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South Yorkshire Floods

November 8, 2019

By Paul Homewood


As some of you may have gathered, it was rather wet here in Sheffield yesterday!



People are being evacuated from their homes and there is chaos on the roads and trains after torrential downpours flooded parts of northern England.

Five severe warnings – meaning a danger to life – are in place along the River Don in Doncaster with some residents being told to leave their homes.

Dozens of people slept on chairs and benches after being left stranded in a shopping centre in Sheffield overnight.

More than 100 flood warnings are in place across England

Fran Lowe, from the Environment Agency (EA), said urged people to take them seriously "as they represent a threat to life".

"Respond immediately and get out of any place affected by a severe flood warning," she said.

The north of England and the Midlands were hit by flooding chaos on Thursday night, with the highest rainfall recorded at Swineshaw in the Peak District, which had 112mm (4.4in) in 24 hours.

Parts of Sheffield experienced 85mm (3.4in) during the same period.

The average monthly rainfall total for Yorkshire at this time of year is 89mm (3.5in). 


It has already been described as “biblical” in the Telegraph, the go-to phrase whenever there is a downpour.

From BBC weather reports, it appears that the Sheffield rainfall total of 85mm was the highest amongst low lying sites, with 112mm up in the Peak District. Both are exceptional, but certainly not unprecedented.

The highest daily rainfall on record for Sheffield, whose records date back to 1883, is 137mm (Rivelin), which fell on 15th July 1973:


ScreenHunter_5091 Nov. 08 19.13



That was not the only extraordinary rainfall event that month. I have highlighted two more, which took place on the 6th, described by the Met Office as “very rare” and “remarkable”.

No doubt, someone will soon blame it on climate change. But as BBC Weather report, yesterday was no more than just another weather event, when a weather front stalled over South Yorkshire all of the day.

There is another aspect worth touching on. You will note that 85mm fell over 24 hours. But this is not the same as “in a day”.

Met Office twitter report that the total for Thursday itself was 72.88mm. The ability to pick any 24-hour period from a rolling time frame obviously increases the chance of finding a higher total than on the day itself.


Fortunately flooding has only been localised, and certainly not on a par with 2007, which was the culmination of several days heavy rain.


Finally, let’s take a look at the monthly rainfall stats at Sheffield. Below is a chart of the wettest months:



June 2007 sticks out like a sore thumb, the month of the disastrous Sheffield floods. However, apart from that outlier, there is no pattern at all which suggests greater flooding potential or more extreme rainfall.

We keep being told that a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, hence more rainfall. But, as ever, the facts say something different.

  1. DaveB permalink
    November 8, 2019 10:19 pm

    Good idea to get your response in first. That should stymey any bleats about climate change

  2. November 8, 2019 10:28 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate-

  3. Ian Magness permalink
    November 8, 2019 11:18 pm

    “No doubt, someone will soon blame it on climate change.”
    You clearly haven’t seen today’s BBC news coverage Paul (perhaps because you were looking up the facts) – all the usual “environment correspondents” have been out trumpeting the usual meme: “scientists say… we cannot blame individual weather events… but blah blah blah”. They then go on to say “we were told in 2007 that it was a one in 200 year event but OMG it’s only 12 years later and blah blah blah!”. The viewer is left in no doubt as to what the “experts” really think.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      November 9, 2019 9:14 am

      Shows the utter ignorance of these people. A 1 in 200 year event doesn’t mean 200 years between each event. It means over 1,000 years it will happen five times.

      But of course that’s just Denier statistics.

      • dennisambler permalink
        November 9, 2019 5:27 pm

        It isn’t anything to to do with time intervals. It is a statistical figure, completely misinterpreted, often deliberately so.

        “A 100-year flood happened last year so it won’t happen for another 99 years, right? Not exactly. Misinterpretation of terminology often leads to confusion about flood recurrence intervals.”

        “The term “100-year flood” is used in an attempt to simplify the definition of a flood that statistically has a 1-percent chance of occurring in any given year. Likewise, the term “100-year storm” is used to define a rainfall event that statistically has this same 1-percent chance of occurring. In other words, over the course of 1 million years, these events would be expected to occur 10,000 times. But, just because it rained 10 inches in one day last year doesn’t mean it can’t rain 10 inches in one day again this year.”

      • November 9, 2019 7:32 pm

        My real objection, Dennis, is that the statistical figure is itself based on a statistical model ( as we obviously don’t have 1000s of years of data)

  4. LeedsChris permalink
    November 8, 2019 11:36 pm

    Yorkshire has had many, many examples of very heavy rain and floods. Just picking from my historical knowledge I can pick two events….

