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England & Wales Precipitation Annual Stats – 2016

January 13, 2017

By Paul Homewood 




Time to look at the the latest England & Wales Precipitation stats, now that the annual numbers are out for last year.

Last year ended pretty much average with 960mm. This compares to a long term mean of 918mm, and ranks the year at 161 out of 251 (rank 1 being the driest).

The wettest year was 1872, followed by 1768.

There is evidence of clustering of very wet years, but no evidence of anything remotely unusual about recent years.





There does seem to be more of a pattern when we look at very dry years however:




1788 and 1921 stand out as exceptionally dry years. But there were several other unusually dry ones in the 18th and 19thC.

You have to go back to 1973 to find the last year with less than 750mm. By contrast, there were 17 other such years prior to then, an average of one every 12 years.


We can also analyse monthly extremes. Below is a chart showing all months where precipitation exceeded 150mm.




By far the wettest month was October 1903, when 218mm fell. The wettest month in recent years was November 2009, with 192mm.

Again, I can see no evidence of anything unusual occurring in the last decade or so. There is a suggestion, though, that very wet months were not as common prior to the 20thC.

This can be better seen by looking at the number of months >150mm per decade. The latest ten years is shown for comparison:




On average, it is fair to say that it is a little bit wetter now than it used to be in the early 19thC. But above all it is the year to year variability which dominates the record, just as it always has.

  1. January 13, 2017 2:59 pm

    I am fairly certain that the current prediction is that “climate change” will result in higher and more extreme rainfall events in the UK.
    I am sure that the opposite has been true in the past.
    While it does seem that annual rainfall is trending upwards, monthly rainfall of over 190 mm is not as common as it was,
    I am sure that if we go through a dry period in the future, the predictions will be reversed again.
    On a slightly different topic, is it just me or is the BBC making too much of the recent weather and snowfall?
    Barely a few mm of snow is portrayed as a national disaster!

    • January 13, 2017 4:07 pm

      Don’t forget that the snow affected London and the South-East, so it is nationally important. Disruption in the rest of the UK does not matter.

      • R2Dtoo permalink
        January 13, 2017 6:00 pm

        Sounds like Canada. Anything outside of Ontario (the centre of the Anglophone universe) or Quebec (the centre of the Francophone universe) doesn’t much matter.

  2. 1saveenergy permalink
    January 13, 2017 3:31 pm

    “Barely a few mm of snow is portrayed as a national disaster!”
    Well it is….we were told the wasn’t going to be any !

    Dr David Viner, a ‘senior research scientist’ at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.
    “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said in March 2000

  3. Athelstan permalink
    January 13, 2017 3:47 pm

    Either you’re a glass half dry man and the CO2 pumpers predict that aka the Wet/dry Orifice – Britain is “drier than the Syrian desert” or some such BS or, we’re gonna drown and THE flood is just around the corner!

    Meanwhile, on its merry way is, the earth keeps revolving and nothing much happens until, the next ice age/super volcano, man made Mutual Assured Destruction/Goldman Sachs takes over the world – “eek! not Goldman Sachs!”

    oh wait………………………

  4. January 13, 2017 4:43 pm

    How about a cross plot of rainfall with the AMO and PDO separately and together, plus a cross plot of rainfall and sunspots?

    There does look like a cyclical pattern. Fourier analyses?

  5. The Old Bloke permalink
    January 13, 2017 5:16 pm

    Are all the rain gauges in exactly the same position and of same type? Those tipping bucket gauges are something else!

  6. January 13, 2017 5:18 pm

    Fine stuff there Paul!

    The UK may, or may not be a tiny bit wetter than a century or more ago but that’s probably due to measurement errors early on.

    Yep, UK not very drought prone. Makes one wonder how the population can get so upset by such minor variations.

  7. January 14, 2017 5:04 am

    “There is evidence of clustering of very wet years, but no evidence of anything remotely unusual about recent years.”

    Well there is – since 1900, there have been 7 years with annual totals above 1100mm. Four of those have occurred since 2000.

    Average annual since 1900 is 932mm. Last two ten-year periods, 1996-2006 and 2007-2016 have been well above average at 974 and 990.

    The period since 2000 is wetter than any other of similar length since 1900.

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      January 14, 2017 9:22 am

      Looks like you are cherry picking, why are you using only half of the available data ?

      Do your calcs again; this time use the full data set (take note of period 1865-1885) & then re-submit your answers.

    • January 14, 2017 9:33 am

      During the period 1800 to 1916 there were 6 years above 1100mm (1 less than 1900-2016.
      I doubt if that is a statistically significant change.
      2 of the 4 years since 2000 are barely over 1100mm
      The period around 1872 also showed similar clustering.
      The two highest years were prior to 1900.
      Look at the 10 year average in 1880 and 1770.
      I agree that annual rainfall is currently higher than normal but that is probably within the normal range.
      Probably a more detailed statistical analysis would be required to determine whether there is anything “unusual” going on.
      Anyway, England and Wales is too small an area to come to any conclusions about global “climate change”.

      • bev permalink
        January 14, 2017 10:58 am

        “…a more detailed statistical analysis…”

        Last 17 years (2000 – 2016 inclusive) have a mean of 981.3;

        First 17 years (1766 – 1782 inclusive) have a mean of 940.0;

        A t-test produces a p-value of 0.37.

        Difference of means NOT SIGNIFICANT at any level used by science.

        There is no meat here.

    • January 14, 2017 11:30 am

      The 10-yr average reached 992mm in 1932.

      Back in the 19thC, for five years running, 1880-85, it was over 1000mm

      There is nothing unusual about the last decade

  8. CheshireRed permalink
    January 14, 2017 9:45 am

    I see the BBC is breathing a pronounced sigh of relief that the east coast hasn’t been obliterated by a ‘9 foot storm surge’. It’s almost as if the authorities beefed up exaggerated claims to promote a spot of climate fear, and then played the ‘aren’t we fortunate on this occasion’ card when precisely nowt happened.

    • January 14, 2017 11:35 am

      I think the “authorities” can be forgiven for taking all necessary precautions.
      However the BBC has definitely gone “over the top”.
      On reporter I saw, said some houses were “a few feet” away from the sea front, when they were clearly many yard away.

  9. Derek Colman permalink
    January 16, 2017 1:10 am

    There has definitely been an increase in flooding, but the cause is more to do with human stupidity than climate change. One of the main factors has been the stopping of dredging rivers at the behest of enviromentalists who want river flows returned to their natural state. Other causes are the paving over of gardens, and removal of trees on agricultural land which prevent water being absorbed. Then there is the building of new houses on flood plains which also blocks the flow of water from existing developments.

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