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Fears Of A Summer Drought In Britain

May 9, 2017
tags: ,

By Paul Homewood




The wettest inhabited place in England is "bone dry" as the prospect of a summer drought loomed closer.

Seathwaite, in Borrowdale, Cumbria, typically receives between two and three metres of rainfall per year. But the River Derwent has gone for so long without sufficient rain, its rocky bed is exposed.

Meanwhile, gorse fires in Oban, on the west coast of Scotland, forced a beach to be evacuated over the weekend as temperatures soared to an unseasonal 18C.

It comes amid fears that the country may be subjected to a summer drought, with rivers and reservoirs experiencing dwindling water levels following one of the driest winter in more than 20 years.

The Daily Telegraph reported last week that some homeowners had been told to cut down on water consumption by waiting until their washing machines and dishwashers are fully loaded before running them.

The River Derwent at its usual levels 

The River Derwent at its usual levels  Credit: Paul Kingston / NNP

They were also advised to swap showers for baths, use sponges instead of hoses to clean cars and to plant plants such as geraniums, marigolds, alyssum and petunias, which resist droughts.



It’s certainly been pretty dry in Britain in the last few months, but not exceptionally so.

The Telegraph claims that last winter was one of the driest in more than 20 years. But in fact you only have to go back to 2006 to find a drier one.

There have also been 19 drier winters since 1910.


Climate scientists, of course, continually tell us that winters are supposed to be getting wetter because of global warming!


UK Rainfall - Winter


Rainfall in March was actually slightly above average, and April was not excessively dry either.


UK Rainfall - March

UK Rainfall - April


Of course, drought is an accumulative thing. If we look at the hydrological year so far, since last October, we can see that it has been the 8th driest. The driest was 1975/6.

So again, we find there is absolutely nothing unusual happening this year.





If you really want to see an exceptional spell, you can go back to 1929.

The first nine months that year were, by a long way, the driest on record:




Yet, even more astonishingly, this was followed record rainfall for the next four months.

Not only was this wettest October to January period in the UK, again by a long way. It was also the wettest 4-month period at any time of year.



  1. Pat permalink
    May 9, 2017 10:11 am

    I was amused listening to local radio going on about this and referencing 1976, which they correctly described as hot. But haven’t the last 19 years been hotter.

  2. quaesoveritas permalink
    May 9, 2017 10:14 am

    I expect this relatively dry period to be followed by a relatively wet period, probably with widespread flooding, all of course blamed on “climate change”.

  3. May 9, 2017 10:54 am

    There has certainly been an absence of April showers in the South, but this is not uncommon, the weather has been stuck with cold dry winds from the East, someplace else is probably getting our rain, maybe Spain.

  4. Sheri permalink
    May 9, 2017 11:14 am

    “soared to an unseasonal 18C.” That’s a great as when the weatherman here tries the “temperatures will reach a balmy -23° for tomorrow” during a cold spell. At least here, the weatherman is being facetious.

    Climate change has done one notable thing—”drought” is now used for a couple of days with below average precipitation. People are taught to panic if the rain isn’t right on schedule. It’s also fascinating the regional differences in how people react to rainfall. Last month, it rained over 2 inches here and my husband (who works in construction) missed nearly 2 weeks of work due to soggy conditions. Yet 2 inches is nothing to those in England or in Florida. It’s all in what one gets used to.

    I looked it up a while back and in maybe half the cases, droughts do end with flooding.

    • Annie permalink
      May 10, 2017 4:18 am

      That makes me laugh as people here in Australia think it’s a bit cool at 18C! Personally I think 18C is a wonderful temperature…just right 🙂

  5. A C Osborn permalink
    May 9, 2017 11:32 am

    As I said over at Tallbloke’s who would have thought we would experience a drought due to such a short period of drier conditions after years of increasing population and NO investment in more reservoirs to match.
    It is very hard to work out how that could happen.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      May 9, 2017 12:25 pm

      I have just read that the Environmental Agency has been blocking new Reservoirs from being built.
      If true does it originate in the EU?

      I think the last one was built in 2007 and is the Kielder dam.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        May 9, 2017 12:57 pm

        Whatever can you mean? The EU Water Directive perhaps? The worry is that all these stupid EU environmental rules will be kept in May’s Brexit shambles.

      • May 9, 2017 2:33 pm

        We have also been pumping more and more water from aquifers to meet rising demand from increases in population and those who insist on clean cars and showers twice a day. And then they pave over their gardens.

        The winterbournes of the Chilterns mostly disappeared years ago, before anyone was wittering on about climate change.

        Then there is the growing demand from agriculture.

        In our area we have seen an influx of potato growers who have moved from the South of England to the North so that can pump millions of gallons from our rivers without paying high abstraction charges.

      • May 9, 2017 7:04 pm

        Just out of curiosity — it’s been a slow day, still too cold to get the plants out of the greenhouse — I thought to have a flick through The EU Water Framework Directive (2000 but I believe recently updated) and found not a word about building new reservoirs so if there is such a restriction it must be somewhere else.