    There was the extraordinary rains on 17th September 1913 in a similar area of south Yorkshire. On that occasion 153.9mm was recorded at Doncaster pumping Station in one day and falls in excess of 100mm were widespread in the whole Doncaster area and more than 75-80mm in the day over the whole of South Yorkshire.

    In May 1932 falls of rain at Doncaster and at Sheffield exceeded 60mm on the 21st and in four days 20th to 23rd May totals exceeded 90mm across South Yorkshire. More than 150mm fell over the whole area that month, with 190mm at Doncaster and 171mm in Sheffield. Flooding on that occasion was in the same Don Valley as this week’s floods, flooding factories and collieries and in Bentley more than 2,000 houses were flooded. On that occasion water stood in the streets of Bentley for more than a month(!).

  5. November 9, 2019 12:54 am

    Unrelated but perhaps surprising? –

    2018 UK GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS, Key findings –
    The provisional estimates suggest that in 2018, total UK greenhouse gas emissions were 43.5 per cent lower than in 1990 and 2.5 per cent lower than 2017.

    Click to access 2018-provisional-emissions-statistics-report.pdf

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 9, 2019 10:54 am

      I wonder how many jobs that has cost

  6. Phillip Bratby permalink
    November 9, 2019 7:18 am

    According to the BBC, Boris Johnson has also implicated “climate change” in increased flooding. Is there no depth that politicians will not stoop in order to get the green vote?

    • November 9, 2019 9:40 am

      Maybe not. The implication that it must be ‘your fault’ is left hanging in the air, but on what actual evidence?

  7. John permalink
    November 9, 2019 8:26 am

    It’s worth reading the Wikipedia article on the river Don which mentions the great Sheffield flood of 1864 and one in 1536

  8. Phoenix44 permalink
    November 9, 2019 9:11 am

    I don’t fully follow the warmer atmosphere more rain claim? If the atmosphere holds more water because its warmer, why does that mean more rain? The atmosphere doesn’t lose all its moisture when it rains and if the whole atmosphere where clouds exist warms, then why should rain become heavier?

    • November 9, 2019 9:44 am

      The argument seems to be that more evaporation due to warmer conditions has to go somewhere.

      • Curious George permalink
        November 9, 2019 3:09 pm

        Water is the root of all evil. Go Scotch!

  9. Athelstan. permalink
    November 9, 2019 10:10 am

    Stream flow run off volume is always a problem in storm events, in slow moving rain fronts and also because;

    I can’t find the time but say for instance, if you could get hold of a copy of the old ‘1 mile:1 inch’ series of OS maps or, even better aerial spectometry/ satellite photos, and dating back to circa 1970s and then compared it with a modern OS sheet or – satellite showing the Don valley basin but particularly its upper sector, I’d be willing to bet that, a patina of new streets, supermarkets, car parks and new build housing development would be a quite spectacular difference, and not least amount of concreted over spaces, front gardens in particular.
    When water authorities disappeared and river management came under the likes of the wet green besotted eu ordered (rivers authority) then EA numpties – the propensity for storm flow damage during periods of high rainfall and flooding, it became infinitely worse.

    Man made it is, but FA to do with CO2.

    • Mack permalink
      November 9, 2019 11:55 am

      Spot on Athelstan. As the recent heavy rains arrived in the Midlands and the North, I looked up an EA online flood alert for an English market town I know well. The potential area of flooding impact was, very helpfully, marked on a map. Interestingly, virtually all of the properties within the border of the threatened zone were constructed in the past 30 years. Almost all of the town’s older properties, from Medieval to post war, were sited outside of the potential flood zone or on higher ground within it. The reason being that the zone had a long history of flooding. Of course developers, politicians, local authorities and householders affected by floods in such areas find it much easier to blame climate change for their misfortune than their own moronic decisions to concrete over and dwell on flood plains. And the more flood plains that are built on the greater the potential impact on riverside residents and businesses. And, as you say, CO2, quite clearly has nowt to do with it.

      • RICHARD JARMAN permalink
        November 9, 2019 2:01 pm

        It was certainly the case in the 2007 floods that the Peak District National Park authority were accused of (and were very quiet about) their failure to main the traditional systems of field drainage with many soughs known about but which they had let collapse – as many commentators on this thread are saying so much easier to blame climate change than it is to own up to incompetence

  10. November 9, 2019 10:14 am

    Has anyone looked into the issue of when the rivers in question were last dredged?

  11. LeedsChris permalink
    November 9, 2019 10:19 am

    I had forgotten a few more of the really classic Yorkshire downpours.

