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December Rainfall Trends In The UK

January 10, 2017

By Paul Homewood 


There are many climate myths, one of which is that winter rainfall is becoming more extreme in the UK.

We’ve now got the December data from the Met Office for the long running England & Wales Precipitation Series, so we can look at the latest trends:




December 2016 was one of the driest on record since 1766, ranking 31st driest.

As we are all no doubt aware, we have had some notably wet Decembers in recent years, particularly 2012. Even that month, however, was only the 7th wettest. Top ranking goes to December 1876.


If we isolate the top 50 wettest months, we can see that rainfall was not as extreme up to the 1860s.

The period from 1909-19 had seven of the top 50 months, something no other such period experienced. On top of that, 1914 and 1915 saw two of the four wettest Decembers.






We can also analyse daily rainfall, but unfortunately this series only begins in 1931, so we miss out on those exceptionally wet Decembers in earlier years.

Nevertheless, we find that by far the wettest December day was 3rd December 1960:




There is nothing to suggest that extreme daily rainfall in December is becoming more frequent, or more intense.


The Met Office Monthly Weather Report for December 1960 rather matter of factly commented:




Nowadays they’d wheel on Julia Slingo to tell us it was all due to CO2!

  1. January 10, 2017 8:21 pm

    “Records show that average precipitation in Scotland has increased by 21 per cent since the Sixties, while annual snow cover has reduced by an average of 32 days in the same period.”
    I would be interested in your take on the above.

    • January 11, 2017 1:35 pm

      It is certainly true that there has been a definite upward trend in precipitation in Scotland since 1910, unlike in England.

      This would suggest changes in the track of the jet stream.

      Interstingly though, winter temperatures in Scotland are little different to the early 20thC (though they dipped in the 1960s.)

      This may be relevant for the snowfall stats.

  2. Athelstan permalink
    January 10, 2017 8:56 pm

    As you will be well aware Paul and as I have often recited in the past, there is no, there never has been – at least, in the recorded past any noticeable rainfall trend, other than to note it is rather ‘variable’.
    Furthermore, attempting to associate a “wet winter” in any way, shape or form to man made emissions of a harmless gas is preposterous correlation which is not based even loosely on any scientific fact nor even, can it be picked out in some speciously rigged statistical trend.

    What has changed over the years is land use and practices that have been altered due to some very dubious ideas about rainfall run-off and allowing river basins to revert to some sort of natural state, all of which is, great for bugs but no so great if you happen to dwell on the riverside – man is to blame for that and enough said, if they won’t dredge then it’s hardly rocket science is it?

  3. The Old Bloke permalink
    January 10, 2017 9:45 pm

    And with river flows in my patch at summer flow levels, if that Polar Vortex (stratospheric forecast predicts it will) pays us a visit at the end of this month, watch those rivers (and maybe the Thames) freeze over.

    • Athelstan permalink
      January 11, 2017 12:01 am

      “Polar Vortex (stratospheric forecast predicts it will) pays us a visit at the end of this month, ”

      Have you any links for said “vortex forecast” in anticipation, I’d be most humbly grateful TOB – Sir!

      • The Old Bloke permalink
        January 11, 2017 9:16 am

        Please find just one of the Stratospheric forecasts. The ones available are now all showing the same event: This has been consistent for the last 5 days so keep an eye on it. If aircraft traveling to the USA from Europe take the Southern Tracks after the 24th Jan, you know something is up. A1 Jet fuel typically freezes at Minus 47.;sess=

      • Athelstan permalink
        January 13, 2017 12:11 am

        Excellent! or not so excellent………………hmm not looking too good after ~ 21 Jan. Thank you for that, it is most interesting stuff TOB, again, I am most grateful and saved link to site.

        I didn’t quite catch the weather forecast on al beeb noos 24 (in kitchen)….. but I think that I overheard the weather bloke alluding and talking back to winter circa this time of year and thirty years ago when daytime Temps were showing 265º k as a max temp in parts of the UK. Hence, if this strat Temp computer projection is correct, then we are looking at some very similar scenario, are we not TOB?

        Brrr, I ain’t too bothered about cold, it’s the refrozen snow and ice sticking around that’s the pain. Though…….. what I am far more concerned about is, can the grid stand the pressure when the nation starts to up the thermostat?

        On that, the jury is OUT.

  4. CheshireRed permalink
    January 10, 2017 10:37 pm

    Paul, in your experience has there actually been ANY climate trend/s that could, even in the Guardian, be described as extreme, unusual, recent and dangerous?