        I did find a bit about flood prevention and river management which it looks as if the EA might have been reading upside down, and also this paragraph which I thought worth drawing attention to:

        (13) There are diverse conditions and needs in the Community which require different specific solutions. This diversity should be taken into account in the planning and execution of measures to ensure protection and sustainable use of water in the framework of the river basin. Decisions should be taken as close as possible to the locations where water is affected or used. Priority should be given to action within the responsibility of Member States through the drawing up of programmes of measures adjusted to regional and local conditions.

        There was also a bit about the importance of consulting what are these days called “stakeholders”, ie users and the public. Which seems to give at least some backing to my long-held contention that a lot of the blame we lay at the EU’s door should be more properly directed to Whitehall for whom it is always much easier to put Directives like this in front of the relevant minister and say “sign here” than to go to the trouble of finding the “specific solutions” or even the “diverse conditions and needs” that might give rise to them.

        In this particular case there is sure to be an “expert”, probably from Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, who can advise on the correct “specific solutions”.

        And I’m very much afraid, Gerry, that this is one of many directives which Whitehall will find manifold reasons to keep intact! As someone said not very long ago Britain is over-regulated because the British like it that way. There is a grain if truth in that.

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        May 10, 2017 7:11 am

        Mike Jackson
        Thank you, I’ll take your word for that. I like to check these things too as from time to time memory plays tricks and leaves you embarrassed if you don’t. I too am having problems in the garden, although the local Lunar Gardeners are carrying on regardless.

    • Jack Broughton permalink
      May 9, 2017 12:54 pm

      I suppose that your comment about “it being hard to work out how that could happen” was sarcastic. As with pot-holes, nuclear power etc, the government policy is not to act until the clamour arises then they will charge us all for the investments that they have failed to make over many years and claim not to be increasing taxation.

      No matter what the EU says, the UK government is responsible for UK needs.

  6. Vanessa permalink
    May 9, 2017 12:44 pm

    I laughed out loud seeing that people have been asked to swap showers for baths ! Long ago when everyone had a bath we were told that showers were less wasteful and therefore less costly. It seems now that that is not true! How funny! Basically do not waste water but use it sparingly. Probably unheard of and no understood by most of the young today.

    • quaesoveritas permalink
      May 9, 2017 12:58 pm

      I assumed they meant take a shower rather than a bath.

      • 1saveenergy permalink
        May 9, 2017 10:12 pm

        I bathe once a year…whether I need to or not (:-))

  7. Nordisch-geo-climber permalink
    May 9, 2017 12:53 pm

    The recent dry spell is typical for this time of year here in the Lake District. March to June is often semi-arid, but normally one of those four months is very wet – all entirely unpredictable, has always been thus. Weather at the moment is typical for the time of year. It makes for great climbing on dry rock, and easy for farmers getting onto their land. The unusual aspect of the weather in recent weeks has been the excessive cold. 2 degrees here last night, very chill air overall. A 10 degrees Celsius increase would be a very welcome addition.

  8. Gerry, England permalink
    May 9, 2017 12:59 pm

    It will only take the Met Office to announce that it will be the driest summer on record for it to rain until September.

  9. c777 permalink
    May 9, 2017 1:26 pm

    Jetstream forecast shows SW winds, just before Saturday usually “wet”…

  10. RockySpears permalink
    May 9, 2017 2:25 pm

    Look at the rocks in that picture, that is new rock, no green growth at all. Whilst this is the case, they should be shoveling this stuff out of the river beds as fast as possible. It is this “gravel” that was largely responsible for the Glenridding floods in Cumbria.
    Nature gives them a free pass to dredge their rivers and they look it straight in the mouth.

    No helping some people,


  11. May 9, 2017 3:59 pm

    Not much in the way of named winter storms 2016-17.

    Compare the winter before…

    • quaesoveritas permalink
      May 9, 2017 4:24 pm

      I was thinking the same thing myself.
      Poor Fleur, yet to be used.
      Last year we were up to Frank by December 2015.
      A more than 50% reduction in Storms by the end of April.
      A sure sign that things are getting less extreme!

      • May 9, 2017 4:32 pm

        Could be, but it might also relate to El Nino effects.
        And fewer storms probably means lower winter rainfall.

      • quaesoveritas permalink
        May 9, 2017 4:55 pm

        I was, of course, being ironic.

  12. Mark Hodgson permalink
    May 9, 2017 6:23 pm

    The photos in the Telegraph story are disingenuous at best. The one showing the dry river bed is at Seathwaite at the head of the valley. The one purporting to show “normal” river levels is taken at Grange, several miles further downstream. If you visit Grange today, the river looks much as it does in the photo.

  13. Graeme No.3 permalink
    May 9, 2017 8:36 pm

    It depends on what you are used to. In 1969 the Fiji Times carried a headline “Three Days without rain. Suva faces drought”. This continued daily until “Seven Days without Rain. Record Drought in Sight”.
    On the eighth day the headline was “RAIN”.

    The water shortage problem was solved with a 10 mile pipe to the river at Nausori. The authorities hadn’t noticed that over the years Suva had grown from 8,000 to 70,000 in population.

  14. May 9, 2017 9:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  15. Geoff Barnes permalink
    May 10, 2017 8:25 am

    Who can forget?…..

    • Nigel S permalink
      May 10, 2017 12:09 pm

      Get out the ouija board and contact Denis Howell.

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