    There was a very similar situation when a stationary low pressure and frontal situation stalled over the county in the summer of 1930, only this time in North Yorkshire. On that occasion (20-23rd July 1930) the rain fell over four days continuously and no less than 304mm was recorded at Castleton in the Esk Valley above Whitby, including 145mm on one day!. More than 250mm was recorded in this four day event across the whole of the North York Moors. The very next year another downpour on 4th September 1931 gave more than 100mm in the same area in one day – an observer near Whitby reported that there occurred almost precisely the same flood to that of the previous year. He noted that the Whitby lifeboat was used inland to rescue people!

    The other is the great Calderdale storm of 19 May 1989 in which 193mm fell in two hours on the moors close to Halifax.

    I could go on…..

  12. November 9, 2019 10:57 am

    If the rescuers are walking, it isn’t a flood rescue. Unless the folk in the boat cannot themselves walk, in which case fair do. In the background of the photo, dry road. Sometimes I wonder about what a soft lot we are after all these years of easy life.

    • Athelstan. permalink
      November 9, 2019 11:08 am

      Water to the horizon, compare the pictures I’ve seen of the 1953 flood event in the fens, now that was a horrific and for those flooded out a nightmare event, albeit not associated at all with recent episode in the Don Valley/Derwent, alas as you say, “soft” – we have gone.

      • LeedsChris permalink
        November 9, 2019 11:19 am

        There was also the 1947 floods in the Fens. I used to work for one of the local authority areas there and there was a map to show the extent of the 1947 floods and, in a nutshell, practically all of Cambridgeshire, apart from places like Ely and some towns and villages built on mounds in the fens, was underwater…..

      • Athelstan. permalink
        November 9, 2019 11:29 am

        Yep, 47 when the snows melted, it was pretty bad almost everywhere but in flat areas -Cambs, the picture was dramatic.

  13. Up2snuff permalink
    November 9, 2019 11:14 am

    Paul: “It has already been described as “biblical” in the Telegraph, the go-to phrase whenever there is a downpour.”

    Was there a run on gopher wood at the local D-I-Y stores? If so, then you know it is getting serious, especially when a bloke called Noah is in the checkout queue in front of you buying brushes and cans of pitch.

    Lord Deben was on BBC R4’s Today Programme to explain that it was because we are building on flood plains and it is all due to climate change. He obviously does not know that Sheffield, for example, is built – like Rome – on seven hills. Hills + Heavy and/or Sustained Rainfall also = Problems.

    Rivers, just like areas of standing water, ponds, lakes, etc., require regular maintenance which includes dredging otherwise the wonderful world of nature – a very powerful force – will eventually turn them into bogs, and eventually, copses, woodlands and forests.

    • LeedsChris permalink
      November 9, 2019 11:21 am

      The other point is that most of these valleys have been built up since Victorian times – the Don Valley was chocker-block with industry. The Meadowhall Shopping Centre, that was the focus of much media coverage, was built on the site of an old steel works….

  14. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 9, 2019 11:33 am

    With satellite analysis, the water management companies etc. know exactly where to place rain gauges to record the highest totals – this will give a bias to recent upland records from relatively new sites.

    I think it is also accepted that older records likely missed extreme rainfall events, certainly in the Victorian era back. Automatic tipping rain gauges are fairly modern, previously (when it was believed 2″ of rain in 24hrs was impossible!) the receptacle was often tiny and relied on manual emptying when full.

    • LeedsChris permalink
      November 9, 2019 11:57 am

      Correct. From late Victorian times there were mechanical recording gauges, but these were very few and far between and only in places with staffed weather stations that could be read everyday. Today we have automatic rainfall gauges that read and measure to 0.2mm frequency and data is transmitted from even remote locations to a central point (Environment Agency, Met Office etc). The other point is that in the upland areas, where falls are highest, a lot of gauges in Victorian times and up to the 1950s and 60s were only read monthly, because they were in remote locations that couldn’t be accessed every day.

  15. IAN PHILLIPS permalink
    November 9, 2019 11:52 am

    Thank you, Paul.Don’t know where we’ld be without your prompt research.Ian Phillips. From Totnes, capital of the climate-alarmist heart-attack-lands of South Devon!

  16. Ben Vorlich permalink
    November 9, 2019 12:10 pm

    My family in Derby have kept me posted on the situation there, the Derwent flooded a lot of the city centre and low lying areas. One will be helping clean up his workplace, which is still flooded, next week.
    The Derby fans might have a problem getting to the City Ground today.

    I have sent them all the links to counter talk of oncoming doom at work next week.

  17. Paul H permalink
    November 9, 2019 12:55 pm

    A Sheffield resident and acquaintance told me the 2007 floods were due to council cutbacks in that the drains were blocked having not been duly maintained.

