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It’s Been Wet For The Last Few Months In England – But It’s No Record

February 4, 2014

By Paul Homewood



We have already looked at the UK rainfall stats for January, but more important, from the point of view of flooding, is the cumulative impact. It is certainly true that the floods in the last few weeks have been the result of the build up of water, which has saturated the ground and filled up the rivers.

This winter may, or may not, turn out to be the wettest on record, but it is actually much more meaningful to look at the period from October onwards, as climatologically October through January are by far the wettest months.




I’m not sure whether meteorologists still look at things this way, but they certainly did in the past. There used to be an annual volume, “British Rainfall”, originally produced by GJ Symons and the British Rainfall Organisation, which became a branch of the Met Office in 1919.

Each volume extended to some 300 pages, and was full of detailed data and analysis. After the extremely wet winter of 1914/15, there was a special section in the 1915 edition, which analysed rainfall, both over the six “winter months” of October to March, and also over the wettest four months. It is worth comparing the current spell on this four month basis.


ScreenHunter_282 Feb. 02 16.31



Figure 1



Figure 2



Taken over the four months, the rainfall in England since October, while high, certainly is not unprecedented. By far the wettest run was from October 1929 to January 1930, though the heaviest month were November – this means that the year will not figure as highly in the “winter” statistics.

Altogether, using both the four month sets of Oct-Jan, and Nov-Feb, there have been four wetter years:






There does not seem to be any evidence either that there is a any trend to more rain.

Judging by the British Rainfall publication above, 1876/77 and 1911/12 would also be close.

It is worth pointing out, by the way, that, in 2013, October was wetter than normal, and November was drier. With this dry break in the middle, flooding pressures should have been eased. (It also means I am not cherry picking by going back to October! If I wanted to cherry pick, I would start in November).


October 2013 Rainfall 1981 - 2010 anomaly


November 2013 Rainfall 1981 - 2010 anomaly



Geographical Distribution

As we know, Southern England has borne the brunt in the last couple of months, and this has led to speculation that the changing jet stream has resulted from global warming, melting Arctic ice and so on. (Yes, you’ve probably guessed, it’s the Guardian).

What is interesting, though, is that they had exactly the same phenomena in 1914/15. Note the comments in the report above:

The area above 200% [of average rainfall] extended from Hertford to the South Coast….”


They also print this map of the Oct-March rainfall distribution. The resemblance to January 2014 is uncanny, with NW Scotland and Cumbria relatively dry, and a very wet Eastern Scotland as well as the southern half of England.

In those days, of course, they did not know they had a jet stream, nor that they were having global warming either. They did, however, know their history.


ScreenHunter_288 Feb. 03 13.25

January 2014 Rainfall 1981 - 2010 anomaly



This post is already getting long, so I’ll save the regional analysis till tomorrow. But I could not resist showing this snippet from the above mentioned Guardian article.

Apparently there is a long running meteorological station at Radcliffe, Oxford University, which dates back to 1767. Bearing in mind that Oxford is bang in the middle of heaviest rainfall last month, from an anomaly point of view, the Guardian report:

A total of 146.9mm of rain fell in January, smashing the previous record of 138.7mm in 1852. The new record is three times the average recorded for the month over the last two and a half centuries. It was also the wettest winter month – December, January or February – ever recorded, beating December 1914, when 143.3mm fell.


So, apparently the fact that one station beat by 3mm the previous record set 100 years ago, is evidence that “flooding has been identified as the most dangerous impact of climate change for the UK and is hitting harder and faster than expected, according to scientists”

Apparently, it also means that “January was England’s wettest winter month in almost 250 years”.




Perhaps Guardian reporters need a maths lesson:-


STEP 1: Rainfall in England last month was 158.2mm.




STEP 2: There have been five Decembers since 1910 that were wetter than 158.2mm.




So, we can probably draw at least one of the following conclusions:


  • Guardian reporters are crap at Maths.
  • Guardian reporters are not aware that England exists outside of the South East.
  • Guardian reporters don’t know which months fall into which seasons.
  • All three
  • Guardian readers are as dopey as the reporters, for believing this guff.
  • All five.
  1. gareth permalink
    February 4, 2014 9:37 pm

    Richard North 04/02/2014. Has two items today (well documented) on “making space for water”.

    1.EU policy: deliberately flooding the Somerset Levels
    2. EU policy: “a jolly good disaster”

  2. John F. Hultquist permalink
    February 4, 2014 9:49 pm

    The historical reports are great and useful. The oldest date mentioned is well before anything near me (north of Ellensburg, WA). Where I live the land was just being settled (1860s) by the “white folks” as they came into this area after the War of Northern Aggression (aka the US Civil War). My land record goes back to the US Gov. transfer of the land to a railroad. Around 1890 a few private folks began to keep a temperature record but the exact locations have been lost.

