens No 2 -5.7
MANSTON -5.6
BRAMHAM  -5.6
HEATHROW AIRPORT -5.6
ALDERGROVE -5.5
DUNSTAFFNAGE -5.5
KEW GARDENS -5.5
Charsfield -5.4
CONNAUGHT AIRPORT -5.3
SKYE/LUSA -5.2
WALNEY ISLAND -5.1
KENLEY -5.1
GRAVESEND BROADNESS -5.1
SALSBURGH -5.1
Preston Moor Park -5.0
Altnahinch Filters -5.0
Source: Met Office  

 

Location Snow depth (cm)
CASTLEDERG 16
BRIZE NORTON 14
SENNYBRIDGE NO 2 13
KIRKWALL 13
DYCE 13
ALDERGROVE 11
NORHOLT 11
ANDREWSFIELD 11
LOUGH FEA 10
LERWICK 10
CHARLWOOD 9
LOSSIEMOUTH 9
WICK AIRPORT 9
KINLOSS 9
DUNKESWELL 8
BENSON 8
SHAWBURY 8
LEUCHARS 8
LARKHILL 7
HEATHROW 7
ESKDALEMUIR 7
WATTISHAM 7
ST ATHAN 7
LYNEHAM 7
RONALDSWAY 6
REDESDALE CAMP 6
FAIR ISLE 6
YEOVILTON 6
BINGLEY 5
STORNOWAY AIRPORT 5
AVIEMORE 5
GLASGOW: BISHOPTON 5
MIDDLE WALLOP 4
ODIHAM 4
LOFTUS 4
ALBERMARLE 3
LEEK 3
COLESHILL 3
NOTTINGHAM / WATNALL 3
PRESTWICK 3
EDINBURGH / GORGARBANK 3
SKYE: LUSA 2
HERSTMONCEUX 2
COTTESMORE 2
CRANWELL 2
BRISTOL / FLITON 2
HEREFORD 2
MANSTON 2
CHURCH FENTON 2
WOODFORD 2
CULDROSE 1
Source: Met Office  

Met Office forecasters said: “There is the risk of further snow across parts of southern Britain tonight and through tomorrow. Snow, combined with widespread ice and freezing temperatures will lead to the risk of significant disruption through Monday.”

Met Office forecasters continued:  “In the north, snow showers will ease this evening leaving only occasional snow showers near eastern coasts of England and in parts if northern and eastern Scotland through tonight and tomorrow. Elsewhere it will be largely dry, but very cold and icy.”

Below is a media forecast for use in print publications. All temperatures are in degrees Celsius and represent those likely to be seen in urban areas. Rural areas are likely to be significantly colder at night. For the latest weather forecasts and warnings you should refer to the Met Office website where regional and location based forecasts are available for the next 5 days.

 

  Southern England Northern England Scotland
Monday Risk of Snow.Max: minus 2

Min: minus 7

Dry, bright but cold. Occasional snow showers, mainly in east.Max: minus 4

Min: minus 10

Dry, bright but cold. Occasional snow showers, mainly in east.Max: minus 4

Min: minus 12

Tuesday Bright spells.Max:  1

Min: minus 4

Bright spells.Max: minus 4

Min: minus 8

Bright spells, occasional snow showers mainly in east.Max: minus 4

Min: minus 10

Wednesday Bright spells, occasional snow showers. Feeling very coldMax:  1

Min:  minus 3

Bright spells, occasional snow showers. Feeling very coldMax:  1

Min: minus 6

Bright spells, occasional snow showers mainly in east. Feeling very coldMax:  1

Min: minus 7

Thursday Further snow, cold and windy. Feeling very coldMax:  1

Min:  minus 3

Further snow, cold and windy. Feeling very coldMax: 1

Min: minus  4

Snow at times. Feeling very coldMax: 1

Min: minus 4

Friday Risk of further snowMax:  1

Min:  minus 3

 Risk of further snowMax:  1

Min:  minus 3

Risk of further snowMax:  1

Min:  minus 4

Source: Met Office       

 








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