  18. November 9, 2019 2:00 pm

    It could be related to climate change. This is the sort of thing that H. H. Lamb found was happening at the onset of the Little Ice Age.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 10, 2019 11:00 am

      That is a fair point and puts us in a quandary because we don’t believe in ‘climate change’ because the UNFCCC have defined that as caused by humans. But we do have a changing climate and the appearance of Rossby Waves supports that. The question is what has caused them to appear and lo and behold in the settled science world of climate change – they don’t know! Of course they will suggest it is global warming causing it but they can’t be sure. Interesting piece here:

      But there is an explanation that they won’t like and that is solar minimum. Recalling that the sun is barely worth a mention in their models, it is unfortunate that NASA says that the thermosphere cools during solar minimum and therefore shrinks, decreasing the radius of Earth’s atmosphere. It is the shrinkage that could be causing the appearance of Rossby Waves. On they have nicely added a thermosphere readout.

  19. Bill Hickling permalink
    November 9, 2019 2:17 pm

    Yes Paul see the idiotic alarmist Joe Shute on the back of today’s Telegraph: “this is what climate change looks like”.

  20. November 9, 2019 5:24 pm

    Has the Environment Agency been diligently maintaining the Don waterways? This one looks rather silted-up.,-1.1494599,3a,75y,202.94h,101.41t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sAF1QipMjl5J_ymDlSXN0Z_8v3NuCbAK5a9ZU05GteM2L!2e10!3e11!7i5376!8i2688

  21. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 9, 2019 6:59 pm

    The plastic/air pollution/climate change obsessed DM had this story inset on a flood report article together with ‘Ice melt spreads seal virus’ (alarmism tripe too laughable to need further comment), but the tacit insinuation is obviously that the floods are CC.

    This is a bit sneaky for another reason. OK it refers to 2018. But it then reverts to ‘last summer’ (giving the misleading impression that THIS was another record hot summer).

    If 2019 had been a record hot summer, I bet this article would not have appeared. It is a rehash of last year’s story, to keep the alarmism going.

    And as we know, there is something amiss. The CET shows all the summers for all years virtually the same, except 1976 which was much much hotter (seconded by also hotter 1826).

    The article actually gives away the truth. UK summer temperatures are the result of the dominating wind direction (i.e. pressure patterns). If winds come from N.Africa a lot, it’ll be flippin’ hot! Wow what a revelation. But of course CC supposedly made it hotter! Well now the wind is stuck mostly from the NNW, which is why October and now November are running cold, and even CC can’t warm that up to ‘normal’.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 10, 2019 10:51 am

      The Mail did have a piece on a Met O report saying that the flooding was caused by climate change. It amazes me that the Met O can release reports that their own datasets do not support. How can that kind of rubbish get approval for release? I know there is the problem that only the likes of Paul show them up as liars given that journalism has all but died out in the legacy media.

  22. john cooknell permalink
    November 9, 2019 7:59 pm

    Before we go to overboard.

    The official 5 day met office forecast for risk of flooding is here, it shows what a small area the significant risk is, the Summary below shows almost normal conditions except for South Yorkshire. The maps sum up the situation quite nicely, not much going on out of the ordinary for November. Its a pity the journalists cannot read but that isn’t that unusual.

    “River and surface water flooding impacts could occur if forecast heavy rain during this period falls on already saturated catchments.

    The river flood risk is MEDIUM today (Saturday) through to Monday and is LOW on Tuesday and Wednesday.

    Ongoing significant river flooding impacts are expected through until Monday around the River Don, reducing to minor impacts on Tuesday and Wednesday. Minor impacts are expected elsewhere in South Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire today, and on Sunday in Nottinghamshire only. Minor impacts are also possible on Sunday in Derbyshire. This is a response to previous rainfall.

    Minor river flooding impacts are probable over central and southern parts of England, and possible but not expected more widely across parts of England and Wales today (Saturday) and into Sunday.

    Minor river flooding impacts are possible over parts of South and West Yorkshire and Derbyshire from Monday to Wednesday, and are possible but not expected in other western parts of England and Wales. This is due to frequent showers falling on already saturated ground.

    The coastal/tidal flood risk is VERY LOW despite strong winds and large waves at times.”

  23. George Lawson permalink
    November 11, 2019 11:26 am

    What surprises me is the endless calling for more flood prevention schemes in low lying areas. Am I being too simplistic by saying that flood prevention upstream of a river means greater flooding downstream, which create calls for more flood prevention downstream making even more serious floods further downstream. Has there been any flood prevention work carried out in the upper reaches of the Don or other rivers in the region I wonder?

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