    The Steart Marshes plan is reasonable enough (just a quick look). The rising sea level part may simply be changes in Earth/Moon/Sun relationships [See Clive Best’s blog] insofar as a couple of cm of sea level won’t do much, while higher tides will.

    If the UK did not waste the resources of the Nation on useless projects (windmills) they could have the money to alleviate the flooding problems. But birds are cuter than people, right?
    Today’s “Bing” image has a nice sea level scene of a wave-cut rock.

  3. Joe Public permalink
    February 4, 2014 11:02 pm

    Great analysis again, Paul.

    Another conclusion could be that Guardian reporters didn’t expect their analysis to be questioned?

  4. Anything is possible permalink
    February 5, 2014 1:28 am

    Remember when the SE of England was suffering from a “permanent drought”?

    Good times.

  5. Andy DC permalink
    February 5, 2014 2:11 am

    These idiots are always trying to scare people whenever an unusual event takes place. Guess what, it is a big world out there and unusual events happen somewhere all the time. But unusual does not mean unprecedented and anyone who takes a look at historical records will learn that truly unprecedented events are very far and few between.

  6. Paul Farquharson. permalink
    February 5, 2014 3:37 am

    Hello all,

    Medieval histories, chronicles and Annals help to fill things out a bit more.

    For example…

    Ireland: 973. “Too much wet, so that the fruits were destroyed.” (Annals of the Four Masters, vol. 2, p 701.) Corrected from the year 975.

    Ireland: 1012. “A great downpour in the above year, and much of the corn crop was abandoned.” (Annals of Inisfallen, 1012: 4, p 183.)

    England: 1013, during a great raid on England by Swein Forkbeard king of Denmark. “It happened very fortunately that during that year floods were frequent in consequence of the long-continued rain which had fallen; and thus the neighbouring marshes and the fen land on every side had become impassable.” (Ingulph’s Chronicle, p 646.) N.B. This source is viewed as a fourteenth century forgery, and extracts from it may only be valid if supported by other sources.

    Ireland: 1037. “It rained much this summer.” (Annals of Clonmacnoise, p 176.) “Prodigious tempests and great moisture in this year.” (Annals of Loch Cé, vol. I, p 39.)

    England: 24 June to 29 September 1090, i.e., most of summer. “In this year it rained daily from the Nativity of St. John to the feast of St. Michael.” (Annals of Winchester, p 36.)

    England: 1098. “Before Michaelmas [29 September] the heaven appeared as if it were burning well-nigh all the night. This was a very laborious year through manifold excessive taxes and through great rains which did not cease all the year; well-nigh all produce on marsh-land perished.” (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, p 234.)

    Ireland: 1107. “Much wet and bad weather in this year, and it ruined the corn.” (Annals of Ulster, vol. 1. p 547.) Repeated by the Annals of Loch Cé (vol. I, p 97).

    Ireland: 1109. “Heavy rain and bad weather in the summer and autumn of the above year, and fastings and abstinence were observed and alms given to God that it might be dispelled.” (Annals of Inisfallen, 1109: 3, p 267.)

    England: 1116. “…this year there was a very heavy winter [early 1116], and severe and long, for the cattle and for everything…This was a very laborious year and calamitous for the earth-crops through the immense rains that came just before August and were still very oppressive when Candlemas (2 Feb.) came. Also this year was so barren of mast (mæsten — the fruit of beech, oak and other forest trees which was of vital importance as pannage, i.e. pig fodder) that none was heard tell of in all this land nor also in Wales. (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, pp 246-47.)

    [ There’s more, but I’ll jump forward a bit. ]

    Ireland: 1219. “There was rain the whole year, a few days excepted.” (Annals of Loch Cé, vol. I, p 259.)

    England: 1220: early in the year and also from 9 August to Christmas. “It rained all the winter, and from the morrow of St. Matthew the Evangelist until Christmas.” (Annals of Worcester, p 141.)

    England: 1222. “…at the exaltation of the holy cross [14th September], there was much thunder throughout all England, and this was followed by deluges of rain, with whirlwinds and violent gusts, and this tempestuous weather, together with an unseasonable atmosphere, continued till the Purification of Saint Mary [i.e., 2 Feb., if by the “Purification of Saint Mary” Candlemass is meant], doing great damage to numbers of people, and especially the farmers; and in the following summer a measure of corn was sold for twelve shillings.” (Roger of Wendover, vol. 2, pp 441-42.)

    England: December 1227 to February 1228. “There was an inundation of rivers in December, January and February, such that no one then living had ever seen the like in their time.” (Annals of Worcester, p 420.)

    Ireland: 1236. “Heavy rains, harsh weather, and much war prevailed in this year.” (Annals of the Four Masters, vol. 3, p 291.)

    …There’s a lot more, of course, but you get the picture.

    Paul Farquharson.

  7. catweazle666 permalink
    February 5, 2014 12:49 pm

    “So, we can probably draw at least one of the following conclusions:”

    You missed one.

    Guardian reporters are liars.

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