  5. tom0mason permalink
    January 11, 2017 3:20 am

    All these false prophets dabbled at predicting the weather.
    Luckily we have Nostradamus to fall back on for the original predictions of global warming and its effects on weather …

    Century 1 verse 17
    For forty years the rainbow will not be seen.
    For forty years it will be seen every day.
    The dry earth will grow more parched
    And there will be great floods when it is seen.

    Century 1 verse 67
    The great famine which I sense approaching
    Will often turn in various areas then become world-wide.
    It will be so vast and long lasting that they will grab roots
    From the trees and children from the breast.

    To which I say ‘rain, rain go away, come back another day’.

  6. January 11, 2017 7:02 am

    …..”so we can look at the latest trends” – you haven’t shown any trends. You moved smoothly from “winter rainfall” to “December rainfall”. December is not winter. Winter rainfall (December previous year, January/February current year) shows an increasing trend right the way from 1766, from a smoothed average of around 200 mm to 270 at present. The wettest winter on record was 2013/14.

    From 1951 to date, the trend is an increase of 7.7 mm/decade. Winter 2014/15 was the 5th wettest winter since 1951.

    Sceptics criticise “warmists” for “Cherry picking”, just what you’ve done.

    • January 11, 2017 12:26 pm

      Not much of a trend for England.

      In any event, the post is specifically about DECEMBER rainfall trends, not WINTER, hence the title

    • Tim Hammond permalink
      January 11, 2017 2:49 pm

      Think you are being confused by using smoothed data rather than the actual data. It’s clear from the actual data, that there were three high years in your time period, which can occur at any time. There is no actual trend, just the usual large scale variation. Indeed, looking at the data, there were more years below “trend” than above it, further showing that your trend is nothing more than random.

      • nigel permalink
        January 12, 2017 8:39 am

        “…which can occur at any time…”

        Yes; and because of this, the Poisson distribution is relevant.

  7. Athelstan permalink
    January 11, 2017 8:47 am

    .”December is not winter” and neither is July I suppose……………….BUT

    On whose say so, ah the civil servants in the Wet Office perchance? ……………….. er what another inconvenient shape shift – “it’s purely for statistical manipulation you understand Sorr?”, and wot again?

    “from a smoothed average of around 200 mm to 270 at present. The wettest winter on record was 2013/14.

    From 1951 to date, the trend is an increase of 7.7 mm/decade. Winter 2014/15 was the 5th wettest winter since 1951.”

    “smoothed average” yeah right, “smoothed”.

    “7.7 mm/decade” now that’s really funny mate.

    ““Cherry picking”, just what you’ve done”

    – did you see what you did there?

    The wet office green zealot and office boy and dedicated eco-wingnut strikes back.

    You need to read back to yourself the green drenched drivel statistical interpretations which you select, if you are capable: think and inwardly digest.

    cue, lachrymose misery and wild tantrums of snowflake umbrage.

  8. Coeur de Lion permalink
    January 11, 2017 10:02 am

    It’s awfully difficult to believe that an increase of one point two molecules of CO2 per ten thousand since, oh, 1900 has made any difference to anything.

  9. CheshireRed permalink
    January 11, 2017 11:39 am

    Slightly OT but the BBC and Guardian are both headlining the recent ‘study’ that claims British birds are the latest victim of ‘climate change’, allegedly ‘vanishing’ from the UK. How does a degree or two of average temperature change (if that) somehow render a bird incapable of living in the UK? Does the CET record show any evidence to support such claims? This comes from the uni’ of Reading which is a hotbed of climate alarmism, so as with so many other speculative climate ‘studies’ I suspect they’re just winging it.

    • January 11, 2017 12:23 pm

      I wish pigeons and sea gulls would do a bit of vanishing, but sadly the current climate optimum suits them well.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      January 11, 2017 12:40 pm

      @ CR – I saw a variation of this story in my local paper today. You’ll note that “Climate Change” isn’t the only guilty party – habitat loss being the other, but they can’t miss the opportunity to blame it. What’s the betting that if as much effort [as wasted on climate change] went into preventing their habitat from being destroyed, the birds would cope quite happily with any changes in temperature? As I mentioned in another comment recently, summer migrants are now being seen here during the winter months – if that isn’t an example of them “adapting” I don’t know what is…

  10. January 12, 2017 1:00 pm

    Maybe Paul we need to read again what HH Lamb has to say about such events.
    Like you did back with

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